A few years ago, a friend of mine asked himself what one word he would use going forward in that year. The idea struck me as romantic, and I’ve been doing the same, ever since.
2020 was a shitshow, plain and simple. Some of it wasn’t our fault, a lot of it was, a lot wasn’t entirely our fault but we made it worse, and a lot of it seemed to come out of nowhere because we ignored the dire warnings. It felt like every day, there was a new catastrophe, from fires to murder hornets to protests against police brutality, spiralling through the gruelling non-stop news cycle pumping vitriol into our brains 24/7.
If you went a little crazy, I understand. I did, too.
I thought quarantine would be My Jam. No outside distractions, no errands to run, hell- no doctor appointments. Just me and my work and nothing to keep me from it.
I was SO wrong.
Ear infection, tooth infection, dad’s company closing and forcing him to work out of town during the week and come home on weekends, new mosquitos, multiple heat waves, a financial crisis caused by retail therapy, and under all of it the steady drip-drip-drip of the news cycle: rampant racism, cases spiking, anti-maskers, an attempted coup…
The wheels fell off pretty damn fast for me.
I published a book the day George Floyd was murdered. Like most of the country, I was overcome with outrage at the police and solidarity with the people of colour who have been screaming at their white allies for generations about injustice. To see it play out on screen was sadly, nothing new. But this year, this year, something snapped. Maybe it was the pandemic, maybe it was the fact that it was an election year, maybe it was the way the media handled it in the days following. Something felt different. I hope it’s real, and won’t fall prey to the news cycles like so many of 2020’s cataclysms
But it’s over, now. The year; not the racial inequality, the environmental crisis, the pandemic, or the sham of a presidency- though that, thankfully, will be the next to fall. But 2020 is squarely behind us.
So, what do we do when life knocks us down? We stand back up.
I always flag before the end of the year, that’s to be expected. I get tired, my best laid plans fall through, shit happens. But this year, I tapped out before the summer. No amount of swims in the pool or hours gardening or writing exercises or Nintendo games kept my feet solid under me. Every time I thought I could stand again, the sand shifted and I was on my ass.
But it’s 2021, and though the fights are not over, though the danger has not passed, we can take solace in the fact that 2020 is done and we’re standing in the doorway of 2021. We’re all a little battered, a little bruised, a little battle-weary, but we’re also warmed up and prepared. This is not a time for rest or for giving up and giving in. This is a time for battle positions. We know what can happen if we’re not paying attention, and our eyes are open, now.
Maybe you did what I did, and when you got knocked down, you stayed down for a little while. I hope you got more rest than I did. It’s time to get up, now. Dust yourself off, check in on yourself. Keep doing what you need to, but get back in there and keep fighting. We have so much left to do.
My word this year is REGROUP. I took my licks and I wallowed a bit. I’m not as strong as I was last year when I did everything ahead of time to make it easier.
And I did so much, y’all. I planned out every little detail: I wrote my blog posts in advance, I reworked my book club system, I made quizzes, I planned games and giveaways, I had schedules and automation and contingencies. And almost all of them failed.
There’s a post going around Facebook that says, ‘If all you did today was survive, that’s enough,’ and I feel that way about 2020. If all you did in 2020 was make it to 2021, you should be proud. A LOT of people didn’t. Don’t beat yourself up for not having accomplished more, we are living in unprecedented times- no one knows what to do, no one has the answers.
But don’t give up. Regroup and keep going. Gather your strength around you and keep pushing. If you’re strong enough to carry the weight for others, good. Go out there and fight in the streets. If you only have the strength to fight for yourself, then that’s fine, too. Keep the home fires burning. And if all you can do is make it to 2022, then at least you can say that you didn’t give up.