How Claire Walker and Hannah Essex joined forces to ensure they could have it all
So, This is the New Year
If 2020 was the year of brokenness, 2021 must be the year of repair
New Year’s Eve is an interesting holiday. Much like the Christmas season, ringing in the New Year has a multitude of expectations that, for most, are simply just not met. We envision a rowdy evening out with our best girlfriends, draped in sequins, sipping on Veuve, and locking eyes with the cutie as the clock strikes twelve.
It’s like a Cinderella story, but instead of leaving a slipper behind, we leave a whole ass year. And then we wake up the next morning and the magic is gone. The only remembrance of the night is a paper tiara that reads “Happy New Year” and the impending doom of attempting to begin all of your resolutions with a hangover and failing miserably two weeks later.
But this New Year’s Eve felt different, didn’t it?
New Year’s Eve 2020 carried with it a different excitement and anticipation for ringing in 2021 than celebrations in the past have. It almost felt as though we were all on the same page this year when it came to counting down until the clock struck midnight; eager to say goodbye to one of the most challenging, devastating, and unbelievable years of our lives.
Remember the feeling in March 2020 after the world went into lockdown because of a mysterious virus that ravaged anyone and everyone it could infiltrate? The sheer terror of being afraid to leave our houses, the uncertainty, the hoarding of toilet paper and non-perishables – as though we were preparing for an apocalypse – was a way to control the uncontrollable. Remember that?
Just ten months ago, we spent our days looking right and left for ways to cope, until we collectively broke down and exposed ourselves in our truest form. We shared our sorrow. Our depression. Our anxiety. We told the world we felt obsolete and directionless. We felt scared. We were losing hope. And, beautifully, we were (mostly) met with grace and understanding, as the majority of folks who witnessed our sadness said, “I’m sad, too.”
It felt as though we came together as one as we blindly navigated a terrifying human experience.
We found connection with one another, through shared experiences and through pain. We embraced vulnerability both online and off. We asked for help when we needed it and helped others when we were able. We understood each other. And, when we couldn’t, we tried to. We baked sourdough and made art with sidewalk chalk and played music from our balconies.
We found unity, despite our world being more divided than ever before. We shared common ground. We embraced stillness and silence and scarcity. We listened to ourselves and to others.
The months ticked by and things got worse. Countries went into lockdown, racial injustice escalated, the U.S. election made worldwide news, the virus ravaged communities, and unemployment rates were at an all-time high. But if one thing remained constant, that was our steadfast desire and demand for positive change, healing, and a new start.
We didn’t only need it. We were, and are, desperate for it.
Speaking on behalf of Americans, it felt as though the beginning of that change started in November on Election Day. I remember waking up that morning with a burst of energy, so I took myself on a run around town. I passed polling centers and cheered for folks who waited in line to cast their vote for President of the United States. I cried. I laughed. And though my anxiety around the election results did not cease for a week thereafter (and, honestly, still has yet to fully diminish), I held onto one very specific feeling that got me through it all, and that was hope.
And in moments of uncertainty, moments of despair and sorrow, moments of trudging through the deepest darkness of winter, isn’t hope all that we have? The hope for the promise of a new tomorrow, a better tomorrow. The promise of spring.
In the weeks after Biden’s victory, we began to witness glimmers of hope. We heard from a leader who has the greater good of our country and Americans – all Americans – at heart. We continued to rally against hate, violence, and dishonesty. A vaccine for COVID-19 was approved and people began to receive it. Doors have been slammed shut in the final months of this seemingly endless year and they will never be opened again.
But, like most things, the good news ebbs and flows.
With the onset of the holiday season came a rise in COVID cases as families and loved ones began to gather unmasked and go against community guidelines in the name of turkey dinners and holly. The Trump administration was hellbent on recounting votes to bring their administration to victory. Countries went back into lockdown, businesses closed, and stimulus checks were promised, denied, and then ultimately settled on a measly $600 per person in the midst of an economic crisis that surpasses the Great Depression – the era our great-grandparents lived through that we read about in history books and wondered how people made it.
And then January 6, 2021 happened, when the U.S. Capitol was ransacked by domestic terrorists and taken over in the name of white supremacy. And all we could do at the time was sit and watch with our mouths agape and wonder how in the hell we’re going to move forward from living in what feels like actual hell on earth.
But we will move forward. We will, because we have no choice. We will, because there has to be a better tomorrow, a better America, a better world that is safe and prosperous for all. There has to be. And in order for that world to exist, we have to believe that it can first. We have to have hope.
New Year’s Eve was a welcomed goodbye, a much anticipated see you never, a lock without a key to the year 2020. It was an end to a year that broke many of us and forced us all to look inward and become comfortable with solitude. A year that flew by in the blink of an eye and trudged on minute by minute all at once. A year that was, in every sense of the word, unfathomable and impossible. It carried over into 2021, as we knew it would, and, yet there is still hope for a better tomorrow coursing through the veins of future leaders and citizens alike.
We hear it in speeches made after horrifying events, and we hear it in silence. We see it in folks coming together to help their neighbors in times of turmoil. We witness it in advocacy and allyship. We practice it in our speech and actions.
Here we are on the other side, looking ahead, and wondering what’s next. And we’re ready to tackle whatever comes before us, because look at all we’ve overcome when we thought we couldn’t take anymore. Remember that? Remember all you’ve overcome?
I do. I absolutely do. And while the majority of us will live with the trauma and grief that 2020 brought upon us, we’ll also live with knowing we overcame every single obstacle that was placed before us, too. We did it together, and, if you ask me, that’s definitely something worth celebrating.
It’s in the darkest moments of our lives when we must hang on for one moment more to witness a new beginning. The moment we feel as though we have nothing left to give is the moment when we must remember to have hope. Last year, we hung on, and this year is the new beginning that will bring about positive change. At the very least, the desire for change is here, and the tolerance for accepting less than we deserve as individuals, as a community, and as a collective has lowered.
We got here together – day by day, minute by minute. And throughout a turbulent year, we adapted, we embraced stillness, and we found comfort in simply existing. We found comfort in the mundane, the baking of bread and drawing with chalk, sitting on our sofas more often than we were used to, saying goodbye but knowing there is good left to come. I believe in it. And I hope you believe in it too.
My wish for you in 2021 is to find peace in your existence. My wish for you is to find comfort within yourself and within your community. My wish for you is to find trust and safety. My wish for you is to find the good, because there is so much on its way.
And my wish for you is to put trust in knowing that if 2020 was the year for turmoil and brokenness, then 2021 is the year for repair.
Because even in the deepest, darkest depths of winter, we find comfort in knowing that spring will come again. We find comfort in knowing that flowers will bloom, and the earth will rebuild from a desolate ruin. We find comfort in knowing the sun will shine for just a little longer. And we do all of this on the back of hope.