I’ve never been a “New Year” person. It’s never really mattered to me what a page on a calendar says, and I have definitely never held any sort of belief or superstition that flipping a page on that calendar is symbolic of anything but another passing day.
So all of this “out with 2020” and excitement for 2021 to arrive isn’t in my scope of understanding. To me, it’s another day closer to Trump leaving the WH. Other than that, it’s not much.
However, I think we can all agree that this has been a horrible year for all of us. And while it’s easy to look back on this year and think it completely sucked, I am looking back at the year with some pretty deep thoughts and intensely deep humility and gratitude.
One of the worst parts was/ is the isolation in general. But it occurred to me more than once that this new reality isn’t much different than my life felt before covid. The difference started to become that other people were, for the very first time, experiencing the world I have been stuck in since late 2018. Witnessing the impact of isolation on everyone else was fascinating, sad, scary, funny, and heartbreaking all at once. Me? I just felt less alone in my aloneness and was suddenly surrounded by people who had empathy for me whether they knew it or not. I never pointed it out or made any comments; I just observed their behavior and reaction to living for a brief moment in my shoes – alone, terrified, isolated, unsure about the future, helpless, out of control, restless, unhappy, paralyzed but hyper, in denial, whatever you all were feeling in that moment was an all-to-familiar feeling to me well before the pandemic.
When I look back at this awful year, I actually see a mixed bag. The history books will tell the truth and people truly won’t believe what Americans, and really the entire world, went through during this time. But beyond that, 2020 will always be the year that I learned what true friends I have in the world. I learned that friendship doesn’t have to mean daily contact or face-to-face friendships and that there are friends I’ve had for years that I’ve never actually met <3. I’ve learned that those are the friendships that really add up because when you admit that you’re in trouble, those are the people who help without judging. Who don’t imply that I should leave my dogs behind. Who just know that if I’m raising the white flag, I’m in trouble. Who pitch in if they can, and send love if they can’t. Friends who drive 60 hours round trip to get me in Florida and bring me back to invade their home for an indeterminate amount of time. Friends who reach out in PM and just say hi, or post something for you, or click a heart here and there just to let you know you’ve got people. Friends in the DR who let you share your shit and who understand and don’t judge and who can relate. Friends who become a part of your soul even though you don’t speak each other’s language at all. Friends from France, Germany, Canada, Russia, DR, Peru, Haiti, Holland, Mexico, and I know I’m forgetting other places. Friends all over the world who you would have never known, had you not been in the DR. Friends who are in your life for a reason – thereby meaning that I went to the DR for a reason.
I can look back at this awful year as the year I got to enact something out of an action movie where I got out of the DR running across a rainy tarmac with dogs in crates and on leashes and climbing the steepest tiniest stairs onto the tiniest propeller plane I ever knew existed (the van I rode in across country was larger inside I am NOT exaggerating!) across the ocean for hours because prop planes are slower. And the coolest (?) part, I got to do all my own stunts. I had the bruises, cuts, gashes, and torn clothing to prove it.
I can look back at this awful year as the year that I put my efforts into something and went against all the answers and made something happen. Against all common sense and literally everywhere I turned telling me it wasn’t possible to leave the DR, I learned that it was. I learned that fierce independence is a trauma response, and that it’s okay to ask for help. I learned that people WANT to help if they know WHAT you need. And by myself, I boarded a plane with seven dogs and everything I owned, flew across the ocean, got off the plane in the US, got into a van for another 30 hours with same seven dogs, and drove to a place I’d never seen before (again) to try and figure life out (again).
I can look back at this year as the year I ended up in the same state where I was born and raised, just by simple coincidence. But yet full circle…
I can actually look back at this awful year as a year when I learned SO much. I learned some hard lessons; I learned what really matters to me; I learned that in some ways I’m so much stronger than I ever knew, but I’m also disappointed in myself for failing and for my moments of weakness. BUT then I give myself the motivational speech that failure is just opportunity for growth. I guess I’m wondering, when can I say “uncle”? I think I’ve learned and grown and experienced a hell of a lot in a short period of time and I’m still standing, but can I please get a break? Can someone push the fucking Pause Button?
2020 hasn’t been my worst year. 2018 still holds that honor and hopefully will always be the worst and most painful year of my life (fingers crossed!!). I mostly look back and look at where I am with a bag of mixed emotions. My unknown is looming large and I literally have no idea what steps to take, but I am feeling drawn back to animal rescue. I know I don’t want to do another foster-based rescue organization, but there are countless other ideas and ways for me to rescue animals so I am trying to explore and find cool opportunities around the (preferably western) US.
And I’ll turn the page on the calendar and then it’ll be the next day. ❤