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  • Sophia P

Reflections on 2020


2020 -- it's hard to summarize what has been a wild wild ride of a year. This game does a pretty good job of summarizing many of the major events and drama of the year, e.g. Australian wildfires, Covid-19, turbulent US elections, and it pokes fun at some of our collective lows like when people were hording toilet paper. I can only imagine how each person has handled the uncertainty, anxiety, public and personal health concerns, isolation from family and friends, quarantine, economic woes, just to name a few challenges.


It's been a year of extreme highs and lows, leading to emotional whiplash. My year kicked off with a breakup and makeup followed by the excitement of finding a new job in March, right when the lockdown was starting in NYC and elsewhere in the country. Then there were months of uncertainty, not knowing whether or not the offer would stand after the start date was pushed back twice. Thankfully, I was able to start in June, and was fortunate to receive unemployment benefits with the supplemental stimulus funding. While I waited, I decided to take up baking like much of the country, and scrambled to find things like yeast, flour, and paper products.


The early days of the pandemic felt so surreal with everyone suddenly wearing masks, being afraid to touch or get close to anyone outside of your household, and NYC being dubbed the "epicenter of the pandemic" in the United States. As the weeks and months wore on, the situation started to improve in NYC as the weather got warmer, and we learned more about the virus. People started to venture outside, meet friends in parks and restaurants, and other businesses started re-opening. It felt like we were turning a corner, but simultaneously, racial tension related to pervasive inequities and stress from the year were building and catalyzed by the murder of George Floyd, which ignited weeks of protest in cities across the US and exposed longstanding rifts in our society. In the wake of the murder, which added to a long list of acts of violence against people of color, particularly black and brown individuals, light has been shed on centuries of injustice. There is hope for change with prominent public figures and companies coming out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and touting not just "tolerance", but actively promoting antiracism.


As if this wasn't enough activity for one year, the 2020 US presidential election turned out to be one of the most acrimonious in history with Biden ultimately winning, but Trump and a large proportion of his supporters refusing to concede and spreading conspiracy theories about election fraud with the slogan of "Stop the Steal." I felt so relieved when I found out that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris had won, and would be installed in the White House despite the best efforts of Trump and his most fervent supporters. However, it has not and will not be a smooth transition, and has tested the limits of our democratic institutions.


Personally, I have had to take so many breaks from social media, endless news updates, and worrying about the state of our nation, global affairs, and feelings of complete helplessness. I have been so inspired and grateful for words of comfort and encouragement from my boyfriend, friends and family, my local church, which has provided a virtual community since March, and numerous artists, writers, scientists, and more. Some of my favorite books, podcasts, tv series I have read/listened to and watched this year:


Books

  • The Ember in the Ashes series by Saaba Tahir , which is a wonderful dark fantasy YA series featuring a woman of color as the protagonist, which expertly blends magic, romance, action, strong character arcs, and presents a study on the horrors of war.

  • Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik, which draws loosely on the story of Rumpelstiltskin and is told from the perspective of three female characters.

  • Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng depicts the unraveling and reshaping of a biracial family after the unexpected disappearance and death of their eldest daughter.

  • How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X Kendi. The title is pretty self-explanatory, but I appreciated the clear definitions Kendi started each chapter with, and how he wove in his own personal experience with fluctuating between being racist and anti-racist at different points in his life.

Podcasts

  • Unlocking Us from Brené Brown. If you're a fan of her books and research on emotions and how we handle them, you'll enjoy this, and she features a wide range of guests.

  • First15 a daily devotional created by Craig Denison

  • Ten Percent Happier with Dan Harris, which talks about strategies for dealing with stress and anxiety with a particular focus on meditation.

  • Where Should We Begin hosted by Esther Perel, featuring a different couple or family she is counseling each week.

TV series

  • Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist. I love the heart that this show has, and it's use of music and dance to deal with a complex topic like grief and the loss of a family member.

  • The Great British Bake Off. I was late to the party on this one, but I get why so many people are fans. It's like the tv equivalent of eating comfort food, and it's nice to see a competition show where the contestants are actually kind and helpful towards each other instead of cutthroat.

  • The Boys is dark and violent, which isn't usually my thing, but the subversion of the superhero genre and political commentary embedded into the plotlines and characterizations is very skillfully done and makes for riveting television.

2020 couldn't end without one final kick. On the last day of the year I had an accident, which resulted in a concussion and a broken tooth (possibly two, TBD). I was trying to literally "kick Covid-19", and was executing a roundoff kick (which I've successfully done before) in socks on a hardwood floor, and ended up landing face down on the floor. What happened is a little blurry since I got a concussion and only remember snippets, but my boyfriend had to take me to the emergency room on New Year's Eve, and I'm in the process of getting a crown to cover the broken tooth. What a way to end the year.


With all that happened in 2020 collectively and personally, it was truly a very enlightening if painful year, which forced us all to take a pause and reflect more than we usually do. I learned about the balance between fragility and resilience, and how both can co-exist in my body and the planet. I don't know what 2021 will bring, or even that it will necessarily be better than 2020 as we're all hoping, but I do know that I won't take anything for granted.

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