Tag Archives: 2020

Looking back on 2020, looking ahead to 2021

If you can’t tell, that picture is fake. My teeth aren’t that white, or that straight. My skin is not that flawless. Oh, and as if anyone is celebrating New Year’s Eve in a massive crowd this year. Yeah, that isn’t happening. At least IT BETTER NOT BE HAPPENING. (Looking at you. Yes you. You know who you are.)

Of all the things Covid has robbed us of, New Year’s Eve might be the one thing I am grateful it took. Even when I drank, this holiday was overrated. Black tie events with cold hors d’oeuvres and swill champagne at £300/$300 a ticket. Pubs and bars and clubs jack up the prices of drinks and slap you with an admissions fee at the door. If you opt instead for a house party, you are shoulder-to-shoulder with drunken strangers who insist next year will be their year, but whose sob stories about this year make you very much doubt that. And don’t get me started on the big celebrations: Westminster, Times Square, Navy Pier.

No. Thank. You.

Part of my bitterness towards 31 December/1 January is down to the fact I have never had a successful New Year’s Eve. The closest I came was probably 2009 into 2010 (I never know which year to refer a given New Year’s celebration by), when I stole a bottle of champagne from a bar in Bowling Green, KY, only to find out a few days later that the champagne was not only free but intended for my group anyway. A regular criminal mastermind, ain’t I?

Since then, I have been turned away from gay bars in Chicago, danced alone to a Shania Twain song while sobbing quietly into a warm But Lite, and thrown a New Year’s Eve party which exactly three people turned up at—my neighbours—and they only stayed out of pity. Oh, and I have never had a New Year’s kiss. At some point enough was finally enough, and I stopped celebrating altogether.

Still, when you are as sentimental and nostalgic as I am, it is hard to resist the urge to look back on the year that was. On social media, folks have been listing things they’re proud to have accomplished in 2020, or things they’re looking forward to in 2021. All very sweet. I am a pessimistic person by nature, so I look back at 2020 and see only the things I did not accomplish: the book that still isn’t written, the articles that were rejected, the weight I haven’t lost. Some things I wanted to do, like explore the Appalachian Museum near my house or visit my loved ones back in Chicago, were cancelled due to Covid. Still others, like a trip to see my loved ones in London, would have been cancelled due to finances even if there wasn’t a pandemic raging.

It wasn’t all bad, though. This was my first year since leaving the mortgage industry and dedicating myself to writing full time. Did I accomplish everything I hoped I would? No. I still don’t have a byline at the Atlantic, but I did write meaningful pieces for The Independent and Arc—a new outlet for me in 2020. I didn’t finish a first draft of the Great American Novel, but I did write quite a bit which showed me that I can in fact do this. I’m still not dating Harry Styles, but as far as I can tell no one else is either, meaning I’m still in with a chance.

In the spirit of the season, allow me to list 5 things I am proud of accomplishing this year:

  1. Lost 60 pounds
  2. Remained sober the entire year
  3. Read my work publicly for the first time
  4. Started dating again, albeit only virtually and with limited success
  5. Overall, coped amazingly well in self-isolation, only going out when absolutely required of me  

It was also a successful first year professionally, if only because it taught me a lot of hard but necessary lessons. I feel more confident than ever that I can write a book. I am driven to finally start doing YouTube videos, which is something I have long wanted to try my hand at. I feel motivated to pitch more, even to magazines and on subjects that are a little out of my comfort zone. I think 2021 can be a successful year.

One thing that I want to do more of in 2021 is write for Medium and this blog. There are articles or blogs I want to publish but that don’t necessarily have a home elsewhere (for a myriad of reasons). In the past, I have let them die, but there really is no need for that. I have two platforms which allow me to publish the content I want. I plan to utilise them more.

But that only works if you all help me out. I’m going to be retooling my Patreon in the coming weeks so that the tiers are lower. They’re ridiculously high right now, because I modelled it after a much more prominent writer when I set it up, having no real benchmark of my own. If you regularly read my blog, I would ask that you contribute. Another way you can help is to follow me on Medium, to clap 50 times for my stories, and to share the links. Help get my name out there. I am also going to be looking into putting some writing behind a paywall, whether on Substack or Patreon (or both), where I can really analyse issues in more detail.

I am terrible at self-promotion. It does not come naturally to me. I was raised to believe that if you have talent or are worthy of mention, someone will notice. But one thing I have learned in 2020 is that you must be your own biggest advocate. Self-promotion is key to a successful writing career, as so much of our success is determined off social media metrics and algorithms and audience engagement.

