Yet again, I sit down to summarize the year gone by and yet again I find myself struggling for words. It has been another year of chaos and contradiction, of pandemic and freedom, of confusion and connection. As I write, I am ill with COVID 19, somewhat inevitably being hit by omicron. Of course, I am lucky enough to be vaccinated, so I have avoided the worst of it. I started the year in lockdown and end it in isolation. Inbetween have been moments of connection and moments of joy. Looking back over my previous posts (2016, 2017, 2018, 2019.,2020) what strikes me is a sense of accelerating chaos. In most of them I say the year was the worst one yet and hope for better. This year feels different. It’s not that the chaos and insanity has lessened, its more the fact I am resigned to it. Everyone I speak to is similar. We are all exhausted.
It’s no wonder this year has been defined by fatigue. In the UK, we started the year in a lockdown that was the most brutal yet as cases soared and the death rate exploded. I spent a lot of the first half of the year furious. I was angry at the incompetence of our government, who combined corruption and greed with a callous disregard for the lives of the population. I was angry at the virus that has upended all of our lives. I was angry at my inability to do anything meaningful or focus on anything for long. But anger burns itself out fast, leaving behind exhaustion.
Then in the later half of the year, a release. We started seeing other people again. Cases were still high, but hospitalization was low. We had the miracle of the vaccines. I saw people in real life and each time it felt glorious. I went to weddings, saw friends and talked nonsense, listened to poets pour their hearts out in small rooms. It felt like a real return to some sort of normality. I also never took it for granted. How precious the presence of others is. How beautiful it is to be in the company of people you love.
Then, of course, it all went wrong again. One of the commonalities of the last few years has been the rate of change- too fast for most people to keep track of. Omicron emerged and within a couple of weeks, new records were being broken. We’ve all been here before and a collective response was “Oh no, not again.” It’s a lot to deal with emotionally, even leaving aside the rising tide of authoritarian measures our government is taking. Banning legitimate protest, scrapping human rights and demonising refugees would set massive alarm bells ringing in the best of times, yet this year they barely registered over the noise of everything else.
All of this, the relentless nature of the pandemic and the constant change is exhausting. It’s a lot. So no wonder we all find ourselves fatigued. We are living through massive trauma that is going to have huge impacts for years to come.
And yet, personally, it has been a pretty good year. I got engaged to my wonderful partner of seven years, passed my driving test and got a promotion at work. I had my writing and art featured in some dream places, and I’ve enjoyed some fantastic collaborations. For all of this and more, I am extremely grateful. I’m lucky in so many countless ways. It just goes to show that not all change is bad.
So where do we go from here? I don’t know. I still hold hope for a better world, but I know we may have to go through more changes and more unexpected developments to get there. One thing I hope is that sense of being together is never taken for granted. Given the loss and the pain we have all experienced, I hope we can open our minds and become more empathetic to the suffering of others and rebuild our society to one based on kindness and compassion. That is the only way forward I can see, not one built on fear and suspicion.
At the end of 2019, I was a sweet summer child who had no idea of what the next two years would involve. I wrote this:
The contradictions will only get worse because we’re living in crisis… We find it hard to recognise a crisis when its far off but now, in the middle of it, we can react and join together.
Well, two years later we find the contradictions hard to bear and the crisis still ranging. We have united together in so many different ways. I just hope we can keep the momentum going and demand a better and fairer world, one not ruled by the greedy, the rich and the self-interested but one that works for the most amount of people.