I have a confession to make — I’ve never really liked New Year’s Day. As much as I love fresh starts I have a sentimental streak and I hate to see things end. I’ve always found January 1st to be a little depressing because even though it marked the beginning of one year it also marked the ending of a year.
This year? I’ve never been so happy to see a New Year’s Day.
On New Years’ Eve 2019 I predicted that 2020 would be rough, due to the impending presidential election and the insanity that I was sure would come of it. I did not predict that a global pandemic, record-smashing unemployment, a summer and fall of protests that often turned to riots, wildfires that decimated parts of the West, a last-minute SCOTUS justice confirmation, and a president who refuses to concede an election he clearly lost would be added to the plate. Needless to say, covering the news of 2020 has been exhausting.
The end of 2020 also marks the end of the Trump era, despite what the man himself and his supporters think. It’s a bit soon to say how history will view both 2020 and the Trump presidency — ask me in five years — but for now W’s quote is a good summation of both.
What will 2021 bring us? To be honest I’m not sure; there is a lot of anger and hostility that isn’t going to disappear on January 20th, 2021. Where that energy goes is anyone’s guess, especially with a major political party actively abetting and encouraging it, but I suspect it will be nowhere good. Of all the things I worry about for 2021, this is the biggest.
Despite that, I don’t see 2021 being a dystopian hellscape or even 2020 part two. There are encouraging signs; two vaccines are currency available with more in the pipeline and at home rapid COVID testing is set to launch. While the vaccine rollout has been, shall we say, less than optimal the thinking in 2020 is that we would still be months away from an available vaccine right now. Estimates now are that the vaccines will be widely available in late spring to early summer and that seems to be giving hope that this long nightmare will be over soon.
The biggest question for 2021 is “when do we get back to normal?” From a logistical, physical perspective I’ll predict mid to late summer. Masks will become optional, lockdowns will end, and most importantly people will feel safe in returning to their pre-COVID activities. I can’t stress that last point enough — there will be no returning to “normal” until people feel it’s safe to do so.
From a mental / lifestyle perspective, I don’t think we ever go back to the way things were and I don’t mean that in a negative way. COVID forced everyone to think about where we live, how we work, how we educate our children, who we put our trust in, how we handle public health in the US. Those early COVID moves that were thought to be temporary are looking like they’re becoming permanent — single family home sales have soared during the pandemic as people left densely packed cities for greener pastures. The pivot to remote schooling led millions of parents to pull their children out of public school in favor of private or better remote schooling options. Those who were forced into remote work at the beginning of the pandemic have found they don’t miss the office, the commute, the need to live in a certain place. There has been, and hopefully will continue to be, a reckoning on how the US government failed in the face of a pandemic.
It is just now January 1st but there feels to be a certain energy going into this year. We all rolled our eyes at Biden’s hokey “Build Back Better” campaign slogan but I have a feeling 2021 is going to be about rebuilding; be it physically rebuilding places that were damaged during the riots, replacing businesses that were lost, repurposing buildings that will no longer be needed for their original use, revamping our education and public health sectors. I think there will also be a desire to build new things to replace the old broken ones — I didn’t write about the changes that have taken place in the mediascape last year but it feels like 2021 is going to bring some massive dynamic shifts that will change that industry.
The two things I have going into 2021 that I didn’t have for most of 2020 are hope and optimism. I missed them dearly, I’m glad to have them back. Hopefully I’m right about this year and by summer we will be in a better place.
And when that day comes, the parties are going to be legendary.
Originally published at https://jenmonroe.substack.com.