Almanac Life: What A Year!

I am on the tram heading down St Kilda Road. I hop off near the U.S. Consulate. One of the Hemsworths was there a week ago. My passport is tucked away in my purse. I am wearing one of my most respectable floral playsuits.


I am about to embark on my big adventure.


A year later I am on the tram heading down St Kilda Road. It goes past the U.S. Consulate. I don’t think there were any Hemsworths in Melbourne a week ago. My passport has not been touched since March. I am wearing another one of my most respectable floral playsuits.


I have chosen a face mask to match it.


I leave Australia on New Year’s Day. The writing is already on the wall. The country burns. Nuclear war with Iran. A novel disease in the wings.


I go to Disney World and devour ice cream sandwiches shaped like Mickey Mouse and ride Space Mountain twice. I go to New York and see glitzy Broadway shows and eat my weight in pizza. Classes begin. My money disappears quickly. A nice pair of tap shoes. Fancy brunch in Tribeca. A dress to wear to a formal. I wonder if I will be able to make it to June.


In the end I don’t make it to June, but it’s not because I run out of money.


On a Sunday in March the college tells us to leave campus immediately. The prospect of flying for twenty-four hours terrifies me. I settle for three. Monday afternoon I am in Orlando. I plan to ride out the semester with family friends. I make friends with their pitbull. The boxer gets jealous. The chihuahua is just yappy. Tuesday morning the government tells me to come back. Wednesday afternoon I board the plane home. Friday morning I am in Melbourne.


I emerge from my bedroom two weeks later.


Biomechanics for the Actor at 12:10am. Sleep. Tap Dance History at 6:10am. Breakfast. Sleep. Lunch. Study. Dinner. Sleep. Public Speaking at 3:10am. Postmodern Literature at 4:40am. Advanced German at 6:10am. Breakfast. Sleep. Lunch. Study. Dinner. Sleep. Biomechanics for the Actor at 12:10am. Sleep. Tap Dance History at 6:10am. Breakfast. Sleep. Lunch. Study. Dinner. Sleep. Postmodern Literature at 4:40am. Advanced German at 6:10am. Breakfast. Sleep. Lunch. Study. Sleep. Weekend and Monday off. Repeat six times.


I finish my semester abroad in my childhood bedroom. I buy a bike and I name her Martha. She is coral with a little basket on the front. I bake pretzels. I go back to work. The train passes the MCG. The lights are on, but no one is home.


The numbers go down. I grab pizza with friends from our favourite restaurant and eat it in Carlton Gardens as the sun goes down and the late autumn chill sets in. Toilet paper is no longer a rarity at the supermarket. We make plans to go to Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane if we’re lucky.


The freedom does not last long. The numbers get away from us. We retreat. It has grown cold outside. We stay in, hoping the four walls of our homes will keep us safe. When not in Zoom tutorials, I sew facemasks and use my one hour of daily exercise to go for a walk around my neighbourhood. There’s no end in sight. Each hour bleeds into the next. I forget what day it is.


Eventually it gets easier.


Staying at home works. I celebrate 21st birthdays from the comfort of my bedroom. I go and see the baby ducks at the local park and keep an eye out for any new additions. I sew bucket hats to match my face masks. I find immense pride in parading my cats in the middle of tutorials even though no one asked.


The numbers get smaller and smaller.


I see my friends again. We carry our masks with us, quarantining them in dedicated plastic pouches as we catch up over coffee and cocktails. When we enter shops, we vigorously rub in globs of hand sanitiser and flinch whenever someone sneezes on the train. The fear does not fully subside, but we do the best we can.


I finish my degree. I prepare to start another one. We buy a Christmas tree. It’s a head taller than me. The fairy lights have gone up. A new year beckons.


What a year it could have been.


What a year it was.



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  1. Luke Reynolds says

    Congratulations on the degree Bridget. A great effort to get through what sounds like a very taxing schedule.
    All the best for your next degree!

  2. I really enjoyed looking at 2020 through your lens, Bridget, especially as you ended the year on such a positive note.
    The most hearty of congratulations to you.

  3. Nicole Kelly says

    Well done, Bridget on getting there despite the year we had! Hopefully your adventurous spirit will be able to travel again soon.

  4. roger lowrey says

    Top effort Bridget.


  5. Bridget Schwerdt says

    Luke Reynolds – Thank you Luke! Being in the same timezone for second semester made things (thankfully) a little easier on my sleep schedule

    Smokie – Cheers Smokie! Hoping to carry across that positivity into 2021

    Nicole Kelly – Thank you Nicole! Fingers very tentatively crossed for a 2022 adventure to finish up my to-do list

    Roger Lowrey – Many thanks Roger, wishing you a lovely New Year!

  6. Congrats on the degree Bridget. Bachelor of Persistence and Resilience.
    At least the 2017 GF prepared you for something.

  7. Congrats Bridget a significant achievement !

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