Representional image | A passenger wearing a protective mask in the Universidad de Chile subway station prior to a quarantine order in Santiago | Cristobal Olivares/Bloomberg
Representional image | A passenger wearing a protective mask in the Universidad de Chile subway station prior to a quarantine order in Santiago | Cristobal Olivares/Bloomberg
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This year, to put it lightly, has been less than ideal. There are few things that receive collective approval in today’s time but it may be safe to assume that there is universal consensus while expressing distaste towards 2020. Lives were lost, livelihoods irreparably fractured and mental health was hanging on by a string, if even that.

So why then must we waste our time trying to take anything away from it?

The story of 2020 may have been about sickness, death, poverty and general despair. However, in many ways, it was also about kindness, hope and survival. A series of circumstances that have forced us to reckon earnestly with things we once so easily dismissed, or worse, took for granted. We treated our neighbours with more kindness, offered up more consideration towards our house help and their troubles. We checked on our friends more times than we probably have in the history of our friendship. We sent every email with the hope that it finds the receiver in good health. We joked. Oh, how we joked!

Every month brought with it a new trend. Posts about Zoom calls in pyjamas, the (especially relatable) how-it-started-how-its-going series of memes were my personal favourite and the continuous feed of TikTok videos documenting our quarantine woes.

With every passing misfortune, we found ourselves more fiercely trying to reassure one another. WhatsApp groups and Instagram stories packed with motivational quotes. Quotes about remembering to take care of each other, of ourselves. Aphorisms meant to assuage our fears of the uncertain. While I am skeptical of the premise that pithy sayings will keep us going when all else is lost, sometime in August I found myself thinking, “Tomorrow is a new day.”

Granted, I was unsure what day it actually was and how it would be in any way new. Yet, there was hope and so the weeks went on.

2020 was a year of mixed feelings

None of this is to say that we did not suffer. The Earth is more than 17 lakh lives lighter and that is not something we can easily forget, and we mustn’t. In the early stages of the pandemic, we saw how fear and instincts of self-preservation manifested in the ugliest forms. Stories about resource stockpiling and violent interactions regarding toilet paper became viral, instilling in us a sense of doom, an idea that if we are to go, apparently this is how we are choosing to do it.

Having said that, there were also stories from across the country about people who shared, regardless how much they had for themselves. So, clearly, the feelings were mixed.

For those of us who were lucky enough to have a safe home to quarantine in, we were still plagued by the isolation. All our lives came to an abrupt stop and stagnate there. Anxieties over the suddenly unpredictable future kept us up at night, ruining an already warped sleep cycle.

The “new normal” surging in and taking over, leaving in its wake the stinging odour of cheap sanitisers and smiles hidden behind masks, never to be exchanged. It has definitely been too much for too long. So it is no surprise that we are all counting down the days until this dumpster fire of a year finally comes to an end. There is something endearing about the fact that we are still up to the task of making New Year resolutions and buying 2021 planners with the hopes that it will be a year worth planning.

Step into the new year with unbowed heads and humble hearts

There is a general air of cautious optimism surrounding us as we inch towards the end of 2020. We are looking beyond the horizon and are unable to stop ourselves from getting our hopes up. Tomorrow is a new day and soon it will be a new year.

So if there is anything that we must take away from this year it is that despite everything that has happened, despite the pain and suffering, despite the isolation and anxiety, we will still find the strength to hope for a better 2021. Billions of people around the world will, in their own ways, usher in the new year with the hope that 2021 is going to be brimming with newly realised dreams, fulfilment, joy and, most importantly, recovery.

Our ability to hold out hope for a better future, in spite of the mound of evidence trying to convince us of the contrary, will always be humanity’s greatest currency. The year has been arduous, difficult and unstable. Many have fallen off in the process. We are tired and we are spent. Nonetheless, we are hopeful. So come 1 January, we will dust ourselves off and step into the new year with unbowed heads and humble hearts.

Poorvi Ravindra is a student of BMS College of Engineering, Bengaluru

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