Soon after the pandemic struck in March 2020, I decided to keep a daily journal of life during lockdown. I am not typically a journal writer, but after weathering Hurricane Sandy several years ago and promptly forgetting most of the day-to-day details of that time (even though they were pretty bad), I decided that it might be worth having a personal written record.
Despite my best intentions (and the fact that I write for a living), I didn’t always keep up with it diligently, but by the end of the year I had filled a small notebook with my random thoughts and impressions. I also created an actual, physical photo album (another thing I typically do not do). I filled it with images from the year — pictures of masks and thank you notes to essential workers that neighbors hung in their front windows, and warnings in stores not to enter if you felt feverish, as well as pictures of the things my family did to pass the time or celebrate a milestone when everything around us was off-limits. Pictures of birthday cakes and new babies, books I read and puzzles we completed. I wanted my future self to remember that even though things were awfully bad, there were still moments of joy and happiness, everyday things to be grateful for and things to celebrate.
I put these books away last December and assumed the new year would eventually, if not immediately, bring good tidings and there would be no need to keep a daily record of a tumultuous time.
Boy, was I wrong.
This year has proven to be just as turbulent as the previous one, albeit in different ways. More Americans died from COVID this year than in 2020. Our political and social divisions seem to have grown deeper and the current holiday season is threaded with worry about how we are all going to get along.
The home business, meanwhile, is better than it’s ever been. And, tougher than it’s ever been. (Talk about your Faustian deals.)
If I were to assemble a mental photo album of 2021, here’s what I would include: an endless line of container ships at sea waiting to dock, random empty spaces on store shelves (who expected that to continue?), a million ‘help wanted’ signs everywhere. And also this: joyful people reuniting at trade shows, lively and productive phone conversations, people chatting with seatmates on airplanes (is it just me, or has that convivial practice returned?).
I don’t think I can completely close the book on 2021, because 2022 is lining up to look more like the next chapter than a completely new story. What that chapter will entail, I do not know. And if I tried to guess, I would probably be wrong (I will leave those predictions to the experts). But I do know this: there will be birthday cakes and new babies and big and small things to celebrate.
Wishing you the happiest of holidays, and may your New Year be filled with many joyful moments!