If You Are Reading This, You Survived 2020, Hooray, Blow A Sigh of Relief and Re-gird Your Loins
I tried all month to write an end of 2020 piece. The words did not flow from my brain to my fingertips with ease as in past writing sessions. I never actually got to my keyboard to put words on the computer screen until now, about 24 hours before the year expires. I am not sure if I will get through this piece this time; the words are hard to find, which expresses my emotions about the last 12 months; at least, I have begun putting words into the computer.
Last year was the first time in a decade that I did not publish a farewell and hope for a better new year piece. My social media newsfeed was the culprit. It discouraged me from writing about my thoughts in 2019 and my expectations for 2020. Every time I opened my computer, the screen was replete with comments from friends near and far, rushing 2019 into the dust bin of history and extolling the virtue of the 2020 vision that would come with the new year.
On the backdrop of my friends’ displeasure with 2019 and their haste to get to 2020, I could not find the words to express how I felt. The year 2019 was a good year for me. I wrote my memoir, Freaknik Lawyer: A Memoir on the Craft of Resistance (Cascade Publishing House, Atlanta, 2019); this had been a long-time goal. The memoir took six months to write, and it was up for several book awards. I organized a symposium at the Tubman Museum in Macon, Georgia, The Four Years that Made the Last 50 Years Possible, about a group of young Black boys, me included in that number, who integrated the Lanier Jr. High School back in 1965. It was mostly a successful endeavor. Later I held a book signing for my memoir in the historic Douglass Theater in Macon, where Zora and Langston dropped by in 1927 to hear Ma Rainey sing, and where I first saw James Brown perform and Otis Redding’s going home service. A sizable group came out to welcome me back home and share in the release of my memoir.
Whether you get to read my thoughts or not, it is that time of the year when you should blow a sigh of relief and re-gird your loins because you have survived the first wave of the roaring coronavirus pandemic. There is much work left to do in 2021. Prepare and strengthen yourself for what is coming in the next 365 days. I hope that you pause and reflect on what this year has been and what the next one can become. The year 2021 will not be a panacea for what ails 2020. It will, I believe, be a year of restoration, a time to recover from heartache, loss of job, kin, and a time to recover a sense of mobility that may never seem as it was pre-pandemic.
The one thing that most people got right about 2020 this time last year is that this year would require greater focus. Before pushing 2020 aside, look behind you and bring the past 12 months into clear focus. What do you see, not what did you experience, but what do you see?
When a great teacher — not that I am in that universal set of great teachers — directs a student to focus on a specific problem or thing, it is to cause the student to become aware of the essence of that thing. In living the 2020 experience, did you miss anything? Were there lessons to be learned that you missed because you were trying to survive the economic hardship and stay away from the coronavirus?
If so, I suggest you grasp those lessons now before the clock strikes a new year in a few hours. The year 2020 unfolded purposely. Can you see your purpose developing into 2021? If not, you still have time. Take a few minutes and reflect on how you got from December 31, 2019, to December 31, 2020. It took some effort on your part, and since I am a man of faith, I must add, a degree of grace from the Divine. Lessons learned in 2020 are the building blocks for the future.
I am afraid many people are missing the lessons of the year of clearer vision, for indeed, 2020 is the year of clearer vision, the hardships of the pandemic notwithstanding. I say this because my social media pages have many messages about quickly ending 2020 and jumping into 2021, with a unique twist, this time without any expectations what 2021 will bring. As if to say, who cares, good riddance 2020, 2021 must be better than the year of clearer vision.
Each year has 365 days, except every fourth year, like 2020, which has 366 days. I relish each day of each year, and I am not in a rush to end one year — this pandemic riddled year included — to get to another year because I realize that the next year will come in due course and bring its own set of challenging experiences.
Like most people on the planet, I have lost family and friends to coronavirus. There are other events that I have suffered, which are personal to me, as there are personal issues each of you endured this year. So, I get it that 2020 has been a different year to navigate.
But I have also had successes in 2020. I wrote two books this year, and my before mentioned memoir won a Bronze Medal. I sold more books in 2020 than in previous years. I have not had to stand in line for food like many of Atlanta’s wealthier residents, I bought a convertible Jaguar, a sports car that I have dreamed of since I was 15 years old, and I have not missed any bill payments. By these standards, or at least, on this side of the ledger, 2020 has been a terrific year.
I sense that 2021 is the year of recovery and restoration of that which the year of clearer vision took. However, healing and restoration will not happen overnight. They will come only to those prepared, who paid their dues in 2020, and are wise to the survival skills needed to maneuver their way around the coronavirus.
I hate to tell you, but the stream of consciousness that has taken over the writing of this piece compels me to write: If you were not strong enough to stay away from family gatherings on birthdays and holidays, you are probably not strong enough to endure the dark winter of 2021.
I know it is hard to stay away. I have family members angry at me for not attending my mom’s 92nd birthday on Christmas Eve. Be that as it may, the act of staying away amid a highly contagious viral event is an expression of love. Perhaps, the act of congregating during a pandemic is an uncaring act devoid of love.
I’ve not kissed my mom since February 1, 2020. I so much want to hug her and kiss her, but when I briefly visited with Mom, I kept my distance and blow a kiss to her on the way out of the door.
The science says to avoid gatherings of 10 people or more in closed quarters. That is not just advice for other people; the science guides me too. I can sacrifice one year to enjoy the 93rd birthday with Mom.
I’ve seen young people interviewed at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, bemoaned they just had to go home for Christmas, like Christmas won’t come in 2021. I have it on a good source, Christmas will arrive on schedule in 2021. Hopefully, this young lady will board a plane next Christmas and those she shared Christmas with this year will welcome her home again. The key to surviving the pandemic is the exercise of a little self-discipline. None of us “are not too old for our wants to hurt,” as my mom would often say when declining to allow me to do something, she did not think I should do at that time.
Shortly, 2020 will be a wrap, and 2021 will be a new object of desire, a new page, well not exactly a new page, it will come with the coronavirus, because too few of us wore a mask, washed our hands, and maintained our social distance; nevertheless, 2021 will come pregnant with fresh opportunities just waiting to be birthed.
Be well, stay safe, and take the 21st year of the 21st century one moment, one second, one hour, one day at a time.
And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” — Revelation 21:5
Harold Michael Harvey is the Living Now 2020 Bronze Medal winner for his memoir Freaknik Lawyer: A Memoir on the Craft of Resistance. He is a Past President of the Gate City Bar Association. He is the recipient of Gate City’s R. E. Thomas Civil Rights Award, which he received for his pro bono representation of Black college students arrested during Freaknik celebrations in the mid to late 1990s. Harvey is an engaging public speaker. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.