Finding hope in a new year after one like the last

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By Jennifer Mae, Second Year, Economics and Politics

The Croft // Our writer reflects on the glimmers of hope that shone through the darkness of 2020 and encourages us to look forward to better days to come in this new year.

Content warning: mentions of racism and police brutality

It’s not exactly a controversial statement to say that 2020 was an awful year. COVID-19 changed our lives in countless fundamental ways. Between lockdowns and conforming to the ‘new normal’, there’s scarcely been the space for most of us to fulfil the ambitions we may have set ourselves at the start of 2020.

Continually faced with such awful events, it’s hardly surprising that I wound up leaving my 2020 New Year’s resolutions on the wayside.

Sure, the coming of a New Year has always been a mostly symbolic break from the past, but 2020’s rampant chaos has left me more than a touch jaded about putting hope in New Year’s once more.

New Year, new hope? | Epigram / Eve Coleman

In these first two weeks of 2021, my life certainly doesn’t feel much different from how it was throughout 2020. I’ve found myself questioning the hope I had placed in the New Year to mark a break from the past. How, therefore, can we use the New Year to look forwards?

When I first sat down to write this article, I’ll admit that I struggled to come up with an answer. After all, the simple dawn of 2021 has hardly done away with COVID or single-handedly combatted the ongoing climate crisis. The New Year did not (despite my dearest hope) magically melt away the essays I have to write confined in my house without a safety-net.

Instead of fostering hope by praying for drastic and unrealistic future change, I realised that I should find hope in small change

However, as I sat in the living room with my coffee listening to podcasts to procrastinate my work, I realised that I was looking for answers in the wrong place. Instead of fostering hope by praying for drastic and unrealistic future change, I realised that I should find hope in small change.

Rather than blindly hoping for an unfeasible future, I should find hope in events that have already come to pass. After all, A New Year isn’t just a chance to symbolically break from the past, but it’s also a chance to reflect on the year before.

Extract from 'The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse' by Charlie Mackesy | Epigram / Eve Coleman

So what exactly do I mean by that? Let’s start with a pretty stunning example from over the past year: science. On 8 January the Moderna vaccine was approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, making it the third COVID vaccine in the year since COVID-SARS-2’s genome was first sequenced. Countless scientists, researchers, lab technicians and supporting staff have worked flat-out to produce three distinct, effective, and safe vaccinations.

On top of that, rapid developments in frontline care mean COVID’s lethality amongst those hospitalised has decreased significantly. All of this comes at record speed, with record amounts of collaboration. The marvels that science produced in 2020 give me hope for the future, not least because COVID’s days are now indeed numbered.

The swell of warmth and care I’ve seen from everyone struggling through 2020 together gives me hope

Where else can I find hope by looking back? Another obvious answer for me is in people. I find hope in the way the world has responded to COVID. Despite being frequently unable to meet-up as we would have liked, my friendship group has grown even more tight-knit as friends and flatmates look out for each other.

Societies across the board have gone above and beyond to keep people connected online when we can’t meet in person. Most of all, countless people have sacrificed spending time with their friends and family for the sake of keeping those around them safe. The swell of warmth and care I’ve seen from everyone struggling through 2020 together gives me hope. It reminds me that there are always good people in the world, as bleak as the news may make it seem.

January Plans, Poetry Diary 2021 | Epigram / Eve Coleman

Upon reflection, I can see a dozen other quiet, small things that give me hope. From the continual rise of renewable energy to the population growth of a series of endangered animals, little rays of hope shone through the gloomy cloud that was 2020.

The murder of George Floyd shone a spotlight on systemic racism across the world, and much-needed discussions are beginning to take place. Women’s representation in governments around the globe climbed to record highs. Elliot Page’s coming-out gave trans folx more much-needed representation.

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The world of truth and fact began slowly regaining ground against the world of populism. Even though the world is far from a utopia, all these little things give me hope that one day it might be.

I urge each and every one of you to take some time to reflect on 2020, as I have. Find the small gems of good amongst a year of bad, and clutch them dearly. Place your hope in these little things, even when the world seems so grim. After all, if humanity can take such strides in a year like 2020, 2021 stands no chance.

Featured image: Epigram / Eve Coleman


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