Here we are, in the moment we’ve all been waiting for. We’ve put 2020 behind us, and I bet it all feels very different now, doesn’t it?
We possess a human tendency to compartmentalize. We want to draw neat lines around everything because that is how we make sense of the world. Perhaps the desire to do this is more profound as we step into a new calendar year, the time we’ve culturally designated for reinvention and renewal… a “fresh” start.
Some things are done, for sure. For example, all of those 2020 memes and jokes you loved to spread around—those are over. They’re no longer relevant. Also, when you write the date on your checks and documents, you don’t have to freak out about leaving the “20” exposed for some forgery. It’ll be “21” now, and a hundred years before someone can use that open-ended date against you.
The fact of the matter is, some things aren’t going to change just because we flipped the first pages on our new calendars. Before this month is over, I bet you’ll have some heated political discussion and find yourself frustrated over some COVID restriction. And then, even though the slate is “wiped clean,” you’ll remember the irritation and exhaustion those very things brought you last year, that very terrible year, the one you thought you were through.
Of course, this presents an opportunity to hang onto what was good, to not have to see it end just because we’ve left some numbers behind us. Last year, we explored all of the ways humankind came together, stuck it out, made the best of things and slowed down. Those lessons learned can buoy this new start, marrying the past and future, just as time really is: continuous.
The hardest thing to grasp—or maybe just to admit to ourselves—is that beginnings and endings are the same thing. You can’t have one without the other, like they’re holding hands. On one hand, you reach back to what we can see so clearly now; on the other, looking forward into the unknown. But the present moment always connects the two. We’re never really starting over, and we’re never really ending.
Sometimes, this is a dizzying notion. It contradicts that tendency to tie pretty bows around things and call them done. It prevents us from organizing life and instead forces us into the paradoxes of our existence. Still, if we face this head-on, if we acknowledge that we’re not separate from what has been, and what’s coming is what we’ve been on our way to for a while—not just since January 1—then it becomes easier to focus on what we can always count on, whether at an ending or a beginning.
Like how I’m always going to be hilarious and some of you are always going to hate it, for instance. Or how the town Facebook page is always going to be the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever read, unless you happen to stumble into your neighborhood’s Nextdoor postings. Saturdays at the lake will always be annoying because it’s only ever a mass of people who have day-tripped up from Denver. Cyclists will always be our enemies—but especially in January. Why are you riding your bike on the ice in January?
And the mountains will always take your breath away as you come over the crest on I-70, on your way to a home that makes us about the luckiest people on Earth. And it will always be magical to slow to a stop to watch the elk cross the road, to wonder why they’re crossing the road, if it really is only to get to the other side.
If you think about it, we still need 2020. We need the tenacity it taught us… the endurance. We need the hopefulness it brought us, the skill of slowing down and focusing on the positive. If you close out a year to never consider it again, then you’re letting go of all the good things it brought, too, and I honestly believe there is always more good than bad. Even the hard parts are teaching us, offering up the chance to glean something marvelous from it now.
So, here is to the new year, to whatever lays before us to write into our currently blank pages, and here is to all of the pages already written, the ones that got us to where we are.