This is a special edition cross-posting of a short essay that I wrote for a poetry and essay magazine in St. Petersburg, FL, called Neptune. Neptune is published primarily online, with a limited print run each month by my friend and talented poet, Denzel Johnson-Green. This magazine is over 80 pages of original, beautiful, thought-provoking poetry. I encourage you to try it out this month. To get it in your inbox, Venmo $5 to Neptune_Poetry and then send your email address to NeptunePoetryMag@@gmail.com. Two little steps that’ll take you 30 seconds. Yes, my friends, this is how you get the best underground poetry. If you don’t have Venmo, it’s time. You’ll be glad you did. The new issue of Neptune will start going out January 1st.
So this piece is a brief reflection on the year that was 2020, but it’s more about looking forward:
The Best New Year
“Hindsight is 20/20.” It’s a good saying. We see the past so much more clearly than when it was the present. In this year of adversity we were encouraged by columnists, mental health experts and yogi-bloggers to “live in the present.” Frankly, I’m looking forward to putting 2020 in my hindsight.
But what changes with the turning of a calendar year? Is there any magic in arbitrarily switching the last digit in the date? The same sun is still circling the same earth. The date is a mere construct of humankind. But still, the new year means something.
When the pandemic began, I was fours years into a practice of meditating daily. I use the word “practice” in the most pretentious way possible, so that you’ll picture me breathing steadily with a clear mind, reaching a point of total enlightenment, and even possibly levitating a few inches off the floor. In reality, for me, meditation is putting in my earbuds, playing a 10 minute meditation app on my iPhone, and promptly dozing off. Some might call it “napping.” No self-respecting meditation artist falls asleep. I have no self respect in this matter.
All of this is to say that, comparatively speaking, I was supposedly well prepared for the mental challenges of navigating a pandemic. My life already consisted of spending most of my time at home, with routine walks and trips to the grocery store. But it was interesting to see what 2020 did to the world around me. 2020 made us give up everything in our daily lives and showed us the people, pastimes and possessions that we really missed and, more significantly, those we didn’t. And sometimes we were surprised by what we learned. For me, the year 2020 came along like a garbage truck and took out the trash in my world.
I started to label this essay, “The Worst Year.” But my year wasn’t bad compared to what others have endured. So far, I’m alive and I haven’t gotten COVID-19. And I haven’t lost a loved one. I didn’t lose a job. I’ve dealt with some significant matters, but I’ve come away more with more gratitude. “Gratitude.” There’s a buzz-word. At its best, gratitude is appreciating what we have in our lives and ignoring our wants. At its worst, gratitude is a word that makes us feel guilty when we feel sorry for ourselves. 2020 has been full of opportunities to put things in perspective, and that’s not a bad thing.
So what changes at 12:00 a.m. on January 1st, when that Tiffany ball slides down a pole in an empty Times Square? No longer will we be in 2020 – the year of the pandemic. The year of the election. The year of conspiracies. 2021 has the potential to wear a different label. The year of the vaccine. The return to normalcy. The year of facts.
New Year’s Day gives us all a chance to collectively put everything that 2020 symbolized behind us. For me, 2021 will be a new year unlike any other because I want it to be. I’m embracing the astrological jargon of release, rebirth and renewal. Each new year brings hope. And my hope is that this year we will measure gratitude, not in the pain we avoided, but the joy we felt.
Happy New Year, friends.
“Don’t make me turn this van around” is written by Jonathan Kile, and approved by Monica Kile. Jon’s 2014 thriller, The Grandfather Clock, is available free for Kindle on Amazon.com and other eReaders at Smashwords. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Monica is a non-profit consultant, grant writer, marathoner, baker, tour guide, and prolific bath taker. Also, don’t forget to follow our Instagram feed for stuff that doesn’t make the blog.