I wanted to be terribly hopeful and happy and excited about 2021, but I confess: I’m more like, meh.
Honestly, it feels like just another day, which was, for me, par for the course for 2020. One day ran into the next, and before I knew it, my birthday passed. Then it was fall, and I could stop cutting grass. Suddenly it was winter, then the holidays, all sliding uneventfully by with little to no fanfare or exception to mark the passage of time.
Don’t me wrong. On one hand, I realize it’s a blessing that things were so placidly uneventful. That I could watch in a very third party through a looking glass kind of way as the world went through painful, exceptional, occasionally ridiculous change around me, without being touched in a negative way.
I know that 2020 was, as some clever person described it, a dumpster fire. Horrors I doubt I’ve fully processed became common, faithfully reported in excruciating detail by formal and social media. I can still remember the sci fi realization I felt back in March, driving along and seeing everyone around me wearing a mask for the first time in my life. Or wearing one myself and begin so rattled and nervous I ran from my own neighbors on my daily walks. But they weren’t really my neighbors anymore, you see; they were potential carriers.
Life became simpler. I embraced the fact that I knew nothing of what the future held and that my ability to plan was arguably a joke since life narrowed to the confines of my home – very comfortable, if not prettily decorated by Zoom standards. I realized I don’t have a decorative home related bone in my body, and I’d been too busy working the past 10 years to feather my nest, a fact that was now irritating in its deep implications on my formerly misguided priorities.
Sill, I was — am — grateful that life is so easy. My immediate family remains untouched by COVID, thank everything, though the circle of people I know who are untouched by it seems to grow smaller every day. I am grateful that my family and friends are not struggling. And I’m grateful that my tendency toward over analysis has not driven me crazy as I’ve continued to put one foot in front of the other, my only real problem occasionally forgetting to brush my teeth after a meal.
There have been determined bright spots. Being able to save a little money, for instance — I was looking forward to seeing Harry Styles this summer and frequenting my favorite warm weather events. Instead, I learned to cook — my Instagram is awash with amateurish food shots, my preference for elaborate salads giving way to endless, subtly different fried rice combinations.
Slowly, I began to consume everything more intentionally, decluttering, waiting before I clicked to place my order. There was also some unintended but welcome weight loss and my fabulous health that insists on remaining stubbornly good. So good I would feel guilty about it if I wasn’t so relieved, surrounded as we are by reports of hundreds of thousands of dead Americans.
With phrases like diversity theater and tragedy porn floating in and out of my consciousness, things became quite black and white — pun intended — when it comes to that which I know, but had allowed myself to become slightly removed from. America is a racist place. But there is good, there is hope, and there is a standard by which I think all Black Americans and Black people in general should live in order to elevate our collective existence and eliminate much of the fuckery from which we now suffer. It’s scarily simple and goes something like:
Focus on loving yourself and your people. Help you and us first because we need our help most. Spend with us, support us, celebrate us, nurture us, embrace us, make us a priority.
Do not allow non-Black people who are “learning” about their privilege to importune you with their “revelations.” You don’t have time or energy to be a soother when you are busy dealing with the realities of living in a dark skinned body in a systemically, structurally oppressive society. You owe no one your understanding or your ear, unless of course you are a licensed psychologist or something of the sort, and there has been an agreement that said ear comes at a rate of X dollars per session/hour.
Do not allow non-Black people to spend your time without your permission, asking questions they could easily find the answers to if they read, or took a moment to look around and think. Unless you are a teacher, a coach, an educator of some sort, it is not your job to inform the comfortably and deliberately uninformed. You need your developmental energy for yourself because learning is the key that will help you and those who look like you move forward with your own comfort and security top of mind.
Understand that there’s a reason Black people are the most hated, mistreated, misunderstood, maligned, stolen from, and it’s not because we lack anything. Just the opposite in fact. Therefore, move through your chosen spaces with confidence and certainty, and be unbothered as you live your best life and encourage those who share your spaces to do the very same.
And finally, know that race is not the defining trait by which you should live your life. In the wake of 2020, one of the strangest, most difficult, most heartbreaking, eye-opening, interesting, revelatory years I’ve had in my entire life, I’ve come to know that my skin is just one part among many in my life that requires my consistent care and attention. My goals, my interests, the things that I want and need, they require focus and discipline, and race talk is an occasionally necessary but almost wholly undesirable distraction that I refuse to allow any longer.
I’ve said more times that is even funny, though I still laugh in odd moments, “Why are you telling me that?” It’s now my standard response when someone offers up something that person in the White House encouraged or enabled, or recounts some Karen’s scratching, clawing, screaming accusations quickly proven false and ridiculous as her lack of dignity is scrawled across global screens of all sizes for judgment and scorn.
See, I have all the time in the world now that quarantine is a way of life, but absolutely no second to spare for any foolishness that distracts from that which I desire. Life in 2020 taught me the power of intention, the value of a peaceful mind as a progressive tool and an adaptive enabler. 2020 reminded me that freedom ain’t free, but thank everything, I have everything I need to secure it.
So, yeah. 2021, hey. I’m not fizzing with excitement like last night’s champagne, but I am resolved to live with gratitude and intention on this first day of the new year, to secure my position, and to tell stories that aid others in finding some peace amid the continued chaos.