2021. It’s here. I’ll admit, I’ve been keenly awaiting the day when I can say it’s the new year. And I know I’m not alone — as far as I can tell, the whole planet was ready to say goodbye to 2020 and enter into something new, something tied to hope. The past ten months have given pause for thought in so many ways, as lives and livelihoods have been turned upside down, marked by grief and isolation, uncertainty and fear, but also by a sense of community and spirit, by resolve and ingenuity.
We may have had great hopes pinned to the new year, but so far it has not lived up to its hype. No, it feels much the same as December did, with rising coronavirus infection rates, restrictions, and economic peril. I think we all knew things wouldn’t change overnight, but still, we hoped we would wake up on January 1 and things would be different.
Typically, we start the new year with resolve, thinking that now is when we begin our personal journeys of betterment — we’ll lose that weight, learn a new skill, get a better job. This year feels different as most of the things we used to take for granted in everyday life — going to the gym, grabbing dinner with friends, taking in a concert — are not available to us. Perhaps most impactful of all, we can’t really make plans right now because so much is uncertain.
While I’ve never been one for making new year’s resolutions, I have always thought it to be a good time for taking stock and thinking about what’s working and not — in your own life as well as in a larger perspective. This time around, I’ve mostly been thinking about what it is that keeps us going through times like these.
I keep landing on two things — meaningful connections and hope. These are not unique ideas — it’s well known that connections with other people are crucial for our well-being, as is hope.
Swedish author and artist Jonas Gardell wrote an essay recently where he said (translated from Swedish): “To gather with others to laugh, shed a few tears, and play and dance and experience things together is what makes us human.”
Part of the reason 2020 proved so difficult was that we were instructed to fear other people, to steer clear when meeting on the street, to not touch. Likewise, the physical reminders of what we are living through are everywhere — facemasks, social distancing markers, long lines outside stores. There is no escaping the state of things.
That brings us to hope. Without it, the early goings of this year will be unbearable because, as the experts keep pointing out, in many parts of the world, things are likely to get worse before they get better. But we know change is coming, and to a large degree, it’s coming as a result of collaboration and innovation (which in itself is hopeful) — the coronavirus vaccine has been developed in record time. There is hope.
On a more personal level, I try to maintain hope by thinking about that which, in spite of everything, has been good. The biggest silver lining has been an extra year with my youngest child at home. She was supposed to go off for her freshman year at college last fall but decided to defer when it was clear that her school would only be doing online instruction.
And because of lockdown orders and limited outside social contacts, we have spent a lot of time together. While it hasn’t all been easy, it has been meaningful. And we have gotten to know each other in new ways — my daughter taught me to play “Just Dance”, and she has explained the intricacies of “The Bachelorette”. We have taken long walks and baked cakes and learned about Swedish castles. We have laughed and cried and on occasion driven each other nuts.
I know this was not the year she had hoped for. It was not what I had hoped for. Still, I have cherished the time we’ve spent together — time we would not have had were it not for the extreme circumstances of the past ten months.
2020 was a beast of a year. But, just like meaningful connections are crucial for survival, so is hope, and I am hopeful that 2021 will be better!
By: Felicia Shermis