(top) Medical workers prepare to manually prone a COVID-19 patient in an intensive care unit at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in the Mission Hills section of Los Angeles, Tuesday, Dec. 22. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

(bottom) UCLA ER Dr. Medell Briggs-Malonson, right, closes her eyes as she gets prepped for inoculation of the Covid-19 vaccine from nurse Eunice Lee, left, at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center receive the Covid-19 vaccine on Wednesday, Dec. 16, in Westwood, CA. (Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool)

As we approach the end of this year we must reflect not only  on what got us to where we are now, but what exactly The Now is.

For many, “2020” has become the embodiment of an ill omen, looming above us all as we await the daily batch of bad news. And though this avatar of misfortune and destruction, this graven image of ennui and stagnation, the harbinger of doom known as 2020 will soon pass us by, we would be loathe to think it will take all that it hath wrought with it.

The March lockdown came at a perfectly atrocious time for everyone hoping for a prosperous year. It waited to arrive long enough for the lofty, pie-in-the-sky resolutions to fall through in January, but struck exactly when it needed to in order to smash anything concrete we started to establish in February, and the majority of us haven’t been able to find our footing since.

For many, the feeling brought from the first lockdown never really ended. All the injustices we’ve suffered, the indignities we’ve endured, the horrors we all witnessed collectively, and could do little to truly affect. Though many, be it out of duty or necessity, continued to labor for others throughout the year, for most of us all we could do was take shelter and hope that things would improve for the better. 

Unfortunately, none of the crises we’ve faced this year have truly been dealt with. The environmental nightmares have been ignored or denied as always. Black Lives Matter continues to fight for Justice and meaningful change beyond renaming buildings and painting street murals.

The nation is awash with paranoia and confusion following the presidential election, yet another stay at home order has gone into effect,  businesses, their workers, and the families of the workers are struggling to keep their bills paid with no relief in sight, and it brings me no joy to report that the state of Washington has yet to be declared Japanese Hornet-Free. 

COVID-19 continues to ravage our country at a scope we may not truly be able to parse until it’s in the history books. The numbers will keep growing until the virus is under control.

While we should be excited and celebrate the newly developed vaccines on the horizon, this is not the starting gun for 2021 to be a return to ordinary life. It’s very unlikely that the vaccine will be widely available until late summer. The vaccine itself takes weeks to reach its full efficacy, and just because an individual is vaccinated doesn’t mean they can’t still inadvertently spread contagions to someone not yet fortunate enough to be vaccinated.

The possibility and inevitability of new strains complicate things further. Thinking that the problem is “over” or “we’ve done enough for now” is what has caused the cases in the nation to spike higher and higher upwards this entire year. And the Trump administration’s rejection of truth and integrity and supporting its citizens combined with large businesses’ eagerness to reopen has done nothing to dissuade anyone unwilling to continue to respect the reality of the situation.

People are growing ill and dying at rates barely comprehensible to the average person, but 1 in 1000 Americans dead is clear enough to serve as a simple grim reminder.

The inescapable daily deluge of unbearable news compiling on top of our equally unbearable personal situations has been both seemingly endless onslaught and somehow all over in the blink of an eye. But as we now look back at all that’s happened, all that couldn’t happen, all that we wished happened, the fact remains that we managed to still be here after everything.

Everything we wanted to leave behind in this year, everything we taught ourselves in order to adapt, everything that upset and disgusted us and drove us to change, everything that brought us enough joy to keep going another day, everything that we refuse to forget.

Is all lost? Just as every day brings a new opportunity, the new year is as hopeful and full of possibilities as one can make it. Our reflection is not to discourage or despair, but to give perspective of what needs to be done and what can be done.

And so long as we let go of what has been used to keep us divided, and hold fast to what we can do for others as well as ourselves, as well as what we should hold off doing for just a little while longer, 2021 may very well be the kind of New Year we’ve been yearning for since 2019.