I am kinda at a loss for finding what to say in such a time as this. What do you say to a year that took 1.8 million from a virus, a year that took forests and cancer victims and the health of millions, a year that personified the incapacity of the people we elect to office, a year that left the pursuit of hope seem childish? What do we say to that?
I think what was so specific to this year was that we are truly in The Age of Worry. To live through this past year was to worry. Worry for our well-being, for the health of others, for the health of this country, for whether or not any of what we are doing will be worth it. None of us know what next month will look like, what next year will look like, and planning ahead now seems like the irrational thing to do.
So here is what I did in spite of The Age of Worry.
Every now and then I relistened to Paradise Valley and remembered that that kind of magic does still exist. I started running regularly for the first time in my life, and it is one of the best decisions I have ever made because music sounds much better when your lungs are on fire. I took pictures of my favorite pages in books I was reading so that when things seemed dull I could read them back to feel like everything was vibrant again. I sat in the sun whenever I was sad, which means I spent April on the back porch and spent my fall semester walking outside my dorm with my beach towel a few times a week. I walked on the golf course in the evenings, even when the No Walking or Running Allowed sign went up at the entrance. I walked around campus and stopped to look at the plants I didn’t recognize; I took pictures of them and tried to figure out what they were. There was this one house I walked past each evening with the biggest hosta leaves I have ever seen, and each time I stopped for just a second and admired them because our hostas at home could never defeat the rabbits, no matter the courage they had. The moon started to mean something completely different to me, because each time I caught sight of it I was reminded that the moon I was looking at was the same one in Baton Rouge, in Columbia, in Austin, in Mckinney. I often had to remind myself to laugh, so I remembered that this February I met Theo Katzman with Ellie — as in, he knows who we are. I stopped singing in the shower but then I started to again. I am so much smarter than I think I am, so I reminded myself that I have gotten this far and I am going to make it so much farther because that is what I do. I go farther.
In July, I wrote a note for my friends about my monstera plant. In the note, I talked about how I had bought it the first week of quarantine. My sister and I woke up early in the morning to go to Calloways to buy this plant and then didn’t leave the house again for weeks. And when I bought it it was so small and I could not imagine it growing into the plant it was supposed to be. But it sat by my window and grew and grew and grew and I didn’t notice it, until one day I looked over and there was this new bright green leaf unfolding up by the windowsill. And when I wrote this note in July, I mentioned how sometimes I really do just look at it and remind myself that there is so much growth going on, always, even when I don’t see it. And suddenly this monstera plant was serving as my reminder that what feels like hell right now is a gift later — that the frustration and sadness and anger that prevents you from seeing the plant growing right in front of your windowsill — is a gift later.
It grew 18 new leaves this year. I now have an acute emotional attachment to this plant. If you know me well, you know it is now a part of who I am. It has grown alongside me through the hell of 2020, bursting new green leaves while the world around it crumbled. If that is not courage, I do not know what is.
I will not minimize myself — not my intelligence, my anger, my composure. I will remind myself that everything that weighs me down is not mine to carry. I will try to see myself the way the people I love see me. I will look up instead of down, and I will chase after hope.
This year taught us that as impossible as it may seem, all will be well. Life will always bring us tragedy, but we will be well in spite of it.
Best of 2020