Martha Price reflects on her mixed feelings about the new year, and on how we can reconcile the tragedies of 2020 with some hope for the future. For Issue #20 ‘Legacy’. (Written 2nd Jan 2021).
I love New Years, I really do. Not just the fun of New Years Eve, always spent with my closest friends and a mess of sparkles and alcohol, but the fresh turn of the months and a brand new twelve to play with. I also enjoy reflecting on the previous twelve, identifying and reminiscing in its highs and lows and have usually found resolutions to be motivational and exciting. But this year the tone is decisively different, I imagine, for all of us.
Most of what I was seeing online and more widely, was the desire to forget about this year. To write it off as ‘The Year of the Pandemic’ and forget it ever happened. A year that was stolen. To refresh ourselves with the promise of a new, and better, year in 2021. I completely understand this, whether it is born out of real ability to do so, or more of a desperate wish to provide some comfort. Hope comes in different forms for different people and if burying this year is what people need, there isn’t anyone standing in the way.
When it turned midnight however, I found myself unable to cheer with any real conviction or to have the mentality of 2020 being neatly finished and gone. I envied those who did. Was I being completely pessimistic and not allowing myself to think this coming year would be better?
As the first fireworks went off in the London show, the mention of the virus from the commentator elicited groans from some of my celebrating housemates, who somewhat understandably, did not want to let Covid-19 creep into this classic moment of joy, stealing yet another occasion. For me, however, it was not an option to omit a mention and I found myself unable to think of literally anything else as the skyline was dotted with the coloured explosions. Performative or not, the NHS letters in the sky and the recognition of the Black Lives Matter movement felt completely necessary.
I cannot push aside the figures and it is okay if you can’t either. Officially, 73,000 people in the UK have lost their lives as a result of Coronavirus. This alone is the entire population of my hometown. The estimated actual figures are even higher. This is an incomprehensibly devastating scale. These numbers also do not include the people who have lost their jobs or homes or have developed other kinds of health problems as a result.
Behind every number is a network of people grieving for a loved one, a friend or a partner. People who were not even afforded the usual comforts of the traditions of grief. There were limited visits to people in hospitals or care homes and restricted funerals. Combined with the limits on physical distance when gathering is immeasurably painful for so many of the population and likely amplifies the sense of loss.
It was the thoughts of these people, the real people and families who comprise these numbers that make the news, that filled my mind as we counted down. It is impossible to forget 2020 for those it touched so personally.
As I thought about whether to make resolutions, careful to not set myself up for disappointment in another unpredictable year, I thought that maybe instead we could try to make some collective ones. To try to maintain some sense of cohesion as a community that is still so required, I wondered if we could each set out, to whatever extent is possible in our personal capacity, to remember those who have gone. This could be in the form of resolving to keep up increased contact with our local communities in ways we did not before. Or, in the form of the giving we were so quick to demonstrate – to keep finding ways to support those who are more vulnerable to this in whatever form this can come in. I hope we can also resolve to find a way to keep the inspirational momentum going when we see injustice, just as we have this year. We can, and I believe should, use this to honour the people who make up the continuing numbers of Covid-19. We should demand better for next year and all the years to come.
Artwork by Amelia Elson.