2020: The Year We Lived Through Everything

This isn’t your typical end of year prose.

The year 2020 will be cataloged in the annals of history as many things. The Great Pause, the year when life stood still. A pause that lasted long enough for us to shine a light on all that ails humanity. We saw the worst in us. We watched the best in us broadcast over a million miles of fiber optic cable only to be swiped away.

It was the year Beyonce declared Black is King, and yet I have no aspirations to be royalty. I want to live with the freedom to be mediocre. And in that mediocrity, I get just as much or as little as my counterparts that make up the majority. I don’t want to have to be that shining example, no longer needing to break stereotypes that shouldn’t exist.

Yes, this is the year that Black became king, and our collective consciousness made us fully aware of every covert injustice. And yet, we are still here shouting over the loudest voices that say all lives matter.

I am a woman, and this year I have put my life on pause. I have done what all women have done throughout the world’s history from day one. We step aside so our families can thrive. I stopped the pursuit of my aspirations to educate my children and the children of other people.

I stayed glued to a screen for more hours than my weary eyes should elect to measure. In that weariness, I awoke day after day after day to do it all over again, the monotony of life in lockdown. But the only thing held captive inside my home was my body because my brain continued to learn how to do new things.

I didn’t pause but moved faster than I ever have in my life to exercise with strangers on the other side of a cell phone screen. I learned that strong looks good on me and the weight of isolation is less than the weight I can lift. Working my way up from Campbell’s Soup cans to dumbbells, I piled on the strength I needed to get through May, June, and July. I took my aggravation, my anger, my fear, my loathing for the world that I must inhabit out on those weights.

Yes, strong looks good on me.

I became so strong that I stopped caring about the faux allies that are only here to ride coattails in a moment that should have happened long ago. I don’t need your hashtags. I don’t need your armbands or your blacked-out profile pictures to know that this is not okay.

Where were you in 2014, 2016, and 2018? Was it because you had nothing better to do than watch the crimes for which no one seems to be able to remedy. Why did it take so long for it to appear on your radar? My life, struggle, pain, and heartache are not your moment to declare to your followers how you’re managing to be on the right side of history.

Don’t ask me about my life when you never have before.

Stone by stone, we are tearing it all down until all that will remain is our avarice, jealousy, and hatred of ourselves that is only outmatched by our loathing of one another. And where does it all end?

The turning of one decade into the next will not wash away a year’s worth of pain. Midnight will not assuage all of the feelings still festering beneath the BandAid that is our Flag. Those stars and stripes we carry on our backs every ill word, every sideways glance, every gesture that says you don’t belong. My silence bought by the paycheck I must cash and keep my head down to maintain.

We look forward to a new year, but what will that new year bring?

Hope for a day when speeches of the past will be brought to bear the fruit of their promise.

Love for our neighbors that started within and bloomed outward to encompass a world that so needs it.

Charity for those who are less fortunate than us.

Gratefulness that surpasses all platitudes.

Self-awareness to the point that each person becomes a little less selfish and more selfless.

If the Ghosts came to hold up that truth-telling mirror to our faces, would we turn away in disgust, or would we like Scrooge run through the streets repentant?

A new decade approaches, and I am full to bursting with hope but have little faith. I can not trust in people’s hearts to change when history tells me it’s impossible.

I long for the peace that I hope this new year will bring. The quiet stillness brought forth as the last bits of the darkness of New Year’s Eve turn over to the light of a new year.

MFA|Essayist| Author| IG: michelle_elizabeth_writer| Email: writer.michelle.elizabeth@gmail.com

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