2020: An Afterword

Decades from now we’ll still be trying to make sense of 2020. Some will see it as the year when so many things changed. Others will point out, rightfully, that most of the problems we faced had been festering for a while. Many of the solutions were there as well, but got buried or ignored because they either cost money or didn’t fit neatly within some ideology. It’s like a bridge that “suddenly” collapses. One moment it’s there and the next it’s gone, but the erosion, rust, and neglect had been happening for a long time.

I want to say good riddance to bad rubbish. We all do. Calendars are deceptive things, though. An arbitrary change in the date doesn’t clean up the mess that’s been made. There’s still a pandemic tearing across the globe. Who knows how many years it will take for the chaos it’s caused to be untangled. Some things can’t be undone, and we’ll need to learn to live with that bitter truth. People are dead. Socioeconomic issues persist, as they have for decades. The United States is still riddled with fascists. I’m dubious as to whether that last problem can ever be fixed.

This is the true horror of 2020: this year hasn’t been all that special. Terrible, yes. Devastating, with consequences we haven’t even begun to fathom, definitely. But it was just the same crap turned up to 11. It was a convergence of problems that had been there all along, gone so horribly awry that we could no longer ignore them. They were made worse by people who continue to try. You can’t wish away the election results, morons. Nor can you keep pretending COVID-19 is “just the flu”. Put on a fucking mask and join the rest of us in objective reality.

Nothing ever ends. This isn’t fiction. We rarely get a clean starting point, or a definitive ending. We’re born, a bunch of stuff happens, and we die, and that’s as much of a framing sequence as we get. The stuff in the middle, though, is always messier and more complicated than it needs to be. It’s strokes of luck, bad guesses, and stupidity all along the way.

The thing is, knowing that gives us power. Think about it. Even though 2020 sucked to an exceptional level, to some degree things have always been terrible. They always will be. I’m not saying that to downplay the tragedy of it. I’m saying it because our continued existence is proof that we can get through it. What matters is how you navigate through the existential dread.

I released a dozen books this year. I feel like I finally got a handle on what it means to run my own business, and do it successfully. My values became clearer to me, along with some epiphanies on how to best express them. I deepened some friendships along the way. That’s not nothing. Those are achievements worth cherishing and celebrating. 2020 couldn’t take those away from me.

Tomorrow we’re going to do what we’ve been doing every day for the past several months. We’re going to hang on to what we have left. We’re going to move forward as we’re able. Hopefully, the idea of a New Year gives us a little more confidence and a bit more hope. We need something to temper the cold sting of reality, that 2021 is just going to be another collection of days like every other year before it.

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