As such, I have been looking at which stories performed the best for me in 2020 and which ones performed the worst. The results were not surprising. You all seem to like my political content and my cultural critiques of things like postmodernism, identity politics, and the like. Expect more of that in 2021.

In the meantime, here are a few of my favourite pieces from the past year. Most underperformed my hopes for them, though “What does ‘queer’ even mean?” is my most-read piece on Medium and did relatively well. The piece on the George Floyd protests for The Independent also did well, but I’m so damn proud of it that I wanted to include it here

Anyway, here they are, ten pieces I’m proud of but that you lot mostly didn’t read:

x. Skylar

Skylar Baker-Jordan is a freelance writer based in Tennessee. His work has appeared at the Independent, Huff Post UK, Salon, and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @skylarjordan and become a sustainer at www.patreon.com/skylarjordan

Answering the same questions at 34 I answered at 17

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know I recently rediscovered the online diary I kept as a teen. While I don’t have access to all the entries I wrote (the Internet Archive didn’t archive most of them), some of them I do.

One of those old diary entries – this was before the term “blog” was popularised – included this “survey” that I took in the summer of 2003. I was 17, had just finished my junior year of high school, and was living seven miles outside the small town of Hyden, Kentucky. Suffice to say, my life has changed a lot since then. As I stare down the barrell of 34 (my birthday is later this month), I thought it would be fun to answer the same questions I did as a teenager. Let’s see if 17 years has changed anything.

1.How many times have you had pizza delivered to your house?
2003: That’s like asking me to count a google.
2020: That’s like asking me to count a google.

2. How do you like your toast?
2003: Toasted.
2020: Pretty crispy.

3. What kind of milk, if any, do you drink?
2003: I’m not a big milk fan, unless it’s chocolate!
2020: I will not drink milk, even if it’s chocolate.

4. What do your dishes look like?
2003: Aww hell, I dunno. Flowers and white and stuff methinks.
2020: So my dishes are black and red, but they’re in storage. Those “flowers and white and stuff” dishes? My grandmother still has them.

5. What utensil do you eat mac ‘n cheese with?
2003: A fork.
2020: A fork.

6. Do you know what anti-aliasing is?
2003: No, but the girl I stole this survey from sure did. It has something to do with taking away the jagged edges of circles on a video game.
2020: Not a fucking clue

7. Have you ever been in an airplane?
2003: Yes.
2020: Oh God, more times than I can count. For a while it felt like I lived in the air.

8. Have you ever played a full game of golf?
2003: Uh, no.
2020: Still no.

9. Describe your feelings toward Microsoft Windows:
2003: I’m impartial. Don’t like the monopoly bit, but…yeah.
2020: At this point I wouldn’t want to use anything else. It’s the only OS I’ve used for 25 years. But that monopoly bit still bothers me

10. Do you usually remember your dreams?
2003: Yeah, I do.
2020: I’ve noticed that as I get older I remember them less frequently and in less detail, and that when I do remember them it isn’t for as long.

2003

The author in the summer of 2003, aged 17. Photo: Kathy Jordan

 

11. How big is your bed?
2003: Twin size, because I like it small and cozy.
2020: You lying bastard, it was not because you liked it small and cozy, it was because that’s the bed your grandparents gave you and it was sleep in that or on the floor. The bed I have now is a full sized bed. Largest I’ve ever had was queen sized. One day I’ll get that California king

12. What’s the coolest thing on the surface of your workspace?
2003: My fiberoptic lamp and pictures.
2020: My workspace is wherever I want it to be. Right now it’s my bed, and the coolest thing on my bed is probably my John Lewis duvet cover

13. Describe your current hair style:
2003: The Federico! lmao
2020: Long, shaggy, pushed back

Federico_Martone

Federico Martone, a contestant on Big Brother 4 (UK). Apparently I once had his haircut.

14. Where is your computer?
2003: The living room.
2020: This is one of the biggest changes over the past 17 years. Laptops weren’t unheard of in 2003, but at least where I lived, they weren’t the norm. I got my first laptop in 2004, when I began university. Right now my computer is in my bedroom, but it can be literally anywhere I want it to be. And if you count my phone, I always have a computer on me.

15. Are you an avid gambler?
2003: To an extent. A few bucks every now and then.
2020: I never gamble, save the occassional lottery ticket.

16. Quick! Say a fantasy of yours!
2003: To be in [Ryan’s] arms tonight…more than you’ll ever know. ::sigh::
2020: To publish my debut novel. Of course, I wouldn’t kick Leonardo DiCaprio out of bed.

