Postmarked JAN 2021

There were plenty of explicit moments last year that so cleanly cut to the core of who we are. It seems trivial trying to recap them given the sheer number. There was loss, grief, unrest, anxiety and division like I’ve never seen before.

I’ve been trying to turn the page to January, to 2021, a new year. For some reason, I felt that if I just mentally marked the occasion I could easily move on. Unsurprisingly, I’ve found it easier said than done. Despite triumphs, new hopes and milestones, it feels as if the year that was wasn’t properly mourned. Not the year necessarily, but the period of time surrounding such tremendous upheaval.

It struck me in January while trying to reflect: last year was a sad year. I use that word so roundly because there isn’t a precise phrase to accurately capture the entirety of what we collectively dealt with. It was sad, simple as that.

There were immense personal anxieties felt by many around the world from the pangs of the pandemic and all of its ramifications. As a people, Americans felt the full weight of a divided society that tore asunder our democracy in ways that may be irreparable. We are still in that place, for goodness sake. It will take time to move on.

People passed, so many people. Death became a constant companion as we sought to live our lives under some regime of new normalcy. But let’s be frank — it was and is anything but normal. Anxiety and depression soared as isolation and fear wreaked havoc on daily lives. Even those accustomed to solidarity (like myself) still felt incredibly alone and frustrated at points as we all lived inside our four-walled prisons. Financial worries, social worries, personal worries; heck, just staying alive and making it through seemed like the call to arms of 2020.

The pandemic only accelerated the structural cracks we have long lived with. Politics was obviously a drag, but symptomatically we were exposed as the divided, polarized people we are. It felt like nobody took the high road, and we politicized and complained about every little thing. Wearing a mask to stay safe in a pandemic became a political act. I lived through 9/11 with enough maturity to understand and observe what was going on. While these two situations aren’t equivalent, it was striking to me to see just how little unity there was in a time of crisis just 19 years later. There has always been two Americas; now, our stark differences are exposed, celebrated and dangerous. Throughout the last 4 years, there have been intermittent calls to remember how easily Germany slipped into the Nazi era. Canaries in the coal mine implored us to not think civil war was really that far off. After the events of January 6th, it became all to clear to me that we are always closer to the edge than we think. I don’t know what to think going forward. Hope springs eternal, but I have less faith in the American experiment than I ever have.

It was a sad year.

Through all the pain of society-wide loss and grievance, I feel like I let myself become too much an observer. I was fine, wasn’t I? I had blessings and everything I needed. I made a point to count the silver linings, and there were many. But, I don’t think I ever acknowledged how difficult it was on me, personally. It’s okay to step back and acknowledge that you’re hurting. It may not be equivalent to those around you, and that’s fine. It’s healthy to admit what you’re dealing with, to meet yourself where you’re at honestly, even if you know that, comparatively, you have it good.

I can mourn the friendships put on hold. I can mourn that it’s been another year dominated by singleness. I can ruminate and recover after a brutal year of work-related stress, grad school and ASDP studies. I can mourn all of the sins and bad habits creeping into my life as my circumstances outsmarted me. So yes, I’m looking forward to a year full of opportunity with less immediate stress. I’m anxious to return to life in public that seems within our grasp. I cannot wait until this global burden of constant, fresh sadness and mourning dissipates into memories that need healing.

2020 was heavy, brutal and unrelenting. It’s okay to reflect, absorb and let is sit with oneself. I am better off than so, so many, but it doesn’t mean that I’m fine. I think that’s the most important part.

It was a sad year.

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