Hooboy. If you’ve been following this blog for long, you’re well aware that today is the day I issue the traditional New Year’s Letter. It’s a tool for me to reflect upon what’s happened in the year: the wins, the losses, the things I can fix, the things I can’t affect. In a year filled with Twisted Teas, Angry Bees, and Dreaded Disease, I don’t even know how to begin this.
I guess I’m going to begin at the beginning. Of the year. And work from there.
See, while 2020 was transformative for most people, for better or worse, it was especially pivotal for me on a very personal level.
2020 was the year I fled my marriage. It was the single most dramatic period of my existence – and I’ve seen some shit. On January 23, 2020, I left my home in Fort Worth, Texas, with four dogs and a few bags, and I didn’t look back.
That trip ultimately would take me (and the hounds) over 2,200 miles across six states, and showed me, once and for all, that Internet friends are real friends. It took an army to help me get home, and resulted in an outpouring of love and hope that I’ve never experienced before. It was absolutely life-changing, and I will never live long enough to properly thank all of those involved.
Late on February 10, 2020, we made it back to an empty house, full of possibilities.
It was only then that I even realized there was a pandemic coming on. I’d been a bit occupied, you understand. About three weeks, give or take, after we got home, I was called by my doctor in Texas and advised to go into isolation.
I won’t lie, it was a bit of a gut-punch. See, I had really been looking forward to getting reacquainted with the land of my birth, the Missouri Ozarks. The open spaces, the trees (you have no idea how much I missed trees), the calm, folksy ways of my people. All of it. I was ready to soak it up like a dehydrated mongoose.
But instead, I stayed home and I waited.
I ordered groceries, I shopped on Amazon, I wrote what work there was to write. And I waited.
One week turned into two, two turned into four, a month turned into six months, six months into nine, and here we are… give or take.
I’m still waiting. But it’s the end of 2020, so I’m done waiting in 2020. Tomorrow I’ll start waiting in 2021… (that’s a joke)
In all this waiting, a lot of very bad things happened. People got sick. We lost over 350,000 of our countrymen – who didn’t have to die – to a poorly executed COVID response. We cried collectively, we shared our fears, we celebrated the best we could while together, but apart.
It was a Hell of a year and I can promise you that our experiences will be remembered for generations to come.
I don’t even have the words for this year. But I do have a lot of hope. Even after all this blackness, I have hope. Maybe I’m a dangerously optimistic person in these strange times, but I have ALWAYS believed in humanity. I always believe we’re better than we think.
Collectively, I mean. Some of you are real assholes.
Looking back on 2020, I think we all did really well. Given the circumstances, merely surviving was a massive accomplishment. But we did more than that. We learned to make sourdough starters, we navigated online shopping (many for the first time), we figured out ways to stay in touch safely. We reached out when we were in danger or in doubt, and others caught us.
People will look back on this year and see nothing but loss, doubt and fear. Some will see selfishness and political upheaval. It’ll be a year that kids didn’t go to school, workers were sent home, businesses were shuttered… but for me, until the day I die, this will be a year of hope.
I watched people fight for and love one another ferociously. I saw families get closer than they’d ever been before. I was fortunate enough to be party to various acts of kindness for those who were struggling with the “new normal.” (Heck, we even collectively deposed a would-be dictator…)
This year, I saw so many little candles burning in the black, it fills my heart beyond bursting.
We’re none perfect, and we’ve all made mistakes this year. We’ve all had to balance our physical health and mental well-being (and a few people have been really complete and utter bastards), but by and large, I think good is winning. I think good is going to come out on top at the end of all of this.
It may be hard to see right now. Especially for those who are working as frontline workers, those who are in the thick of the medical system, those who have lost someone, but in big giant brushstrokes, I think most of us were looking out for others as best as we knew how to do. I think most of us gave what we could spare to keep those people who didn’t have enough going after the government had abandoned us.
This year, I’m going to remember the simple, beautiful acts of individuals. The tiny kindnesses that meant more than anyone could possibly believe. There’s no lesson this year. There’s nothing I could have done better, nothing I should have done differently.
I’m proud of how I handled this year. I’m proud of how you handled this year. I’m proud of us. Collectively.
If we can do 2021 like this, but with less fear and more faith and belief in truth, I think we may well be on to something.