Updated: Jan 1, 2021
Like most, I was overcome with optimism when the clock struck midnight on Jan. 1st, 2020. Even with the exhaustion of running for Congress, I celebrated - a new decade, a fresh start, and endless possibilities.
I should've remembered what Forrest Gump's momma told him; "life was like a box of chocolates, and you never know what you're gonna get." 2020 has been just that; I expected chocolatey caramel; instead, I got burnt licorice doused in spoiled milk. A global pandemic, months of self-isolation, racial reckoning, and murder hornets - this year has tried us, battered us, and fundamentally altered us.
But, despite the challenges, we're still standing. As this tumultuous year comes to a close, I find myself asking, was it all bad? Is the optimism and possibilities of this new decade even greater today?
Here's what I know:
The old way wasn't working: Before COVID, I escaped tragic headlines by going out with friends, working 24/7, and running. Quarantine changed that. Racism, division, and a broken political system aren't new; we're just stuck at home, forced to process the realities of persistent inequity - over and over. No longer can we escape the costly and deadly implications of our mental health crisis, global climate change, police brutality, gun epidemic, health and educational disparities, food insecurity, digital divide, and unprecedented un and underemployment. Weirdly, the tragedy of 2020 presents a new opportunity for us to pioneer a global reset.
Life is short: This year, a dear friend was diagnosed with a grave illness—nothing a 30-something should face. Trying to understand her diagnosis and the mounting COVID deaths have made me reexamine my mortality. I'll no longer take my health and access to healthcare for granted, nor can I accept every physician's diagnosis. Not only am I more aware of my mortality, but I know it's compounded because I'm a Black woman in America. 2020 has given us another opportunity to fix our healthcare system, which allows employment, race, and zip-codes to determine outcomes.
Life can't be out-planned: I planned everything and thrived on a strict routine. Planning was my security blanket, my attempt to control life - until COVID. Life got messy fast, and no daily to-do list could contain it - there's no planning your way out of a global pandemic. Life is unpredictable, and I now realize that the key to it isn't obsessing over the perfect plan or vision you crafted for your life, but it's about being flexible. 2020, unlike any other time, has forced us to adapt to survive - not solely as individuals, but as a society. And we are better because we are more resilient than many of us imagined.
Life is a series of plot twists: I quit a job, moved, ran for Congress, had no job, started a new career, and ended a toxic relationship - all within a year, during a global pandemic. Epic, game-changing plot twists. With each twist, I ran at it with all my might - even though I was scared as hell. I don't know what lies ahead for 2021, but 2020 has scared me shitless, so much so that I'm now fearless. Fearlessness is the key to boundless opportunities and possibilities.
Happiness is a life choice: I'm an introvert, so quarantine wasn't bad - until month six. Being alone, you learn a lot about yourself. I've learned that no person - partner, family, nor friend can make me happy. Don't get me wrong; we need companionship, but the burden of my happiness isn't theirs. Life satisfaction and happiness is a choice, and one I've fought to make daily in 2020. Learning this lesson has made my relationships so much brighter.
2020 has been challenging. But, despite it all, I choose to end it just as I began it - overcome with optimism—cheers to 2021.