I went on a walk with a friend last night and discussed the ways 2020 changed us
We made the hot chocolate our upstairs neighbors gifted us before they flew back home to New York. We watched them pack up their lives and bring trash bags full of half-used cooking supplies down to our apartment. If I could sum up 2020 in a nutshell, it’s leftover hot chocolate moments, the things people leave behind when there isn’t enough space to take it all.
Like the doors we closed with old loves and the layers we shed when we continued on with life. The traditional ways of thinking we got stretched out of. The ways we learned to navigate letting go of silence and comfort in return for understanding and correction.
The things people leave behind
Like all the moments we left expectation behind when one road after another seemed to dead-end this year. The family members people lost touch with because of political or racial unrest. The houses people moved from, the neighborhoods people said goodbye to, the simple routines of life we shifted away from.
It was a year of disappointments and frustrations, there’s no doubt about it. I’ve never walked to the ocean as many times as I did this year just to scream as loud as I could before walking back home.
In conjunction, though, I realized through talking it out last night, that 2020 was also a year of good hope — the kind that seeps deep into the cracks and crevasses and oils the dry spots. It was a year we got to watch the sun rise and move throughout the sky and ignite the windows of cities in the early morning in ways we’ve never noticed before. When the world felt calmer and more still as people remained in their homes, learning new hobbies and taking up new skillsets.
Maybe some people didn’t, and that was more than okay too. I had my fair share of days in bed because doing anything else was far too big of a task. I had my fair share of staring blankly at the wall because hearing any kind of noise would’ve been far too loud.
It was a year of coming into the disappointments and grievances with hopeful anticipation that change was on the horizon. People marked the pivotal moments when time seemed to blur itself into a snowball of slowness. The ones we love held us the tightest, the ones we look to for comfort had the strongest grip.
It was a year of learning to find the joy in the mundane and the expectant promises of in-betweens
A year marked with pain and sorrow was also etched and embroidered with passionate people and thoughtful minds. I’ve never seen an America I’ve loved and hated more than I did this year — I’m still trying to reconcile that polarization.
Police brutality, political unrest and instability, a global pandemic, immigration warfare, international turmoil, environmental crisis, domestic violence spikes, depression surges, full ICU hospitals, dying front line workers, dying family members, countless shootings in the cities, canceled live music, canceled travel plans, canceled last moments with loved ones: this is the recipe that crafted the year 2020.
Stirring protests, loud voices, an outpour of art from black creatives, education, sold-out inventory at bike shops, flourishing gardens around cities, street closures for cyclists and runners, more frequent interactions with neighbors, awareness of voting at a local level heightened, weddings and graduations still taking places, empathy still taking place: also the recipe that crafted the year 2020.
I think about the people I loved and the people who were there when the big news kind-of-stuff happened. The boy who broke my heart and the next one who came along to mend it. How each showed me something new about the life that can exist within the confines of love. How each stretched my mind and my understanding of who I am growing into and the spaces I am filling in. Learning that heartbreak doesn’t stay in the first place we feel it and our bodies don’t ever really return to who we were before it happens.
It was a year that required us to listen. When people spoke, and more importantly, when they didn’t speak — I think we became more aware of the impact and importance of listening. Not to respond, not to argue, not even to agree, but to learn and to hear what is being said. We still have a ways to go on this one. I hope 2021 brings more moments of growth here.
I think about the hobbies that filled the time and space of this year. Painting and playing with charcoal. Reading books and sending more letters to people I loved. Taking care of plants and learning to take care of myself. The ways that walking 8 miles a day became a regular occurrence, and frequenting Trader Joes became second nature. Learning more Spanish, and writing more holiday cards to friends I couldn’t gather with this year.
I think about the way I learned to navigate depression with more grace and to meet my needs with more understanding. I think about the ways I learned to sit more still in my sadness and more expectant in my doubtfulness. It occurs to me that the cemetery was my favorite place to hang out, and without feeling shocked, I realized I got more comfortable with death than I ever had prior to this year.
Sunsets weren’t something to miss, and time in the mountains was a non-negotiable each weekend. Biking gave me the freedom to explore the ins and outs of a city I never thought I could love so much, and doing it with Ben by my side taught me the joy in sharing days and miles with another who enjoys the same.
It was a year that constants became more constant, and the people who steady our feet remained the backbone throughout chaos. It was a year where events and seasons were marked with the humans on our left and our right – the ones we wanted in our corners when we didn’t know what was around the next turn. It was the year where the weight was distributed between communities, and people learned to carry each other’s burdens when the lifting became too heavy.
Travel looked different, and most weeks, neighborhood walks were as far as some would get. Holidays were more empty and celebrations quieter, but showing up was still a viable option through it all. It was a year of learning to show up when showing up felt difficult and took more effort. It was a year to be more understanding towards those who couldn’t show up and learning to sit in the disappointment of absence with them.
It was a year where pregnancy looked different, but life was still brought into the world. A year where new moms learned what true isolation feels like; where millions of people learned what true isolation felt like. It was a year of sitting in people’s grief with them until grief became something more bearable and connection felt restored.
But, above all, I believe it was a year where millions of people will one day tell their children and friends about. It was a year stories were built and blindsided events lead to an outpour of art and expression. It was a year that community remained the glue, and the people you’d call for comfort remained the hope between days. I believe it was a year where people were able to leave behind the mentality that control was something we ever had and sovereignty was something we could will our way into.
2020 was a year we learned to rest, and fight, and find comfort in the mundane and turn down the volume of the news on days it all felt too loud. It was a year of exhaustion, emotional depletion, and heartbreak in more ways than one. It was a year feeling void of certainty and holding tight to the moments that felt like safety. It was a year where the light moved us, and we moved into the light. Truly learning what it means to navigate the dualities of the day-to-day. Navigating the space between what was and not yet. Living in the middle ground of in-between moments that are both foreign and familiar.
It was a year that brought pivotal moments and lessons learned, but most importantly, it is a year to be left behind. I’m hopeful that this year will be filled hugging the people we’ve missed.