I know I’m not the only person trying to make sense of the past year today.
I know that my efforts to rehash or interpret the simultaneous panicked haste and glacial slowness of the past 365 days will seem trite and contrived by any comparison.
I know that there is no reasonable adjective and no concise term for what this year has been, has meant, has proven.
We truly now know what it is to be fully human, to truly have existed in this time. To be wholly flawed and decimated and demoralized, and to have woken back up anyway. To have looked our neighbor in the eye, ourselves in the mirror, and seen things we never thought we would, and to have to go on anyway. There is no way to rewind from this raw and painful reality we have all found, in each other and in ourselves, and no way to go back to the illusion that our past, present, and future could be separated by the privilege of time served. There is no golden thread to suture this fresh and still-beating truth or to lead us out of this maze we’ve foolishly wandered into. We have seen our whole selves. We have seen the worst we have to offer, with heavy-handed mercilessness.
But we have seen something else, too. In our clamoring desperation, we have seen the truest, purest, most infallible goodness. In a year when everything blared with irreverent audacity, the good was often quiet, and while shock loomed large, the sweetness was often small. But it was always there, in the door held open, the nod of solidarity; the gratitude for each fragment of relief and the resolve to pass that relief on, to lessen the burden of another.
As long as we can cling to that resolve tomorrow, the next day, and throughout the second year of this unprecedented, unknowable wilderness, we will prove that we are not the victims of our own shadows, our own darkest parts. We will prove that we will not succumb to our blistering hatreds and scorched divides. We will be defiantly good.
I know that I have truly felt every fractal in the prism of human emotion. Deep, dejected defeat, chronic bewilderment, days spent in melancholy sonder and moments of pure and rapturous joy, top-heavy burdens and sudden, fleeting relief chased me home to the haven of my bed each night, where I deflated, sometimes fulfilled, often tear-stained, always exhausted.
At midnight, I won’t leave this year behind. But, like a worn-out coat, I’ll take off its burden and hang it beside its predecessors, to look at but never again to touch, and to occasionally find something of value, something I’ve lost, in the pockets.