This has been a crazy year for a lot of people. I don’t think I need to tell anybody that. As 2020 comes to an end, I wanted to sit down and just write whatever came to my mind. I first thought back to last NYE. It feels like decades ago. I remember going to a family party and while everyone was playing games, my dad and I snuck down in the basement by ourselves. We just sat there watching football and the NYE shows. Such introverts. I remember thinking about what 2020 might look like for me, not having any clue what the next 12 months would bring. I honestly don’t specifically remember my goals and wishes I had for 2020, but I can tell you that it definitely didn’t involve the roller coaster of a year we experienced. It was a year that caused pain, stress, and discomfort for a lot of people. It didn’t go as I had planned. It was filled with constant fear of family members getting sick, the overall stress/anxiety the pandemic caused, not being able to see family or friends, events getting cancelled, not spending the holidays with family, and ending the year with my grandpa passing away. Certainly not the timeline of events I had in mind while sitting in the basement with my dad, looking ahead to 2020. And I am sure most people reading this have that same feeling.

Unfortunately, failures and disappointments are going to happen. That’s life. One of the things I’ve really tried to focus on throughout the last couple years, is that these trials only get wasted if you don’t allow yourself to learn something from them. If you get so engulfed in the pain, frustration, and disappointment, you can miss out on a chance to grow from it. Because life truly is the best teacher. And that’s not to say that you shouldn’t be mad or that you shouldn’t think that life can be unfair or that you can’t just be angry. You’re allowed to feel all of those things. I certainly do. I’m angry at the physical and emotional pain this year has caused so many people I love. I’m angry that I haven’t been able to see family and friends. I’m angry we couldn’t all spend time together around the holidays. I’m angry that for the nine months before my grandpa passed away, I was only able to talk to him by phone while he stayed isolated. And those are all valid feelings. They’re real. But I think the other thing to remember is that anger isn’t going to cure COVID. That anger isn’t going to bring my grandpa back. That disappointment in this year isn’t going to just make next year better because the calendar went from 2020 to 2021. Those are out of my control. I can’t cure COVID. I can’t make it okay to visit family and friends. I can’t make people feel the way I want them to feel. I can’t just get rid of the stress that this pandemic has caused the people close to me. So as I said before, those feelings are real. And they’re natural. And they’re okay to have. But, while it’s sure as hell much easier said than done, I think the key is to try to continue to put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward into 2021. Allowing yourself to learn and gain strength/new perspective from the things that you endured in this past year.

Just before the pandemic started, we lost Kobe Bryant in a tragic accident. It shocked the world. And while I obviously had no personal relationship with Kobe, it affected me. I think just the sheer magnitude of the icon and the tragic nature of the accident really brought forward the fragility of life. Shortly after, I sat down, reflected on it and wrote a blog post. (You can read it here) Essentially, in that blog post I talked about how I wanted to make sure I wasn’t taking things and people in my life for granted. Soon after that blog (still pre-COVID), we went and visited my grandpa. On the way home, I remember just reflecting. With that blog post fresh in my mind and the fact that my grandpa just turned 93, I remember telling myself that I needed to make sure I made more of an effort to see him. Going to visit him more when my dad went to take care of him. Then that turned into calling him more once COVID happened. And as you know from the beginning of this blog, 10 months later, he passed away. Now, obviously Kobe passing away isn’t a direct affect on me personally and the struggles you’ve gone through this year are probably on a much more personal level. But sometimes I think about what would have happened if I just let myself get cynical after the tragic accident he had? If I just went on about how unfair life is instead of reflecting and moving forward. I would like to think I would have still made the same effort toward my grandpa regardless, but maybe anger and cynicism would have gotten in the way of that. Maybe I wouldn’t have had the same urgency without that perspective shift after reflecting on that tragic accident. And no, that tragic accident didn’t have to happen for me to shift my perspective, but unfortunately it happen. The days after my grandpa passed I thought a lot about the different phone conversations we had with a smile on my face. Thankful that I allowed myself to take such a negative occurrence and try to use something I learned from it as a positive going forward.

I think due to the nature of this holiday, it’s natural to reflect on the past year. To reflect on how you’re feeling. I’m sure there are people out there that despite the difficult year, are cruising through the finish line into 2021. But I think there are a lot of people that feel like they’re just being dragged toward the finish line. And, perhaps for the first time, are finishing the year in a state of depression or anxiety. Without hope. Wondering if 2021 will even be better. I know I opened the blog reflecting on last NYE, but it’s usually not the previous year’s NYE that I think about every year. It’s a specific one. I’ve wrote about it before in a blog, but it was NYE 7 years ago. I was a senior in high school going through what was my first extended period of anxiety/depression. That extended period had caused me to convince myself it would just continue on and on. I didn’t see how it would just disappear. So frankly, I wasn’t exactly excited to start a New Year because I felt I would be right back in a similar state next NYE. And I remember that night just sitting on the couch, not wanting to go anywhere, turning down all invitations from my friends. My dad told me to bundle up and to take a walk with him. So we just walked around the neighborhood. And I remember telling him about my worry that I would always struggle. He just put his hand on my shoulder, told me he knew what that feels like and that I was going to be okay. When I got home, I went and talked to my mom about it as well. We talked about how even through all of the times I’ve struggled, I’ve managed to grow from it. She reminded me that each time, I learn something from it to propel me forward. And it didn’t erase the struggle of the last couple of months. It didn’t change the things that had happen. It didn’t completely alter everything I was currently feeling. But it was like there was now a flicker of light in the New Year ahead instead of looking for/expecting a struggle to follow me.

So this isn’t a “rah rah — go get’em in 2021” blog post. I am not going to talk to you about how great 2021 is going to be for you. I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know how 2021 is going to go. But based on the events of this year, I would imagine there are people this NYE having a similar experience to the one I had that night 7 years ago. Maybe it’s you. So this is my way of going for a walk, admiring the Christmas lights, putting my hand on your shoulder and saying, “I know what that feeling can be like and it’s going to be okay”. I can’t sit here and tell you exactly how. I certainly don’t know what 2020 was like for you. I don’t pretend to understand how difficult it may have been. And the events and the struggles probably were tough. And unfair. And no, they didn’t need to happen for you to learn and grow. But, unfortunately, they did happen. And we can’t go back and change them or erase them. But we can learn from them. And we can grow from them. I don’t necessarily think we have a say in the events are in life that shape us. Life happens. You can’t control a lot of things. You can’t control the pandemic. You can’t control tragic events. But I do think we have a say in these events shape us. I realize that’s easier to type up in a blog post than it is to actually execute in the midst of the struggle. But I do think we have a say in what we take from a struggle. A say in what we take from a challenging year. To use the struggles you endured as a way to grow. Because as I said before, I think that life can be the best teacher. Sometimes we just have to be willing to try to learn. Cheers to 2021.

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