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Well the fact that you’re at the start of an article would suggest that the answer is neither a simple yes or no. My theory back in February was that 2020 had set the bar at its absolute lowest; that the year had been so completely dreadful that even if 2021 wasn’t a whole lot better it would still feel like a big step. I do think 2021 has lived up to that promise at least – it hasn’t exactly been a fairytale year but I’d still not go as far as comparing it to the deep dark depths of 2020.
One of my main points of hope for 2021 was that COVID would become somewhat less of a burden on our lives and give us some more of that freedom that we all crave. Even this in itself is not a cut and dry answer. Whilst we were all promised the ‘freedom’ date of June 21st, then eventually July 19th, my expectations that life would suddenly return to normal were far from realistic. With cases rising and concern brewing, it hardly feels like freedom, and I wouldn’t be confident betting against another lockdown by the end of the year. Even with the supposed dropping of restrictions we are each week met with a series of new ‘must haves’ and 'must dos’ moving forward that really makes me feel that this isn’t progress but merely a repackaging of the hammer blows we have been dealt in the past. Of course if we can stay in some sort of state of relative freedom then I’ll trade abiding by a few little extra rules, but this is hardly a guarantee considering those of us who have spent two years abiding by the rules already have only been met with more lockdowns and restrictions throughout. I must admit that whilst I am trying to focus on enjoying the somewhat free will of today, my mind can’t help but wander to a future that looks bleak. The way that things are being announced it seems to me that never again will we get back to normality, but instead will spend the rest of our lives categorised over injections and forced by politicians to bend over backwards in exchange for a small shred of life as it used to be.
Despite my gloomy writing though, I must admit that this year could have easily been a lot worse. England put in an admiral campaign at the Euro’s (despite my consistent lack of trust in Southgate) and temporarily united a nation threatened with division. And even though in my classic pessimism I packaged it as insignificant – the fact that as I write this I am able to work from the office, mix with people and go out and socialise feels pretty special. As I said in my last article, if 2020 was good for anything it was making us appreciate the small things and it has done so and more. 2021 has not been the bumper year we were all hoping for, but thanks to its abysmal predecessor I’d say that most of us feel pretty good about where we are at right now.
In my ‘Am I Right to be Optimistic about 2021?’ article, one of the things I mentioned was the insane pressure we put on a new year as being some sort of fresh start or clean slate when in reality it is just another day. Once again in 2021 I do find myself willing for 2022 to approach. It seems sad that I am wishing my time away like this, but like most people I feel a desperation to get this infamous period put behind us and to move forward. I fully believe that COVID will still be the earworm of 2022 and possibly for years to come, but I’m hanging on to that separation that a new year brings. Being able to put 2020 and 2021 in a box together and bid thanks but no thanks will be a refreshing moment for all of us, even if in reality 2022 will be no more removed from 2021 than any day is from one to the next.
So – was I right to be optimistic about 2021? It’s really hard to tell. When I focus on COVID and the current, previous and potential future situations I can’t help but feel pessimistic about what this year has offered. Like myself, many people hung their hopes on 2021 being a fresh start away from COVID, and at this current time it feels like we are years away from that. Putting COVID to the back of our minds however there is something in the air in 2021. People seem to be generally happier and, although incremental, freedom is slowly making its way back to us. We’ve all put 2020 in our rear-view mirrors and are focusing with bright eyes at the future with a greater appreciation of the small things we have now. In the sense that you have to hit rock bottom to appreciate just above rock bottom, yes, 2021 has been pretty good; but in the wider scheme of things the jury is still very much out.
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