Yesterday at lunch time I was out walking in my local area, and I saw some colourful autumn trees that I’d seen last year. In fact, I’d seen them on the day I first discovered my local bear hunt, shortly after transitioning to working from home for the first time ever. At the time our first lockdown was approaching, there was a lot of uncertainty, and I could never have guessed all the things that would happen over the next year.

Yesterday was also the day when my company announced plans to return to full-time office work within the next few weeks. And so, with that chapter coming to something of a close, I got to reflecting on a year past and all that I’d experienced and discovered and become.

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Covid-19 restrictions were a cynical attempt by Democrats to undermine Donald Trump’s re-election campaign. No need to live in fear. It wasn’t really dangerous - it was just like the flu. And it would go away after the election anyway.

That’s what we were told. Guess what? It hasn’t gone away. Instead, this kind of rhetoric in the US has undermined public trust, brought partisan politics into efforts to control the spread, and left a body count.

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Last week, I went to a concert for the first time in nearly a year. Indoors, no less, and with masks. And in 2019 that wouldn’t have been a significant event, but coming now it got me thinking about hope.

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Near the end of March last year, as I was walking near my house, I saw a small, blue teddy bear hanging by a peg from a log. At the time I wasn’t to know it was part of the Bear Hunt movement, intended to entertain children with school closures and lockdown approaching. Nor did I know that I would end up visiting Bear Hunts in all weather and taking hundreds of photos of a wide variety of soft toys.

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With the Covid-19 pandemic changing the world, it was only a few months in to 2020 that people were calling it the worst year ever. By the middle of 2020, this meant some writing off the year, then acting as if everything would be magically back to normal in 2021.

Well, as I write this, it’s 2021 here in Australia, and if anything the situation looks worse than it did a week ago. So I wanted to share a carol I wrote for 2020 (with apologies to Christmas).

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This year I’ve been reflecting on how much I changed in the 2010s. Some of the changes could probably have been expected given my age and stage of life, but leaving religion in particular wasn’t expected by me or by those around me.

It now makes me wonder how many others there are like former-me: People who are young, indoctrinated, dedicated to their religion. Maybe they’re already facing doubts, or maybe they will in the next five or ten years. Maybe they’re already thinking of quitting, or maybe they just view the doubts as things to be conquered.

If I were going back in time, what might I say to former-me? And if anyone feeling these things happens to be reading this post, what might I want them to be aware of?

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As I look back on the 2010s, I see a decade where I became increasingly independent: Moving out of the family home, working, travelling, making my own choices, owning my own ideas and values.

That independence then led me to places and ideas that I would never have expected at the start of the decade, even to independence from the religion that had once defined me.

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It was probably five years ago that a friend visited our near neighbour, New Zealand. Coming back, they talked about the beauty of the glaciers, and said I should see them while I could.

That was part of what drew me to add Switzerland to a UK trip in 2016. And it was also part of what convinced me to make New Zealand South Island my next overseas trip. It certainly didn’t disappoint.

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In my last post, I talked about how an Edinburgh Fringe event changed my view of Leaf by Niggle. As a story, it relied on the eternal life I had rejected, and left me feeling that I really didn’t know what came next.

However, the next day I flew to Switzerland for a short visit, and I was looking forward to discovering a little of the Alps. Little did I know that that visit would give me a new insight into Leaf by Niggle and into J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth. It would also do a lot to ease the ache of loss of eternal life.

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