Revisiting 2020 as a Tourist

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A map showing Jen's highs and lows of 2020 plotted out in a grid.

On New Year’s Eve, my mom asked what my resolutions were for 2021. I let out a big, exhausted sigh and asked: Didn’t I do enough this year?

In no particular order: I started coaching training. I slid in the DMs of hundreds of voters. I taught a brilliant group of grad students. I quit drinking. Oh yeah, and I beat fucking cancer.

2020 was a profound year because of the pandemic. But masked, home-bound, glued to the news, missing our families and our old lives, we still continued to live. Even Covid-19 wasn’t powerful enough to pause the peaks and valleys of any given year.

So when I thought about making resolutions, only one came to mind: to sit with everything I saw and felt last year — and to spend equal time in the darkness and light.

That means reveling in a sunny stay in Miami with my oldest friends and eating bagels out of a bag in a snowy park in Montreal. It means hugging my family members after months and months of separation when we mask up for a summer visit. It means reliving each ah-ha moment my first coaching clients experience. It means hearing the words “surgery went perfectly” and exhaling.

That also means frantically wandering around my house putting post-its on everything I touch so I can be absolutely sure I remember to clean up any trace of radiation that could sicken my partner or dog. It means worrying that my friends who are out marching — or, depending on their complexion, just crossing the street — are at risk of being beaten, tear-gassed, or killed. It means watching my neighbor descend deeply into his mental illness, briefly recover, and then take his life on a random afternoon. It means finishing a case of wine myself before my partner is inclined to open a single bottle, because I just want to feel a little less.

Before I move on to any new beginnings, I want to be sure I’ve fully absorbed the lessons of the life I lived last year. What happened. What it felt like. What gifts it brought, even if they’re bittersweet.

My resolution is to keep these experiences close enough to my heart that I can bask in their warmth when I need a boost or draw on them for strength and perspective when dark days arise. And to not rush into the new year hoping to be the best version of myself but instead fully the version of myself that I am.

And that, mom, is enough.

Time-Travel Activity

  • Map your peaks and valleys from 2020 on a piece of paper or this worksheet. (You can see my example at the top of the page!)
  • Reflect on each item — what lessons can be learned from each moment listed?
  • How will you draw on these lessons in the year ahead for comfort, strength, joy, or wisdom? Make a list and revisit it regularly.