Nothing changes on New Year’s Day

The start of the year is an arbitrary point in the planet’s revolution around the sun. It doesn’t have any inherent meaning, but the meaning we collectively ascribe to it matters. This year is different (how many times have we said that recently?)

2020 was a tremendously bad year in so many ways. A (hopefully) once-in-a-century pandemic has killed millions, sickened millions more, and affected basically everyone on the planet in some way. Systemic racism came to the fore in the United States in a way that society is actually reckoning with it. I won’t even touch the political events. It makes sense to celebrate the end of this year.

But as U2 reminds us, nothing changes on New Year’s Day. The world we woke up in is not meaningfully different than when we fell asleep. The first few months of 2021 will look a lot like the last few months of 2020—perhaps worse in some respects.

But there’s cause for optimism. Vaccines exist that, despite distribution issues, can help bring the pandemic to an end. A coming change in US government gives a lot of us hope for more competent governance. While it’s still dark, there is light at the end of tunnel. Where 2020 was a year when things seemed to get progressively worse, 2021 gives us the hope that it will end better than it started.

If you don’t feel like celebrating today, I understand. There’s still a long road ahead. But if you do feel like celebrating, then celebrate! We’ve earned it. (Just be sure to celebrate responsibly to avoid spreading the coronavirus. And wear a mask. Over your nose.)