Some pictures I took and some thoughts I thought in the first week of 2021
Last year, it was hard to be hopeful. I know that I’m not alone in believing this. Like so many, I counted down into 2020 with heady anticipation, curiosity and expectation about what a new year, and a new decade, would bring.
2019 hadn’t been kind. I found myself unemployed for the first time since I was sixteen (by choice, yes, but also kind of not) and the rejection emails and post-interview ghosting had me down in a major way. Things on the personal front had also been less than ideal. I’d boldly pronounced to my friends that 2020 would be my year: “I’m leaving all these Ls behind in 2019”. We laughed, but I meant it. I could deal with more disappointment in 2019, so long as I believed that 2020 could be different.
And it was, at first. A month in, I reached a personal milestone I’d been working on for quite some time and I finally found a job. I’d left the Ls behind.
The day I signed my contract, the government announced a national lockdown. My new role, in the performing arts sector, was gone, taken from me in a short, apologetic email that I couldn’t bring myself to respond to until days after. It’s funny to me, looking back, how much stock I’d put in a new year to change things. I tied my hope to gold foil new year balloons and now they were going down like lead.
I am part of a generation for whom, when it comes to posting online, very little is off-limits. I’m grateful for this, knowing that without such open access to the experiences of others, I might never have questioned the lies I believed as a teenager, I might never have thought to try therapy, I might never have felt empowered to speak out last summer when white people tried to tell me that there’s no need to see colour in this day and age. But there are still things I won’t talk about online, and the extent of the loss and frustration I felt in 2020 is one of them. One, because while I am honest, I like to keep my darkest moments to myself. And because it feels sort of pathetic to complain when I am alive and well, while so many others are not. But I will say this, 2020 brought an unprecedented amount of pain to my heart which, at twenty-three, had hurt before, but was unprepared for the unrelenting waves that 2020 brought. After a while, I forgot all about the expectation I had carried into the year. In a terrible season, letting go of hope felt like putting on armour. I was already hurting and the disappointment of unfulfilled hope was a burden I wanted to make no room for.
The first week of 2021 is drawing to a close. We are in yet another lockdown and the Ls just keep coming. On the outside, very little seems to have changed, but I am giving myself permission to be hopeful.
At the end of December, like I do every year, I wrote down a list of things I had to be grateful for. At the top of the list was a simple fact, that I have grown accustomed to taking for granted: I am still here. I am alive. And from there, springs more things to be grateful for: the yeses among the nos, like stubborn, persistent weeds growing from concrete, the lessons I finally learned. I cried because I was hurting, but there were times when the tears were from laughing too hard. And if some joy and some good could come out of a year like 2020, then surely there is reason to be hopeful.
My father is an optimist. It’s not so much that the glass is always half full with him, but rather that when he notices that it’s getting low, he thinks to fill it up. We are alike in many ways, but in this, we differ. While he tops up the glass, I drill holes in the bottom to speed up the emptying. I suppose being locked down in such proximity for so long has allowed some of his optimism to rub off on me: Ọ ga dị mma, he says. It will all work out. If you can, surround yourself with hopeful people.
My armour is heavy and while I know that it’s been weighing me down, removing it is slow work. For now, I take it day by day and moment by moment. I journal and make lists, and I try to find a balance between doomscrolling and being appropriately informed. I go outside, even when the weather is terrible, and I take pictures of the beauty around me. It is a gentle reminder, that there is still good to be found, even when the bad is the obvious thing to see.
Nothing has changed, but everything is changing. Ọ ga dị mma.