It’s almost a new year! According to the world, it’s time to make resolutions, set new goals, recommit to being our best selves!
It’s also about to be Friday. Like any other Friday. In much of the northern hemisphere, it’s cold out. It gets dark here at 4pm. There’s nothing very motivating about knowing I’m going back to work on Monday (though I am lucky I have a job to go back to).
Do you remember this time LAST year? In the US, folks were so excited to kiss 2019 goodbye, because we knew by the end of the year, we’d (if there is a god) have a new president ready to be sworn in on January 20. Hopefully Elizabeth Warren, or Kamala Harris. But definitely not Trump.
Many of us set goals. Travel more. Spend more time with friends. Finally apply for that stretch position at work.
And then … COVID happened. For most of us, the goal became survival. For some, that was physical survival – keeping the lights on and food on the table, or avoiding getting sick while working an essential job. For others, it meant mental survival – extroverts trying to figure out how to get any energy when all social interactions are behind screens, parents trying to support kids who had no energy release or social outlets. As time went on, we saw more and more people showing how little they care for others. People taking vacations or unnecessary trips for jobs that weren’t at risk, possibly spreading the disease. People refusing to wear a bit of fabric over their nose and mouth when near others. People screaming about MA FREEDUM while dismissing concerns of people protesting for actual threats to their freedom (e.g. folks fighting to defund the police and get others to recognize that Black Lives Matter).
So much of 2020 has disappointed me. 70 million+ people thought voting for a racist rapist to have a second term in office was just fine. A smaller minority, but one that includes elected Republicans, have spent weeks claiming an election was stolen when clearly, OBVIOUSLY, it was not. A Republican Senate refusing to provide meaningful, consistent support to those who have been most impacted by the pandemic. Just so many people who do not care about anyone but themselves, or perhaps those who look exactly like them.
It is disgusting.
2020 also took people from us, whether the nearly 350,000 in the US killed by Trump’s failure during this pandemic, or beloved actors like Chadwick Boseman. It took opportunities from us. It took time with family, it took new jobs, it took money, it took energy. There is so much grief out there that so many haven’t begun to process.
A familiar refrain on social media was ‘F*** 2020’ or ‘2020 strikes again,’ to the point that some people started to get indignant at that. Their argument is that things have always been bad for some people, and it’s simplistic and ignorant to just keep blaming the year. Folks, we know that. There aren’t a lot of people out here literally thinking there’s some sort of magic that the numbers 2020 conjure to add to all the bad shit that has happened. But sometimes, one doesn’t have enough characters in a tweet or time in their mind to dive into all that has gone into making an event horrible. 2020 is shorthand for decades, centuries of crap building and building into the mountain we see before us.
My 2020 wasn’t as horrible as it could have been. I was able to see my parents in February, when my dad had surgery. I landed at SFO the same day the last flight from one country in Asia was allowed to land. I was able to visit friends in Seattle just as the first cases were showing up there. When the UK finally went into lock down I was able to seamlessly work from home without issues. And when things started to reopen, my soccer season began, which meant I did get to socialize with people weekly.
But I’ve been mentally exhausted for months. Seeing how poorly things are in the US. Experiencing the horrible response in the UK. Trying to stay in touch even though Zoom meetings suck the life out of me. I’ve been frustrated at not being able to see friends in person, not be able to travel (basically my favorite thing). Shoot, I haven’t browsed a book store in at least ten months and it’s just so strange. And, in perfect 2020 fashion, our refrigerator died on Monday night, so we go into the new year ordering take-out and making due with a mini fridge that fits a few essentials.
So now that 2021 is rolling around, I am not assuming things will be much different. Now, January 20th, that will be a good day for those of us who care about other people, who believe in justice. But we’re still be in the middle of a pandemic. A lot of people who chose to travel or spend time with family outside their bubble over Christmas will be in ICUs or dying from the pandemic, because the vaccine is going to take a long time to get to everyone.
Given that, I’m looking at 2021 as a rebuilding year. At least the first half is going to be just as hard as 2020. I’m not buying any plane tickets just yet, or scheduling any in-person events. My birthday will be spent ordering take-out, because eating in a restaurant is just another way to catch or pass the disease on to others (not that restaurants are even an option in Tier 4 London). Maybe by late spring I’ll go inside a place for more than just the time it takes to grab what I need and go (or to get yet another crown, because my teeth hate me). That’s not totally conducive to the life I want to live, so I’m going to keep focusing on the things I can do while keeping myself and others safe. Working from home (which I know is an immense privilege). Focusing on hobbies I can do at home (reading, sewing, baking). Staying connected through texts and calls. Building my physical and mental strength. And I’m going to continue to focus on building relationships from a place of compassion without compromising my values.
So Happy New Year. May we all manage our expectations for 2021, but may it at least be better than 2020.