After the strange, nightmarish year we called 2020, there was a mix of hope and fear when 2021 finally arrived. Some were certain it would be better. Some were certain it would be worse. I honestly think it's both. Never worse but never better. In some ways, yes, 2021 is better than 2020. And no matter where you stand, either way, at least 2021 is NOT 2020. But it would be wrong to thusly assume 2021 is fine. On the contrary, I think 2021 was meant to be almost as hard as 2020, just in a different way.

If we see 2020 as the year of external disasters and destruction, perhaps 2021 is the year of internal disasters and healing. So yes, 2021 has the potential to be a better year than last, but the only way we can make it possible is if we're willing to bleed first. Not literally, that was last year, but metaphorically. It really seems like 2021 is the year of mental and emotional suffering and growth.

If we can prove ourselves willing to subject ourselves to the nightmarish process of healing and truly introspecting, then maybe we will get a taste of the peace we've been begging for since very early 2020. But that's a huge "if". It's not going to be easy. Whatever peace this year brings, it will be very hard-won. That's what will make this year, in some ways, almost as hard as last.

But even if it's going to mean some heartbreak and soul-searching, that promise and potential of healing is the delicate thread that ties it all together. If we can succeed in becoming better people this year, and working on the maintenance and upkeep of the internal world rather than the outer, then we might finally have a shot at peace. Or at the very least, we will all be better people than we used to be.

Seems like everyone in my life is struggling with mental, emotional and spiritual health, including myself. That's what makes me certain this year is the year of internal war rather than external. That's not to say the world's problems have magically disappeared, or that no new ones have popped up since the last day of 2020, but it feels… almost backseat in comparison to this sudden spike in mental, emotional and spiritual pain that I've been seeing in everyone (including myself).

So yes, the world is still very full of real, physical problems. But at the same time, it feels like the universe is at least calling me (and the people I know) to shape up. We're being yelled at to look inside and really examine ourselves and put ourselves through the challenge of truly bettering ourselves as people. If it doesn't spark joy, throw it out. But even if it DOES, make sure it's actually beneficial. It's not enough just to enjoy. It must also improve. If something does not benefit or protect us or our peace of mind, then it has to be purged, no matter what or who it is.

That's not to say that our progress may never cease and we may never rest, but that life has upped the ante and said that if we really want to embrace a life of self-care and self-love, then it's going to be harder than we expect. It's going to require constant maintenance even if we don't feel like it. Even when we don't want to care for ourselves, we have to continue just as steady and faithful and meticulous as always. And that means facing the hard, scary, confusing stuff. It means facing hard questions and challenges and confrontations that we'd rather avoid. It means fixing flaws that we actually don't understand as well as we think we do.

So if 2021 is really our shot at the Year of Healing and Recovery rather than just another link in the endless chain of suffering and violence, I'd say it's worth a try. It's going to be almost as draining as last year (if not more so just because I can tell the world is burnt out after 2020), but at least this year is offering us something. There's potential, like being given a seed and asked to plant a forest.

Yeah it's going to be nigh impossible, but after so long in misery, make the risk is finally worth the fabled reward. That's not to say perfection, security and a cure lie in wait at the end of 2021, but that if we can at least start pushing out mindsets towards healing, even the uglier and harder, harsher parts, then even if we fail, we stepped away from 2020 and everything that year contained.

I've already went back on my word a million times this month. Every day I promise to do and be better. Every day I promise to take another step towards healing, and this vague concept of "health". Every day I've failed. Sometimes, I've wanted to stop trying. But I'm still ambling along, even if it's slower than a tortoise. But you know what they say about tortoises and being slow.

So if anyone's willing to amble with me, even if we need to take a bit of time to go in circles and whatnot, then I'm ready for the journey to begin. Feel free to join me on mine. Even if we don't get very far, at least our hearts are in the right place. We can either stay stagnant forever, or we can try to walk away and start fresh. Even if we fail, at least we tried. At least we took a step away. At least we weren't stuck.

So perhaps 2021 is 2020's long road to a redemption arc. Maybe this is the first step. After all the internal strife, we found the strength to start questioning things and addressing them. We took our baby steps. Now it's time to take even more control over the process and consciously decide to follow it. It will be a choice that needs to be made daily, but at least now it's a choice we are aware of and actually starting to take. Even if most days still get a rejection, it's no longer an unbroken streak.

So now it's time to see what the rest of this year has in store for us. Let's see if it's actually something good. Around 365 days ago, we were deeply entrenched in lockdown with COVID making its first attacks in America. 365 days later, this is where we are now. It's been quite a change. Who knows what could happen in 2021? And I don't just mean on a big, external, societal level, but on an internal one. On a very personal, deep, intrinsic level, just what might happen this year?

I guess we'll find out soon enough. But the year won't just be revealed to us, rather, we have some power to control some of the outcomes ourselves, and that's exactly what we're expected to do. Cursed to be free. Cursed with the power of choice. Because even if you ultimately choose to change and do nothing, that in and of itself is still a choice. So the only question remaining is this: What will you choose?