Illustration by Jose Santana Firpo

Long Story Short: This Too Shall Pass

When I woke up on New Year’s Day 2020, I was on a cruise ship somewhere between islands in the Caribbean, halfway through a family vacation. Like every other morning, I picked up my phone to read a bit of news and to see the latest posts on social media. My phone didn’t recognize my face. It demanded a code to unlock the screen. (Did I look that atrocious?) I took this as a bad omen.

Boy, was I right.

Now, at the end of 2020, my phone doesn’t recognize my face because I’m wearing a mask. Or maybe I’m atrocious. I have no identity, even to the friends I run into, masked, in the grocery store. I’ve amped up my eye makeup routine because that is all anyone sees of me. But I knew—I knew!—on Day One of this year that something was off. The stars weren’t aligned. There were dark clouds ahead.

2020 had just begun.

No need to recap the year that we have all lived through. The health scares, the isolation, the social unrest and the Zoom calls. Stocks plummeted and wine sales soared.

But this isn’t the worst year. Far from it. You still have wine sales. You still have friends. There have been worse years.

Case in point:

1. With little more than a pickaxe and a mule-drawn wagon, folks with nothing left to lose abandoned their homes in 1859 to brave the harsh weather and terrain on their way to the Colorado Territory in search of gold. More than 100,000 people set off and many were ambushed or starved along the way. Cannibalism was reported. Those who made it to the Pike’s Peak area found gold hard to get. 1859 was a bad year. (Did I mention cannibalism?)

2. 1347 wasn’t so great either. It was the peak of the bubonic plague—around 60% of all Europeans died a swift but agonizing death. The Italian writer Boccaccio said victims “ate lunch with their friends and dinner with their ancestors.” (At least they didn’t eat their friends.)

3. 536: They didn’t call it the Dark Ages for nothing. I won’t go into detail, just watch Game of Thrones.

4. 1919: Spanish Flu killed 500,000 Americans in 12 months the same year Prohibition was passed into law. Ahem.

Wars, widespread panic and waiting in the drive-thru line wrapped twice around Chick-fil-A. We’ve survived it all.

With what? What do we have as a human race that makes us want to live another day when the world around us is collapsing?

I like to think it’s hope and perception.

Hope that a vaccine will come; hope that we will be able to again hug our older family members; hope that we can celebrate a wedding en masse, attend football games en masse, go to festivals and concerts and restaurants en masse and massively enjoy every second of it without fear.

I think that takes perception.

We’ve lost a lot this year: people, jobs, freedom, confidence. But as cliché as this is, it is true: We are all in this together. We have the perception that this season we are going through is not right. Is not true. Is not long lasting.

Because of this, I have seen great things emerge as a human race: Doctors risking their own safety to help the unknown lives of others. First responders by the thousands standing by as a Category 4 hurricane hits our coast so that they can be first on the scene. Families with sports schedules wiped clean spending more quality time together. Italians on their balconies in Rome singing “Bella Ciao” (tears). And a reduced focus on material goods and an increased focus on relationships.

There has been more grace shown, more forgiveness extended, less need for competition with one another.

We are all in this together. And we will emerge together at the other end of this tunnel. Hopefully, we have learned some lessons.

Like it doesn’t matter if your phone recognizes your face or not, your soul remains the same. It’s been a good year for soul work.

To quote Elizabeth Taylor, “Pour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick, and pull yourself together.”

Bring it, 2021.