2020 has been a rough year for most people. We’re in December now. We can see some light at the end of the tunnel, though the light just shows us how much farther we still have to go. The vaccine, a new President and VP, restrictions lifted, theatres, friends, love… all lie somewhere in the light.
But in the darkness we have changed. We have learned things we did not know about ourselves; we learned things as a collective about the country, about the world around us. The things we thought were stable were not. 2020 was an earthquake that shook imagined securities, and they fell. Many of us also experienced hard growth as individuals. I know I’m not the same person I was in March of 2020 that I am now. We’ve learned some hard truths about ourselves, our fears, our patterns, our destructive habits, maybe–things laid bare when there wasn’t the distraction of busy-ness.
I speak from a level of privilege. I had no job, but I was able to be self-employed by selling my artwork and cashing in retirement, living on loans, the kindness of friends, etc. to survive. (I applied for lots of jobs but never heard back on most of them.) Many were not so lucky and had to be constantly working outside their homes serving the rest of us: doctors, nurses, restaurant workers, mail carriers, the essential workforce. I have no doubt they also learned things about this country, the world around them, and themselves.
We might have learned how resilient we were. We might have found courage. We might have changed our habits and our lives to survive. It was not as simple as the commercials to “Stay at Home” made it seem. It was fraught with decisions and fears. Like many, I lost income due to COVID, and debt I was trying to pay off remounted and surged. And as a queer man, the decisions made at the polls this year would have a direct impact on my life, again, as my freedoms were up for votes, and judges were appointed that might reverse past decisions—yes, all of that. I lost people I cared about–through death, but as friends too.
Journal the End
Maybe you’ve already been journaling the difficult growth of yourself and our country through COVID 2020. I have not–not in that way. But I feel compelled to write down some of the things I learned about myself and my world before I come out of this tunnel.
It will be very easy to throw off the darkness of 2020 when the vaccine comes, when the restrictions are lifted, and we see what survived in the world. People closed their businesses, many lost work permanently. This is not the world you left in March. But before it starts roaring again, before it starts leading us away from this year to forget this year completely—I think I need to journal the “Hell” out of 2020. I need to pull the truths out of the fire and apply them to my life. I need to remember what I learned about me.
I sincerely think what we learned through 2020 will be the most important thing to living a full life after 2020. If you leave 2020 the same exact person you were when you came in, where were you? I don’t know anyone who is the same.
I have friends who have moved to new cities—I see you friends in Chicago now!—and friends who have completely changed careers. I dropped out of one school and started another program. Others have started whole new lives–as if 2020 was the SCENE CHANGE part of the play. Where the lights go down and the stage crew comes and rearranges everything and then actors come back on and the program of the play reads, “One Year Later,” and all the characters are starting in new positions. New cities, new jobs.
What did you learn about yourself that surprised you? Good and alarming.
What did you learn about your government that surprised you? Good and alarming
What did you learn about your neighbors that surprised you? Good and alarming.
What do you want to change in yourself? What do you want to strengthen?
What do you want to change in your government? What do you want to fight for?
What do you want to leave behind in 2020, scraping that shit off of you forever?
What are you bringing into 2021 that is exciting and empowering?
What are you NOW looking forward to that maybe you didn’t think about much back in March?
What will you cherish more? Who will you thank more?
We can think of 2020 as HELL or we can snatch every truth out of this year and bring it with us to 2021, and leave the HELL out of our lives forever. I encourage you to grab a journal and use the rest of December, part of January, to write everything down so you can look at this later as the Year You Survived and a Learning Year. You got stronger this year, you know? You have changed. Celebrate that strength by writing it down before the noise of Capitalism and Freedom drown it all out. There will be parties next year and the next. But for now, while you have a moment, write your journey.
You really don’t want to lose this hard-earned wisdom.