A farewell letter to 2020
(USA Today) - I’m not at all sorry to see you leave. In fact, I’m happy as all get-out to see your successor — 2021 — step up to the plate and take its rightful turn.
You haven’t played fair, 2020, and you know it. You’ve been the most horrendously cruel Backyard Bully on the playground — except you didn’t just pinch an arm and pull a pigtail. You didn’t just kick up dust and cause a ruckus. No, you snuffed out lots of lives. You wreaked a hell of a lot of havoc. You played real mean and created much mayhem.
You placed a knee on the neck of a man lying helplessly on the street until he cried out for his mama then finally stopped breathing. You gave us the ugliest election (and post-election) in modern history. You showed us hatred and tried to separate us from love. You forced us to find a new language filled with pandemic-inspired phrases like “social distancing,” “herd immunity,” “Do-Not-Enter-Without-A-Mask,” and the oh-so-often used, “You’re still on mute!”
How much 2021 took from us
Worse, you silenced the heartbeats of hundreds of thousands of innocent souls — loved ones who once laughed with us and protected us and gave us good advice but whose hands we can no longer hold and whose presence we can no longer feel. Their hearts stopped beating in 2020. They will not be stepping with us into 2021. They are gone.
But guess what, 2020?
We made it through you. We fortified our strength. We found our courage. We came together. We tapped into a resilience we never even knew we had. We created a vaccine. We banged on pots and pans at 7:00 every evening to thank our heroic front-line workers and, yes, to cut through the sound of all that suffering and death that tried its level best to silence us, but could not. We made some noise.
We held each other up. We refused to back down. We made it through you, 2020, and because we did, we will step into 2021 stronger. Better. More fully committed to learning from the mistakes we made during your reign — because if we don’t learn from those missteps, we are lost. We will not just let you slink away and take your place as one of the darkest years in modern history. Nope. Something good must come of the bad that you brought.
Yes, you certainly brought the bad and you definitely delivered many dark moments, but what will keep us strong and focused as we say goodbye to you — most folks would say good riddance instead of goodbye — is the knowledge that the darkest moments eventually give way to the brightest light. As we say goodbye to you, 2020, we will strike a big old match and create a collective light that will carry us forward into 2021, and we’ll call it the light of hope. This hope is not to be messed with. This hope cannot be snuffed out. It is unsnuffable.
It will live long after you’ve taken your leave and shimmied — some folks would say slithered — offstage. How do I know it will live? Because it lives now. It lives in the hearts of the countless volunteers, visionaries and plain old neighbors across the street and down the way who stand up and step in to help those in need. It lived safely tucked away in the branches of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in the form of a little brown owl named Rocky. It shines in the faces of young folks everywhere, of every color, culture and religion, who have learned to demand change by becoming change. So hope will live long after you have left — but so, too, will intention, faith, and action. These are the things that must lead us into 2021. All of them, taken together.
Yes, 2020, you brought us to our knees, whether we were in pain or in prayer (very often it was both) … and we survived. We were bent, but we didn’t break. You shut down our businesses and schools, and you introduced us to the oh-so-utterly-inconvenient but oh-so-necessary self-quarantine, but even in the face of all that, we found unexpected blessings: We developed a deeper sense of gratitude for the simple, easy stuff like family. Friends. Fist bumps. Finding new rhythms and creating news ways of being, doing, and living, and gradually discovering, Lord have mercy, that being isolated can actually bring us closer together on a bunch of different levels. You taught us all this.
2021 made us stronger
You reignited our interest in the common good and in the realization that our own actions and personal decisions contribute to (or compromise) the collective well-being. You reminded us that we are, all of us, individual parts of a larger whole — and that what we do matters. And by showing us the hideous face of hatred, intolerance, brutality and bigotry, you reminded us that the polar opposite of all that nonsense is our only choice as we move into 2021. There is no in between.
No doubt about it: A lot has happened on your watch, but don’t go getting all big-headed and bloated up. Truth be told, you weren’t really even an active agent in all of this. When it comes right down to it, 2020, all you really represented was the simple passage of time — 365 days, to be exact — and we’d probably all agree that the passage of time is itself, well, pretty passive. You are inert.
It is us, the people, who hold the power and who hold the limitless capacity to change, to grow, to adapt, to learn from our mistakes, and to decide to do things differently as we step away from you. We are far more than the days we have lived through. You are a calendar of days that have already passed. We are what is real and alive and breathing. A calendar cannot hold hope or take action. That job belongs to us.
And we will, all of us, step into 2021 with renewed hope. Instead of pledging to become better, we will simply be better. Instead of promising to become more loving, we will simply love. We will be action.
So to you, 2020, I say goodbye. Adieu. I will stop short of saying good riddance because you actually gave us many moments of startling clarity, a revived spirit of resilience, and a right-sized relationship with gratitude and grace. Am I happy to see you leave? You bet I am. But I’m even happier to welcome 2021 with a big old bear hug and a wide-open embrace.
Go on, now, 2020. Leave.
Go in peace, but go.
Hello, 2021. We’ve been waiting for you. This is where we need to be. This is where hope and healing live.