17. What web site(s) do you visit on a normal basis?
2003: TOD, channel4.com/bigbrother, yahoo.com, beliefnet.com, jimverraros.us, FOD, Google (I love to play with the image search!)
2020: Wow, remember when Google image search was a novelty? Anyway, now it’s Twitter (hands down the biggest waste of time I’ve ever found), the Independent (natch), Washington Post, Digital Spy (I read their EastEnders coverage obsessively), and Instagram

esq060119cover004-1558471471

Daddy. (Photo: Alexi Lumbomirski/Esquire)


18. Who’s your daddy?

2003: Steve?
2020: I’m actually kind of relieved that I didn’t understand this question at 17. It shows I still had some innocence left. Anyway, I wouldn’t kick Leonardo DiCaprio out of bed.

19. What’s your favorite Jackass segment?
2003: I still crack up about the part in the movie where the guy shoved the car up his ass.
2020: I haven’t thought of this show in years, and I’m mortified that I once admitted to enjoying it. I don’t actually remember watching Jackass very often. The only thing I remember is that Johnny Knoxville got papercuts on the webs of his toes once. I’ll go with that.

20. Do you watch sports on TV?
2003: The horse races, but that’s about it. Sometimes I’ll order a Chelsea or Manchester United game on Pay-Per-View, too.
2020: No. I did watch the Super Bowl, and I like the Olympics. So I guess sometimes.

21. When was the last time you were sick?
2003: During the Louisville trip with FBLA last month.
2020: Last winter. I didn’t get a sinus infection this fall, which I usually do. Touch wood, I’ll stay well.

22. Describe the jewelry you are currently wearing:
2003: Class ring, shell neclace, watch, St. Sebastian neclace.
2020: No jewelry. I haven’t worn jewelry in years. I lost my class ring in 2004 (somewhere in my Dad’s house, but we never did find it). I lost that St. Sebastian necklace the night of my senior prom. Dustin Sizemore and I were in a car accident after prom, and I had to go to the hospital. I lost it somewhere between the accident seen and the emergency room. I’ve always assumed St. Sebastian stayed with me just as long as I need him and then went to help someone else. (As an aside, Dustin himself passed away in 2011.)

23. Do you like 80s music?
2003: OMG Yes!
2020: OMG Yes! Except now I have a deeper appreciation of it and how pivotal an era it was in the development of modern music and popular culture.

24. If you drive, how often do you speed?
2003: I don’t drive; that’s part of my problem.
2020: I drive, but I don’t speed. Two speeding tickets in college cured me of that.

25. Are holiday lights seasonal?
2003: Oh my gosh you’ve hit on the biggest pet peeve I have! I can’t stand it when people leave their Christmas lights up past 1 January! I mean, it bugs me so much! I flip out on them and I don’t know why! It’s just so tacky. I love Christmas, but to leave lights up all year is just WRONG. I mean, if they’re white lights inside, that’s okay. Cute, even. But outside or in a living room or something? Nope, it’s tacky. And it kills me. It absolutly kills me.
2020: I have remained remarkably consistent on this. I’ll allow your holiday lights to stay up maybe until Epiphany, but after that, you need to take them down. It’s tacky.

26. How often do you floss?
2003: Floss? I do that sometimes…I guess.
2020: Floss? I do that sometimes… I guess… okay not really. I don’t floss. There. I’ve said it. Don’t @ me.

27. Do you spill often?
2003: Not nearly often enough. 😉
2020: Gross, teenage Skylar. Fucking gross. God, teenage boys are awful. But no, I am not a toddler, I don’t spill things very often.

28. How many windows are in your bedroom?
2003: One
2020: One

29. What’s the most disgusting food you have ever eaten?
2003: escargo or however you spell it. Screw it…snails.
2003: Still escargot. #NeverAgain

30. Does you breath smell?
2003: Yeah, I just drank a Pepsi.
2020: Yes, I just smoked a cigarette

31. In a perfect world, we would have no:
2003: religion. I know that sounds horrible, but religion has caused more problems for humanity than anything else. In a perfect world, we’d all worship the diety (for I feel the diety is the same for all religions) in an unoranized fasion, in our own way, on our own accords. No organized religion.
2020: …racism or misogyny. This one has actually changed a lot. I still think religion has caused a lot of problems for humanity, but I also think it’s one of our greatest gifts. At university I found the Episcopal Church – and thank God I did – and, through it, religion. I find peace in reading the Bible and comfort in prayer. I think religion, even organised religion, can be a force for good. It can also be a force for bad, but I wouldn’t want to eliminate it from the world.

