Some people call me a pessimist when I imagine and discuss worst case scenarios, but what I’m really trying to do is glimpse into the dark side long enough to see any light that comes through as a beacon of hope. Others think of me an optimist because I am always digging for the good in a situation or a person, even in times like this past year when I was often tempted to throw down my shovel, lay on the dirt and give up.
2020 was a year of so many dark layers, none of us could quite believe how much piled up on us—from racial tensions to dramatic weather crises to a disease that killed more people than world war II and a presidential election that seemed like it would never end.
It did end and so will the pandemic that has held us all hostage. Buildings destroyed by wind and fire will be rebuilt. Families will smooth over disagreements that bubbled up over politics and race. New solutions will be found to help us deal with all of this.
But we have a long hard journey ahead of us.
So I’m packing a bag for the trip. Here’s what I’m taking.
The hope that a country divided more dramatically than I’ve seen in my lifetime can have a few years of breathing before we have to address again how different we all are in our beliefs. Oh heck, I’m going to add a sprinkle of divine optimism—maybe we’ll find a way to bring the two sides closer together.
The relief that our nation is now back within the World Health Organization so the countries of the world can work together on the solutions needed to battle a global pandemic and other crises that stretch beyond one country’s border.
A prayer that whatever is going on with Earth’s wacky weather of late will give us a break and that we can study together what’s happening with the environment and find ways to battle the dangers.
The belief that while we still don’t live in a world where the color of your skin doesn’t matter, we may find better ways to fight against those who remain ignorant by choice or who use violence to make their point or benefit from the situation.
On top of all this, I’ll pack my personal effects—those things that help me deal with problems. That includes my family, who keep my heart pumping; the friends I have who open my eyes to what’s going on and help me deal; a job I love that exposes me to knowledge; the time to use the skill I’ve enjoyed since I was little (writing); and a belief that there is much more to this universe that what humans understand to be true.
So I’m turning my cap around from the back that reads, “pessimist” to face the front, which reads “optimist.” I’m putting that cap on my head and entering 2021 with blinds drawn up in an effort to abolish the dark. And I’m picking up my shiny new trowel, ready to plant spring’s flowers and knowing they’ll be gorgeous. — Genilee Swope Parente