There is a writing tradition that on the last day of a calendar year, a writer is to offer a reflection on the concluding year. The year-end reflection is intended to summarize what it was that we experienced together, to remember events we forgot took place, and to look ahead to a better year.
What can we say, then, about 2021? What is it that we experienced together?
Perhaps we can say we saw an increase in our societal anxiety level. We are continually on edge because of an insurrection in January and the continuation of COVID-19 variants. We are stressed and, in some way, experiencing trauma by the ongoing nature of the pandemic of cultural divisions. This societal trauma has led to divisions in our institutions, breaking of families and friendships, distrust within our community, and a shared frustration with one another.
Throughout 2021, we often refused to recognize that we were all dealing with the same realities, though in different ways, together.
Perhaps, then, we struggled with a sense of togetherness and community. We are not as united as we were. Perhaps, we were never as united as we believed. This year, though, showed us, once again, that we define community as being around like-minded people. Though we talk about welcoming everyone, we lived throughout the year with a limited view of true community and only embraced people who shared our perspectives.
All of this is a consequence of a year that dealt with the ramifications of constant change. If 2020 was about a shock to the system, 2021 was about living into the realities of that change. Sometimes we handled it well, but often we struggled through this year. We did not always live well with the pains of change and the anxiety of living through something we’ve never experienced before.
As we put a bow on 2021, we will look ahead to 2022 with optimism and hope for a better future. That is our common posture as the clock strikes midnight to look to hope. I’m hopeful for a better year than 2021 – can it be any worse?
We will only experience a better and brighter future when we learn the lessons from 2020 and 2021 and make the appropriate changes to our lives and community. We must live with one another in our differences. We must speak the truth with love and seek justice. We must find places of commonality once again. We must take care of our neighbors and not think of our self-interests first.
We have to turn the pressure down, so we do not escalate the tensions of our society any further.
So, here’s to 2021. As Queen Elizabeth once described in 1992, it was an annus horribilis. We can only hope that tomorrow when a new year begins, we will learn the lessons of 2021 and live into a better year.
We can only hope.