I don’t know about you, but we ended the work year in 2020 full of hope and optimism for the incoming year. Ten days before Christmas, as we were beginning to wind down and look forward to albeit a different festive season, there was reason to be cheerful. In the UK, the vaccine roll out had started well, we’d avoided a no-deal Brexit, and there was a sense of greater stability in the air. 2021 was heralded as the start of better things, a return to normal, a beacon of hope. Covid cases were rising in Europe but all was under control – the spread was being managed, and health services could cope.
And then the end of 2020 showed us once again just how quickly and dramatically the context could change, and with it, our emotions. The lead in to Christmas in the UK felt like March all over again – things were moving at what felt like an unbelievable pace, plans not just had to change but be torn up, repeatedly, and almost overnight things felt unsafe, uncertain and highly volatile.
So many of us felt like we were passively watching, helpless, powerless, aghast, as our hopes and dreams for 2021 went up in smoke. Many people felt a sense of shock, followed by grief – grief triggered by a change we didn’t want or ask for, change that’s been again forced on us. Grief as the prospect of more contact with loved ones, of a resumption of the activities we love, or even the loss of productive home working as home schooling is resumed – slips through our fingertips. And we experienced the full gamut of emotions – the Kubler-Ross model of stages of Grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance is a useful framing of what we might be experiencing here, and we’ve also found David Rock’s SCARF model a great map here too.
But despite the unexpected start, 2021 is a year of great hope, growth and regeneration. Hope abounds, every day. On a personal level, we’re adapting to our conditions – many of us have a greater capacity to cope than a year ago, and will have built resilience and adaptability which we’re putting into practice each day, even if sometimes it doesn’t feel like it. There’s hope from the vaccine, with an interesting narrative being played out between good (with the Vaccine in the starring role) and evil (Covid).
But the greatest sense of hope comes from how we have the opportunity to find meaning and insight from the last year to grow, regenerate, evolve, and reinvent – in whatever brave new world we find ourselves in. If we chose to allow it, there’s tremendous opportunity in how we make sense of our traumatic journey through covid – to look at the world differently, with fresh eyes and perspective; to understand ourselves better; and to make some significant changes to not just how we want to live but also to our place in the world. And that opportunity is there, for us as individuals, as families, as communities, but also as nations who make up the global community.
2021 is, then, a year of great hope and huge opportunity – if we choose to take it.