Am I right to be optimistic about 2021?
On paper at least 2021 shouldn’t get me excited. COVID is still here and despite recent optimism of a possible conclusion to this whole facade if 2020 has taught me anything it’s that every time the end looks near it really isn’t.
Realistically we were all pretty optimistic over the summer when cases were low and we were privileged enough to be allowed the company of five of our selected companions before a second coming of new restrictions and lockdowns wiped the beginnings of a smile off of all of our faces. It seems that when re-booking abandoned holidays for this year I genuinely thought that by now this wouldn’t be an issue but to be honest I’m resisting allowing myself to even get excited and preparing for the real possibility that I am not permitted to go.
So, why am I still excited about 2021? Part of me suggests a little bit of it draws to the naivety we feel every year when we bid farewell to our outdated wall calendar and proudly put the new one up with dreams of new beginnings and possibilities. It is strange that we feel this sense in a new year as really it is no different from the passing between any other day; we could equally put on a smile every Pancake Day and innocently fantasize of the luck, happiness and wealth that will fall our way before the next time we all settle down for a crepe feast. I feel that this is something we need though, in a life that sometimes feels constant and unchanging and in a world full of pressures and difficulties it is reassuring to have a feeling every so often that we can wipe the slate clean, forgetting all the downfalls of the recent year and look forward with ideals of a really great period of our lives. New Year presents this opportunity as no matter what happened in 2020 we could all wake up in 2021 feeling that our metaphorical 2020 load has been removed from our backs and that we face the new year fresh. In practicality we woke up with the same troubles, dilemmas and stresses on 01/01/2021 than we had on the evening of 31/12/2020 but that feeling of sealing 2020 in a box and putting it away for good does induce some excitement for what is ahead, and a year presents the perfect time period for this; offering enough time for changes or new developments to occur but being just a short enough amount of time that we can easily write it off and hope for the next one. I feel that if we were to look back on the whole of the past decade and try and toss it aside to be forgotten about we would lose all too much, but the prospect of forgetting about 2020 really feels like not much of a loss in comparison.
So why do I fall for this naivety seeing as I have been burned before? Ok so in 2019 my mental health was at arguably it’s worst state and I remember gleefully looking forward to new beginnings in 2020. Obviously I was wrong, so why do I still look forward with the same ignorant glee at the rest of 2021? Well this time it’s different. So often we feel like we have had a bad year; it is easier to look in hindsight and focus on the negativity of the past sometimes, meaning that often by the time we hit the new year we all feel like we’ve had a tough previous 12 months, even if in reality it hasn’t been all that bad. Sure every year comes with some difficulties, as does most days, but in context how bad has it actually been? This is why 2021 is different. 2020 really was appalling, that isn’t subject to a negative outlook either, it just was atrocious. I remember 2016 was famously labelled as a pretty bad year at the time but looking back now it was a walk in the park. The simple things we took for granted like not being told when we are able to leave the house, not having all the holidays we need to break away from our stresses cancelled, not being constantly caged up in our own homes like prisoners of a crime we didn’t commit. Sure over the Summer when things got a bit looser we maybe had some good times but realistically good times in 2020 was just reaching beyond the limitations of our front doors. This is why I have to be optimistic about 2021; because you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. Whilst a new year in the past may have presented a lot of undeserved optimism followed by the disappointing reality that nothing has changed, 2021 just does feel different. As bad as it is that we are in this situation there is a feeling that surely things can’t get much worse. 2021 could be the second worst year of the past 25 but even if it is slightly better than 2020 it will feel like an improvement to all of us. It seems that maybe we were stuck in a bit of a rut; taking all the simplest things in life for granted and feeling that unless a year was good enough to be absolutely life changing then it had ultimately been disappointing; whereas now even the thought of a year of normality would make that year the best yet; after all the roaring 20s were only so roaring because most of the 1910s had presented worldwide warfare.
So, am I right to be optimistic about 2021? Well if 2021 followed on from any other year then absolutely not. We aren’t out of the woods yet with a lot of our 2020 problems and the unpredictability of the whole trivial ‘make it up as you go’ attitude towards something as detrimental as national lockdowns and cutting people off from their families is hardly a reassuring shadow to have cast; never knowing when the finger will be pointed at us. However, I am optimistic about 2021 because sometimes you have to hit rock bottom to appreciate rock just above bottom. Sure we’ve been cruising for years, having some years that were slightly better or worse but ultimately wavering around the same level, not appreciating what we had. Now that 2020 has moved the bar so low it feels like we can only go up. Imagine if we were to end 2020 by moving into 2016; I’m pretty sure 2016 would feel like quite the special year despite most of us holding it in memory as the opposite for various reasons, after all we could still go watch live music, live sports, see our friends and actually live our lives. That is why I hold such optimism for 2021, because we may actually appreciate for a change the year we have ahead; even if it isn’t all the wonderful.
Happy 2021 Everybody!