32. What’s your favorite shoe color/material?
2003: I like brown leather sandals.
2020: I still like brown leather sandals. Also Sperrys.

33. When do you usually eat lunch?
2003: Depends on when I wake up…
2020: I frequently skip lunch.

34. Do you have a cellular telephone?
2003: Nope, and I don’t care for one either (who in the hell would call me?)
2020: WOW. No answer could more represent just how different our world is now than this one. In 2003 I didn’t have a mobile phone and it didn’t bother me. In 2020 I can’t imagine 1) not having a mobile and 2) someone calling me on it. I just bought a new iPhone 11, and it is always on my person. Wow.

That’s it. What memories do you have of 2003, or of being 17? Do you think you would answer these questions the same, or has your perspective shifted as an adult? Let me know in the comments below!

Skylar Baker-Jordan has been writing about UK and US politics for more than a decade. His work as appeared at The Independent, Salon, Huff Post UK, and elsewhere. He lives in Tennessee. Follow him on Twitter or become a supporter by contributing to his Patreon account.

Skylar’s First Impressions of the 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidates

Watching the Sunday shows this morning, it occurred to me that I haven’t really commented on the 2020 election. That’s mostly because I think it’s stupid to talk about something that won’t happen until January 2020 in June 2019. I hate America’s perpetual election cycle.

But as I get back into political writing, it behoves me to get up-to-date with the coming election. So, in alphabetical order, here is my first impression of each candidate for the Democratic nomination:

