We’ve rejected the end-of-the- tunnel cliché, but that’s the thing. Light is fickle.
Superheroes are made iconic by their grand entrances, which almost always obey a formula. He’s big. This tall, buff guy comes crashing through a glass ceiling. He shines. His scarlet cape catches the sunset behind him. He’s absolutely beautiful! Those broad shoulders have all the girls lining up and when he flashes that smile; they faint in place.
When quarantine hit, the optimist in me waited for a similar grand entrance. “Maybe the vaccine will come sooner than expected, or the social distancing will turn out to be miraculous,” I thought. That hope shrank with each quarantine extension. March whirled away like Dalgona and April crawled by in the heat. My summer, usually filled with colorful days and neon-lit nights, was a continuous gray. Then came May.
Behind a pushcart at the end of May, I saw grocery shoppers sow the seeds of hope. Hope walked back into my life in the form of human beings who stepped two extra meters away. Six mandated by social distancing with the extra two adds up to eight, and eight is not a very big number. Before this year, the meter was just another measurement. Today, meters speak of hope.
Each unit of distance we place between ourselves and others says that we believe in the day we will no longer need to stay away. There is hope in space. I pull the trolley back a couple of steps while the lady ahead grabs her corned beef off the racks. I do the mental math to ensure that a safe eight meters separates me from the next person at the counter, because that person will return to a family waiting to embrace him as well.
October taught me that hope can add up to 180 seconds. I draw my blankets before grabbing my phone, in a set-up that usually goes like this: I press a button and the loading icon rotates. That’s 10. I verify the source: another 10 seconds. The next two minutes go by as I read the article’s contents; donation drives, fundraisers, and benefit concerts flash against my pillow. After deciding that the information can help someone near or far, I click the tiny “share” arrow. I take 40 seconds to write a caption.
I think October was also that point at which many of us turned our backs on the end-of-the-tunnel cliché. That’s the thing about light, though. Light is fickle. We cannot rely on it to shine at exactly the same degree and with the same warmth every day. Warmth was missing-in-action, more so than it had been in our usual “ber” months, because of the onslaught of typhoons.
We close this year with literal darkness as we recuperate from the storms, and light seems to be a tale shoved down our throats, romanticized like resilience. We’ve rejected the cliché. We rejected the light at the end of the tunnel after several weeks of reading sorrowful reports from our phone screens. That is my light now. Going into 2021, light is each Facebook friend sharing a glaring photo set. That stark contrast against what would otherwise be a perfectly curated story connects me with people who are holding onto hope, just like I am.
I am learning slowly. I am beginning to understand that hope can be as simple as 365 pages.
I do not have to log great achievements for my 2021 to be great. Next year picks up exactly where this one leaves off, but the New Year is a set of 365 days that I plan to use to their fullest capacity, to the extent that I am able.
My decision to hunt for a 2021 planner was one spurred by the memes, for the most part. The saddest was about possession: “The most useless thing I bought this year was a planner.” The wittiest was about years: “I’m not adding 2020 to my age because I didn’t use it.” This decision comes after four tiring weeks of back-and-forth.
Week one began a sickening game of “he loves me, he loves me not” over a simple piece of stationery. “Why would I buy a planner? I won’t use it!” Week two saw me window shopping, swearing through gritted teeth that “I will use it.” Week three found me curled up in a ball. My dreams were haunted by my dusty 2020 planner, bellowing: “You won’t use it!” December is here as I write this and, ladies and gentlemen, the decision has been made.
I will use it. I will not allow the ghost of a mostly-empty hardbound planner continue to scare me into holding back from making plans just because those plans are confined to the space between my home’s four walls.
Today, I put my foot down. The year 2021 does not have to be a glowing one on my résumé. The next 12 months do not have to culminate in a stack of Polaroids from parties long forgotten. I do not have to log great achievements for my 2021 to be great. Next year picks up exactly where this one leaves off, but the New Year is a set of 365 days that I plan to use to their fullest capacity, to the extent that I am able.
Holding on to hope is no longer as vibrant as the triumphant entrance of the caped hero in the comic book. The vision of a tall, brawny and brave man in shining red has been diluted by the dark gray of a hopeless year. To me, 2020 has been one long night. Hope has been limited, so as I end my year, I will allow it.
I will allow it to be as brief as a shared post. I will allow it to be as modest as three steps back. I will allow hope to be as handy as the planner I'll eventually decide on.
This coming year, I will allow hope to be small as I begin again. 2020 taught me that hope does not have to be big nor bright, like the hero’s entrance. It just has to be there. I’m the kind of girl who still believes in miracles, but while they’re in short supply, I will hope by treating each day as a miracle, too. I think that’s what it takes to begin anew.
Banner photo Art by Mia Salvania