As we hung in limbo between Christmas and New Year’s, I felt this pull to reflect on the year so I connected with a few friends and family and now, I want to share it with you.
You’ve heard it and you’ve read it but I’ll say it anyway, it has been a long year for all of us. It was filled with trials and triumphs, pain and joy, life and loss, love and heartbreak and waiting, lots of waiting. Sometimes I feel as though I am still on pause from March 2020 and I am waiting for the green light to return to the world. Then I catch myself and ask what does it mean to return to the world when there is still life to be lived right now? To press play for the slow and quiet moments too? For me, this reminder alone has allowed me to bathe in the fulfillment, clarity and intentionality of this year.
While this is the first time many, if not all, of us can say we collectively shared a life-altering event together, it is unfair to say we all had the same experience throughout this pandemic. A quote that was echoed through these conversations goes, “we are all in the same storm but we are not all in the same boat.” It is unknown who the author is but they beautifully and painfully conveyed the racial, linguistic, financial, health and geographic inequalities of this pandemic.
As I waded through the challenging waters of this year with friends and family, many themes came up and one of them was how much we surprised ourselves this year. Whether you are an extrovert or introvert, we naturally hold spaces for connection so we build routines and structures to fulfill said connection. That might look like an 80 year old woman who goes to yoga everyday to share the pretty flowers she saw in her garden that morning or a millennial who lives alone in a city and looks forward to going to work with her exuberant colleagues. When March 11th came and rattled the world, we were forced to relinquish our routines and structures for what was supposed to be two weeks but turned into 10 months. Yet in spite of it all, we still found connection through Zoom and FaceTime calls, through social media, and through the little stories strangers crafted in the mail. We still found different ways to seek connection in the face of uncertainty.
And then we had all this time for ourselves too. Whether it was mentally, physically and/or emotionally, we unveiled a layer of strength we didn’t know we had. As chapters were unexpectedly closing and opening, we learned to offer ourselves the closure and celebration alike.
In one of my previous posts, I wrote about my experience with anxiety attacks on the train during my first year in Boston. I was on the brink of a milestone then the pandemic happened. As small as it might sound, I wanted more peaceful rides to outweigh the hard ones in a city I came to adore and I was finally at a place where I could take that 45 minute commute in peace. Maybe life has a funny way of presenting new challenges to build resilience in us.
While I was privileged to have boarded a safe and steady boat, I still faced challenges along with many others and I am pleasantly surprised with the strength I gained since March. We are learning that relationships and friendships can withstand distance. We are learning to reshift our sources of satisfaction outside of work. We are learning patience in an age that demands answers now. And the best one? We are learning we can do hard things.
In the 30 conversations I had over the last 48 hours, the word loss came up several times because everyone lost something. A curious child lost precious time to socialize with other kids. A growing teenager lost a year of high school. A college-bound student lost their first year of freely launching into the world. A beaming couple lost the chance to celebrate their marriage on a crowded dance floor with everyone they love. An aspiring first-generation medical student lost a chance to don their white coat in front of their proud family. A rising entrepreneur lost their business. A young family lost their home. A grandparent lost a year to craving connection in isolation. While these events may have have been adjusted in a different way or put on hold for next year, it doesn’t account for the insurmountable loss of the people they wanted to share these experiences with.
Because above all, the families of 1,795,775 million people lost a loved one/ones. Everyone had big plans and they planned to spend it with loved ones lost. There is no way we can fully and wholly understand the pains of each individual but we can open our hearts, empathize and support one another and sometimes, that looks as simple as saying, “I am here.”
Lastly, many of these conversations came down to the central theme that is, there is no normal to return to. Normalcy is comforting and in March, it was all we wanted. As part of a generation that thrives off of instant gratification, it was difficult to understand and process that the pandemic wasn’t going to end tomorrow. Even as adaptable beings, it was overwhelming to see the country on fire and see that things kept happening and happening and happening. Eventually, we learned it would take time and patience and science and a great act of love to heal.
There have been a wide range of events that drastically changed the way we move through the world, from the Influenza Pandemic of 1918 to 9/11 to today’s pandemic. Recognizing that when these events happen, it is vitally important that we learn from them and shed the layers that didn’t work to make space for a new one.
As we stand at the doorstep of a new year, I hope you are already proud of yourself right now. I hope you know that you are surviving a global pandemic with no road map and that is remarkable in and of itself. I hope you are able to unearth your child-like wonder as we safely revisit concerts, conferences and countries when the time is right. I hope in 2021 you gain something special for yourself whether that is a new hobby, a new love, a new job, a new routine, a new house or a new city – whatever it is, I hope it is something good.
Lastly, I hope you take some time to reflect on the hopes you have for 2021. After all, hope is the best thing we have.
Stay safe and I’ll see you in the new year,