  • Mike Bennett, Senator from Colorado – No name recognition. Who is he going to appeal to that someone better-known won’t? I can’t imagine him getting a lot of traction. Imagine he’ll drop out early
  • Joe Biden, former Vice President from Delaware – Seems to be the frontrunner right now, running as the “beat Trump” candidate. Name recognition, veep to a beloved president, blue collar appeal and a helluva politician. Plus, he really wants this. Like, you don’t know. Joe Biden has wanted to be president since he was an embryo. The one to beat.
  • Cory Booker, Senator from New Jersey – he once saved a person from a fire. Turned Newark around. Pretty cool backstory. But he’s not the most progressive, and in a field where Biden is going to run as the moderate, how does he really distinguish himself? Could win big in South Carolina if Black voters turn on Kamala Harris for her record of incarcerations or don’t warm to Biden – but that last one is a big if
  • Steve Bullock, Governor of Montana – Running as a Washington outsider, which is a pretty smart strategy considering how many of these candidates are senators, congresspeople, or former members of the executive branch (or all three, in the case of Joe Biden). Could bring that salt-of-the-earth heartland vibe that resonates with voters in Iowa, and could do well as a fellow westerner in Nevada. But I don’t know much about his record. Still a longshot – though worth noting that governors historically do better winning the presidency than vice presidents or senators
  • Pete Buttigieg, Mayor of South Bend, Indiana – I’ve been a fan of Mayor Pete for years, and endorsed him from DNC chair in 2017. But is he ready to be president? Yes, he did wonders for unemployment in South Bend and helped save a dying city. He’s young (if elected, he’d be the first Millennial president, and the youngest full stop). He’s good looking. His husband—yes, husband—has a cracking social media game. Would be the first openly gay president (second gay president; RIP President Buchanan). Refreshingly, that could be a benefit and not a hindrance in a primary. In a general election, is America ready to vote for a gay president? I don’t know. And more pressingly, is being the mayor of a small city qualification enough for the Oval Office? And will Democrats go for a moderate like Pete when Biden’s in the race? He’s probably seen his moment in the sun already this cycle, but could be a dark horse worth watching
  • Julian Castro, former Secretary of HUD from Texas – the less exciting of the Castro brothers. I don’t have much to say here. Could surprise people in Nevada, but I don’t see him as a top-tier candidate
  • Bill de Blasio, mayor of New York City, New York – from what I understand, New York City hates him. Why wouldn’t America? He’s a progressive who I probably agree with more than anyone else as far as policy goes, but I just don’t see him as a serious contender
  • John Delaney, Congressman from Maryland – seriously, who? I know nothing about this man
  • Tulsi Gabbard, Congresswoman from Hawaii – Thank u, next
  • Kirsten Gillibrand, Senator from New York – I once said that if Kirsten Gillibrand ran for president I would quit my job and work on her campaign. I haven’t done that, and her campaign has failed to take off the way many thought it would. I’m not saying there’s a correlation here, but… in all seriousness, though, don’t underestimate Kirsten Gillibrand. She’s probably the fiercest proponent of women’s rights and really shined when #MeToo took off, especially in condemning Bill Clinton’s behaviour in the 1990s and before. That took guts. With abortion becoming the issue of the summer, expect her profile—and prospects—to rise
  • Mike Gravel, former Senator from Alaska – perineal candidate. Has about as much a chance as an Alaskan snowball’s chance in hell
  • Kamala Harris, Senator from California – Kamala, more than anyone, deserves to debate Donald Trump. It would be amazing. She’d show him for the moron he is. But she hasn’t taken off the way I thought she would. That might be because voters are turned off by her record as Attorney General of California, where she was known for locking up low-level drug offenders. In the era of Black Lives Matter and prison abolitionism, that’s not a good look. Still, don’t count her out
  • John Hickenlooper, former Governor of Colorado – If Joe Biden wasn’t in the race, I’d say John Hickenlooper would be the one to watch. A plain-talking white man from middle America is usually a shoo-in for presidential nominations, but Hickenlooper is stuck in the shadow of Biden, and so similar to Bullock that they could split the same voters
  • Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington – Running on the climate, Inslee could capture Millennial and Gen-Z voters, the oldest of whom will be able to vote for the first time in 2020. But is it enough? If he gets a high-profile endorsement (say, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez), he could see some wind in his sails. But that’s a big “if,” I think. Another western governor means he’s competing with Hickenlooper and Bullock
  • Amy Klobuchar, Senator from Minnesota – her announcement speech was the stuff of legend, given during a snowstorm in a brutal Minnesota winter, but it was overshadowed with accusations she bullies her staff. Leaving aside the sexist notion that women asserting authority are bullies (and not at all commenting on the accusations, as I’ve not researched them enough to know if that’s what’s at play here), Klobuchar just hasn’t distinguished herself in this field. It’s early days, but again, if voters want a moderate, Joe Biden seems to be their choice. Klobuchar could find herself running for veep.
  • Wayne Messam, Mayor of Miramar, Florida – lol who?
  • Seth Moulton, Congressman from Massachusetts – a decorated war hero (he’s an Iraq veteran), Seth Moulton is a young, telegenic candidate who could surprise us all. His service to his country and dashing good looks stand in stark contrast to Donald Trump, who risks looking like Nixon debating Kennedy, except without the Nixonian brain (if the Nixonian instincts for corruption). But does anyone know who Seth Moulton is? No, not outside political junkies and his constituents – and the latter is iffy given American apathy. Might not be his time, but watch his star rise
  • Beto O’Rourke, former Congressman from Texas – Oh Beto. We barely knew thee. Could surprise us, but I think he’s more likely to go back and fight a statewide Texas race sometime in the near future. I don’t think his political career is over, but I don’t think he’s going to win the nomination. Not this time.
  • Tim Ryan, Congressman from Ohio – Good Democrat, but I can’t think of anything that distinguishes him from the others in the field
  • Bernie Sanders, Senator from Vermont – Wish he’d go away. HE’S NOT EVEN A DEMOCRAT. But he could win, and to my mind is the biggest threat to Biden. I’m closer to Sanders’ politics than Bidens’, but something about him irks me. I think it’s that HE’S NOT EVEN A DEMOCRAT and won’t join the party unless we let him lead it. Still, voters like him and he has the wind in his sails from 2016 which could propel him to the nomination. (Watching a debate between him and Trump would be like nails on a chalkboard, though, both of them so gruff and brash)
  • Eric Swalwell, Congressman from California – Staple on MSNBC, but beyond that, not much of a national profile. One of the fiercest critics of Trump in the House, Swalwell could benefit if the House impeaches Trump, but considering Biden’s running on the “gotta-beat-Trump” platform, I don’t think that’ll be enough
  • Elizabeth Warren, Senator from Massachusetts – Elizabeth Warren could beat Joe Biden. She’s got the background and expertise and record to take him on when it comes to financial regulation, consumer rights, and all the things progressives don’t like about Joe Biden. She’s extremely popular in the Democratic Party and has every chance of winning this nomination. Can she beat Trump? No idea. But she would certainly be a stark contrast – an intelligent, educated Harvard professor who campaigns for the little people against a dumb, ignorant con artist who didn’t pay his workers
  • Marianne Williamson, activist from California – Umm, do I know you?
  • Andrew Yang, entrepreneur from New York – Not really familiar with him. Know some of my friends are really excited about him. Concerningly, they’re kind of conservative or libertarian leaning, which leads me to think he’s not my ideal candidate. Cute though

 

What do you think of the 2020 field? Can anybody beat Biden? Will there be a dark horse who emerges in the debates? Or in the early primaries and caucuses? Is it too early to talk about any of this? Leave your comments below!