Hindsight is 20/20
You have been difficult. I would describe you the same way a parent would describe a toddler in their terrible twos — your tantrums were excessive, you’ve caused a lot of sleepless nights, and you’ve made me rethink what it means to be human.
You started off on bad footing. The Australian bushfires were a terrible idea. And then Kobe Bryant died, and you just nosedived from there. I’d say it’s far too soon for puns about nosediving, but January was 60 years ago. Little did we know that while the world grieved for koalas, kangaroos, and a basketball player, you were brewing something much worse. And sure, maybe you can blame 2019 for creating COVID-19, but you really took it and ran with it.
Suddenly statistics, social distancing, face masks, and Bonnie Henry became part of daily life. Society started preparing for quarantine by stocking up on toilet paper and watching Contagion.
I went through the full Rolodex of reactions. At first, I was kind of intrigued—the idea of a pandemic was so foreign that it was almost exciting. That phase ended when the death toll started climbing and a swift bout of panic set in. To pull myself out of that, I started running. My running phase ended too, however, after I realized that the only people who actually enjoy running are genetically predisposed to hate fun.
After that, I sat down and really thought about what might bring me joy. This led to an ever-so-wholesome binge drinking and reality TV phase. And there are some things that I can forgive about this year. Murder hornets? Never actually killed anyone, so no problem. Donald Trump endorsing injections of hand sanitizer and shots of bleach? That tracks. But Too Hot to Handle? That was ten hours I’ll never get back. After that, I thought nothing could shock me.
But then the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Regis Korchinski-Paquet, and Breonna Taylor led to protests all over the world in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Somehow the concept that black lives matter became subject for debate, and white people did what white people love to do: brandish their privilege and make the movement all about themselves. The “all lives matter” protests have set a new standard for how tone-deaf white people can be.
Going into this year, I thought the most talked about event would be the US presidential election. And come October, news coverage of the election was everywhere. The Fly became relevant again, Joe Biden forgot the president’s name and his son’s internet search history was used against him, and Donald Trump vilified the USPS and science. I couldn’t stop watching election coverage—to the point where I forgot for a brief moment that I am not American and that any embarrassment I was feeling was purely second hand. Biden became the president-elect and, in what seemed like an act of karma, several COVID-19 vaccines were announced soon after.
Another act of mercy would be putting a stop to Michael Bay’s Songbird. There are bad ideas, and then there are ideas so bad they briefly unite the world to acknowledge just how bad they are.
Speaking of bad ideas, I also convinced myself this year that online learning would be either easier or better than in-person classes. Sure, I could wear pajamas and get away with not showering for a few days, but I also had to reconcile that somehow paying more tuition meant fewer resources, reduced class time, and a lot of uncomfortable Zoom breakout rooms. It’s been a banner year for anxiety and mine is still alive and well. Here’s hoping that instead of isolation and lockdowns, 2021 brings more connection and counselling.
I had very high hopes for you at the end of 2019. I was supposed to celebrate the end of my undergraduate degree this year—a feat that has taken me nearly ten years to accomplish. But instead of popping champagne and celebrating, I’m popping hand sanitizer and worrying about the future. I think, if anything, you’ve offered the gift of perspective, and although I’ve felt the weight of this year, I can acknowledge that I have the privilege of seeing the end of it.
I wanted to write you this letter to forgive you as we move into 2021. But, like a parent looking at their three-year-old child, I will never forget.