Raise your hand if this year felt like the mirror you’d always been running from. How many times did you pick up your phone looking for an escape that never was waiting for you on your lock screen? We talked of immunity, here in America. We sent empty care packages filled with thoughts and prayers to Europe in the new year and locked our doors come March. We baked sourdough and banana bread from scratch, created video challenges, day drank, traded waistbands for leggings, only to become fatigued of the self-made countdown for the sense of normalcy we seemed so eager to re-discover.
I didn’t bake or order alcohol to my front door. I socially distanced myself from candles lit, books read out loud when no one else is in the room, and showers in the dark past midnight for men I believed were taller than the fear I hold for being alone with myself. Like their shadow could outweigh the worry of me being just like my mother. She’d search for love as though the rent was due today and his arms could write a blank check with enough zeros to cover the space from his elbow to his kneecap.
Except we’re all much too old to believe pulling the covers over our heads makes the monsters disappear. Tik Tok challenges will not block out the sound of our own voice forever. So many of us came face to face with ourselves for the first time this year. Others never caught their breath, couldn’t sleep in, the monitors beeping were nothing like a lullaby. I don’t own scrubs. But I keep thinking how over 1 million students are enrolled in the New York City school system and I wonder how many rely on their three squares a day. How many hard-working individuals ensured they were fed from home?
We now know the grocery bag clerk is the backbone of our society and yet so many of us wish it to be our child’s first job, but never their last. I used to say life was a Rubik’s cube and your only job was to determine which side you wanted to solve. Claim a color, make it yours. Green for the environmentalists. Yellow for the activists. Blue for the politicians. Orange for the scientists. Red for the artists. White, well, I think too many of us have been whitewashing, staring at the sun till the whites in our eyes go numb, chasing money or that high you had six years ago. When did we all start solving the same side only to get nowhere?
It isn’t 2020’s fault. This year pulled the curtain off the wizard and shed light on our society’s cobwebbed corners. But it takes time to collect dust, to forget to even notice the dirt underneath our fingernails. Tell me what atrocities make you question god. Now tell me what your survival tastes like. Not for me, but because I believe saying something out loud makes it real.
The sooner I stopped running from the mirror this year held up without hesitation, the more confusion I felt. Cross my heart. I don’t have the answers. But I do believe putting down the ax I’ve been using to try and make my square peg fit into a round hole can stop the insanity I’ve been weighed down by. We all have a hamster wheel moment. Something we are scared of, so sure it will be right behind us if we turn around, that we never stop running. Something we move states to try and get away from only to discover it’s waiting for us when we arrive.
Maybe this year was Mother Nature’s way of reminding us that our lives are a debt unpaid with interest and 2020 came to collect. It might have felt like an interrogation room with a light shining right at your face. Some of us got a taste of what unrelenting, demanding, and all-encompassing anxiety and fear look like. How it can sit in the back of your throat. This is so many people’s normal. The old one. The one you may be desperately reminiscing upon.
This isn’t a guilt trip. 15 million women and girls are forced into marriage while I worry if he’ll be the one to stay. 25,000 human beings die of starvation every single day while I hold my head above the toilet for the second time in eight hours because my stomach feels too big for the year-old Gap jeans I love. Let me say it again. This isn’t a guilt trip. This is a wake-up call.
I think of those who report domestic assault and how impossible it must be to do their job from separate living rooms. I drive through the mountains of Vermont like the bookends they are and pray for the three billion animals slaughtered in the same 24 hours I’m up against. This is the world we live in.
2020 felt annihilating. Any good contractor can point you to a demolition in the making. We created a societal standard, our normal, and it needed forced flattening. Sometimes it is better to crumble, wipe away the wreckage, and create something more unifying in its place. Prior to this year, human rights violations went virtually unnoticed. We ignored freedoms being stripped away like a crime enacted in broad daylight and deemed it acceptable.
You might not have learned anything in quarantine thus far. You may be in the mindset that nothing was broken in the ways in which we existed pre-COVID. If that’s the case, my hat is off to you. You are engaging in the belief that if you can’t see the fire, nothing is burning and that takes immense effort.
But if you were one of the millions walking out your door with excruciating burns or someone who could just smell the smoke, we owe it to every living, breathing entity on this planet to do better. We have the chance to craft a society in which all bodies are welcomed and celebrated, where civil liberties are demanded and those responsible for their security are held accountable.
I’ve watched as so many of us have reminisced for 2019, counted down to 2021 —as though January will somehow make us baby fresh and new? — and cursed 2020 out. Instead, I wonder if we owe 2020 a love letter. A moment of genuine gratitude to pay respect for this year’s refusal to co-sign our bullshit. They did always say growth happens outside our comfort zone. (Whoever the fuck they are.)
If you like this article, check out: https://www.harnessmagazine.com/covid-stole-my-job-and-gave-me-an-identity/