The other night, I had a terrible dream. Like, truly horrifying. I don’t have nightmares often, but when I do, they are bone-chilling. My nightmares are violent and bloody and disturbing. As the garish vision played out, I began to realize I was dreaming. I was so distraught, my subconscious graciously decided to remind me that what was happening was not real. Quickly, as the nightmare stood just behind the line of completely devastating, I told myself I could wake up. And I did.
The visions lingered. I lie awake, blinking furiously as if doing so could wipe away the awful images my brain had decided to bestow upon me. Slowly, the nightmare faded away.
Distance Learning resumed for my school district on Tuesday. As class began and students shared their winter break stories, one of them said, “I thought the virus would be gone in 2021.”
It was easy to chuckle and respond with, “Yeah, that would have been great, huh?” It was easy to shake my head at the simple, hopeful thinking of a ten-year-old. 2020 is over, so why isn’t the pandemic over, too? The absolute roller coaster of a year had finally ended and a new one began. Tabula rasa. Time to start over.
I wish I could have told my student that with a new year comes a true cleaning of the slate. In some ways, perhaps, it does. Personally, as the clock ticked toward midnight on December 31, I thought about what I wanted to do in the new year. How can I continue to grow, help, teach, write, learn and act in 2021? But when I stepped back to ring in a new chapter in a strange, unfamiliar way, that small part of me, the ten-year-old I once was, was holding on to a far-flung hope that things might magically be better as the calendar turned over. Even though the rest of me, the adult who lived through what seems like a lifetime in the past four years, knew that clean slates don’t always happen. Sometimes, the writing is permanent. Sometimes it’s meant to stay, meant to remind us of a message, of a cause, of a purpose greater than ourselves. Sometimes, instead of wiping away everything that’s happened, we have to let the message sink into our bones in order to move forward, carrying it with us as we work to shape a future we can be proud of.
In some ways, 2020 seemed like a nightmare. Wildfires. Pandemic. Corruption. Yet I couldn’t seem to wake up. I witnessed things that reminded me of my privilege. I read and learned in order to be ready to act and use that privilege. I watched my country become this misshapen beast that screams and spews hate for anything that doesn’t fit a certain mold. 2020 was haunting and humbling.
I’m not going to let that small, nearly forgotten version of me let go of hope. It will be necessary in moving forward.
I hope you find solace in the things that bring you joy. I hope you take the time to be informed. Rather than turning a new page over, or cleaning the slate, perhaps we have to write our new year together. Maybe, if we can listen and learn and act in truth, we can form a future we actually don’t want to wake up from.