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  • Writer's pictureJTF

In Hindsight: 2020

Updated: Feb 2, 2021

In retrospect, the gold and silver decadence of every 20s themed party should have been a foretelling of what was to come in 2020. With its sense of excess and abandon, it ought to warn me.

After a long binge of entitlement, the hangover from the last decade would prove to be one of epic proportions. For me, the pandemic resulted in a giant reset button, a wake-up call to festering issues I carried for a long time, issues that I chose to postpone or ignore. However, little escapes four walls filled with silence. No screen could distract from the images brought by my anxiety. Without much choice, I was left to look inward.

My first finding came with a new understanding of privilege —which exists in a wide array of shapes. It is impossible to look back at the past year and to not see that I was privileged. Still, in the throes of it, it felt more like a shit party —one where I was the honored guest. Nowhere is the dichotomy more evident than in both the privilege and circumstances that created my time capsule article.

On the one hand, I felt lucky to have the opportunity to capture what was occurring in my life at the moment. The mere fact that I had the time and opportunity to write the piece is a testament to my privilege. Simultaneously, reading through the vignettes and given the circumstances that made it possible, it is difficult to ignore the variables showcasing the systemic inequalities under which I wrote it.

How can I honor and acknowledge my experience without falling into victimhood? Is it possible to be both empowered and traumatized at the same time?

After the article dropped, most of the feedback was conciliatory, from my family's reaction of concern, to the surprise of friends and colleagues showing their support. The article showcased achievement, and I received the gratitude of others for having their stories told through mine —no longer a statistic flickering on the right side of the screen. However, a small percentage saw a sense of narcissism and victimhood, most of them bothered by the 'inconvenience' brought to their own experience. I heard calls for me to 'toughen up' as they had and as I should. It would take me a while to figure out what I thought of the article without others' lenses applied to my judgment.

While ambivalence filled plenty of the past year, one part of my experience became an unmistakably positive event —I credit it with keeping my sanity through the entire period. Using my new allotment of free time, time brought by furloughs and later official layoffs, I joined the MFA program for creative writing at Denver University. The experience was cathartic, allowing me to heal and throw myself into conceptual discussions of a writer's voice or the rituals that make it worth the effort. In a creative fiction course, I concocted 'Clara,' and in my first week during the program; I gained some perspective while writing some of my tipping points. I had a chance to write poems, and I made sense of my first general election with an essay about my experience from immigration arrival to the voting polls. I even talked to snakes while engaging with Jung's active imagination exercises for a writing and healing course. The lay off from my last job took away the opportunity to continue the program — at least for now. Still, the seed of what it means to do things out of love remains planted, and I am grateful for the chance to take those courses.

If I were to give a theme to 2020, it would be awareness: challenged, lost, rediscovered. Nothing shakes the psyche like the moment someone's rug gets pulled from underneath. In my particular case, the pandemic touched almost every aspect of my life with a pronounced effect. Through every job loss, at every rejection letter, with all the unanswered pleas for assistance. I found myself in a battle between optimism and helplessness. It didn't help that the entire collective appeared to be having a giant meltdown alongside with me.

In the end, the collective's psyche and my own were challenged and then recharged by a renewed sense of hope. I chose to take away that humanity can abide by our invisible social contract. However, the realization that not everyone shares such view came with its own set of reckoning moments. I can still hear the chant of protesters demanding 'four more years!' I can still feel my chest's oppression at the thought of what it really meant— all the while feeling hurt and disgusted as I saw people die behind the screen and the faces of those who cared little about it. For a while, I had the pervasive idea that the social contract we all sign by living in community broke, perhaps irreversibly.

As the new year arrives, there are no more gold and silver themed parties. An eerie sense of solitude and introspection has replaced the excess and abandon. Today, most celebrate quietly, some even abiding by the social distancing rules and remaining isolated, or at least within their curated bubbles. In the end, I am glad the collective consciousness appeared to have gotten a much-needed jolt and that it showed some signs of awareness — even if only among some in its realm.

I enter 2021 with a sense of gratitude and atonement, with a feeling of integration from past and present experiences. I didn't choose most of what happened during the pandemic, nor was I looking forward to reckon with many of the things that came before it. Still, I've decided to see it as a healing process from the trauma brought back or even created by it. In hindsight, I will look at the past year as a kaleidoscope of lessons that will yield better decisions in the future, as a needed reset of sorts. I choose to start the new year embracing a new sense of consciousness, one where I am ready for what life has to offer without so many unnecessary expectations or internalized self deprecation.


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