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On dealing with disappointment
2021 kind of sucked. Where do we go from here?
Last year at this time, we were overcome with relief and optimism as news spread that COVID-19 vaccines were beginning to be administered. We ended 2020 with the hope that the pandemic would end and we could get back to some state of normal life.
And then Delta happened.
And then Omicron arrived.
And we all became more familiar with letters of the Greek alphabet than we ever thought we might.
Back in March of 2020 (when I was worried about being stuck at home with my infant and toddler for “a few weeks"), if you had told me that we’d be in the position we’re in right now, almost two years later–my inappropriate but natural impulse would likely be to slap you in the face. I remember hearing whispers from the “experts” saying that it could take years to get rid of this thing, but I couldn’t entertain that as an actual possibility. It was all too overwhelming to wrap my head around.
Then weeks turned into months, months turned into a year, and we adjusted our expectations and held onto the promise that vaccination would be our way out of this disaster. We coped the best we could, given the unimaginable circumstances.
Now here we are, (most of us) vaccinated, dealing with a frighteningly transmissible variant, and once again staring down another winter holiday filled with cancelled plans, isolation, confusion, and anxiety.
For all of us who’ve followed the rules and held onto hope, it all feels deeply unfair and depressing.
And incredibly, unbearably disappointing.
It’s difficult to know how we should be conducting ourselves right now. An optimistic outlook is necessary to forge ahead, seeing as living in a constant state of despair is unsustainable. We need to believe that things are going to get better, and that some sense of normalcy will return.
But we’ve also been burned now, so many times. And lately, I can’t help but think this terrifying thought: what if this never ends? What if this is just how life is, for now, and forever, for me and my kids, and for the rest of humanity?
The heaviness of that worry is paralyzing. But I have an inkling that I’m not the only one whose anxious brain is allowing these doom-filled thoughts to take up space.
So how do we keep going, when things have been so hard, and continue to be hard, with no clear end-date in sight?
As someone who’s dealt with major disappointment and seemingly insurmountable challenges before, all I can say is: you just keep going.
One day at a time.
One foot in front of the other.
My apologies for not having more profound advice to share–but at the most basic level, that’s all any of us can do right now. Most of what happens next is out of our control (beyond following public health protocols, obviously). We can’t say 2022 is going to be better. We also can’t say it won’t. There is nothing to gain from speculating and catastrophizing, as tempting as it is.
2021 didn’t end up looking like how a lot of us had envisioned, especially with the current state of things being what they are as we near the end of the year. It’s okay to be sad about that, and it’s okay to feel conflicted about maintaining hope that next year will be better. It’s natural to want to protect yourself from more crushing disappointment. I know I do.
I hope next year is better–for me, for you, and for the world. And I truly think there’s a decent chance that it will be. But if it’s not better, we’ll be okay. We’ll continue to adapt and adjust and manage, just like we’ve been doing this whole time.
Until then, we'll have to muddle through somehow.
Stray thoughts 💭
My post last week went a bit viral among parents, which proves I’m not the only one feeling these things. Thank you to everyone for sharing!