I look at each year of my life as a book, representing a different story, a different person going through different things. I imagine that if you would align each book up in chronological order it would be a transforming story of illustrations on the spine that work separately and as one piece of art. Some novels would be longer, and some would be novellas and short stories, all working synonymously and expanding as character storylines overlap and plot lines thicken. Mysteries would be solved and new trials to follow shortly in their path. With new characters emerging to enrich the universe within the series each year. A beautiful symphony of words, with villains that meant well, and heroes that made terrible mistakes.
Maybe that’s why I have always been keen to delve into the end of the year process like finishing a new book in a favorite book series. At the end of the last chapter, I let the book lay open in my lap, my hand resting on the last page, I sit in silence, and I then reflect. On the characters, what had happened, what lessons were taught, what morals were tested, what could have been done better, and what were the best parts?
And then, I think about what could happen next and how I can use every book published to date by the author, to try and predict and hope for the future of each character and storyline developing. “This year, I’m really hoping that the main character focuses on . . .” and that’s how I start to form my New Year’s Resolutions.
The novel I imagine for the years of 2016- 2020 is very thick, as I flip through the pages, I take in the darkness of the covers, the edges tattered and worn. The font on the title is engulfed in the images of flames, tornadoes, and natural disasters. There are pages filled to the brim with tear-stained text, images of brutality blurred from the tears that were caused by grief, anger, horror, and panic.
I also see pages filled with tear stains that came from joy, words of love, and family fun. I see communities coming together to take care of folks in times of need, and special days safely tucked away to draw a smile from when I want to remember the past year, the past administration, and to find light in the darkness we all have had to endure and continue to endure going forward into 2021 and a brand new administration.
There are moments immortalized to cherish Great acts of courage and bravery. A day the world cried and jumped in jubilation when the country chose a new leader for our nation. Deep sighs of relief, and the beautiful sound of the people rejoicing in their victory, in claiming the power the people hold when they come together.
The Babylonians were the first to make New Year’s Resolutions, and with certainty, I will not be the last. Yet, here I am, readying myself to jump into a new novel, a new adventure with all of you.
Here are just a few of my resolutions on what I would consider a preface to the novel of 2021, and into the new Biden Administration:
Each year, like clockwork, I commit myself to reach a goal of one hundred books read by the end of the current 365 days. This year, I’ve chosen to work harder to incorporate more education into this renewed resolution.
Often, my reading is used as escapism for coping with trauma. This year, I want to use this goal to keep my mind sharp and face trauma head-on and to continue to grow. If there was one thing that 2020 taught me personally, it was my need to expand my horizons and tend to my garden of knowledge with even more care than I had previously put in.
This year, I’m choosing to focus on adding books rich in History, Autobiographies, and accounts of current events & social Issues that have impacted our nation, and the world. Books that plant the seeds of progress and promote leadership skills to become as they say, “woke,” on the things that matter, to understand and do better in the future.
In this quest, I also want to ensure a conscious effort is made to support Indigenous, Black, brown, and LGBTQIA+ Authors. I want to hear their stories, I want to learn from their experiences, I want to share their stories, and I want to honor their voice and their impact. As we know, those who are impacted the worst in times when life is tough, are those who are already in marginalized communities that have been disenfranchised by the systemic oppression they face.
SHOP SMALL, LOCAL BUSINESSES
This is a pretty straightforward goal that I feel should be present in everyone’s mind. However, over the Holidays, I was struck with a shock when I discovered that many of my loved ones didn’t realize nor understand why shopping local and small businesses is good practice for any community to have a strong and healthy economy.
Check out this TEDx Talk presented by Beth Carroll about why we should all be more invested in shopping local:
I could go buy my groceries at the supermarket where my money goes to a corporation out of state, funding rich families with offshore bank accounts, or I could go shop at my local Co-Op and fund local farmers providing fresh produce that is fueling families to thrive. Yeah, I think I’d much rather give the local farmer my dime.
When I wash my hands, I could use the generic brand soap from the local chain store, or I could invest in the neighbor who grew up just down the road, who needs the extra cash for a new winter coat.
I’ve chosen to really work hard to pay attention to fair trade, fair wages, and supporting the underdogs, just as my goal is to invest in more Authors who are Black, Indigenous, Brown, LGBTQIA+, and disabled, I hold that need is interconnected to shopping small in general as well. Our money is worth more when we invest in the local places and small businesses that help us get our needs met, and enrich the community we live in.
This resolution can only be successful if there is hard work on each and every piece of the puzzle. For kindness comes easy to those we love, but it is much harder when we confront self-compassion and clemency for those we have learned to distrust.
President Biden and Madame Vice President Harris have started a new administration as of January 20th,2021. They extended their arms in an act of unity across the aisle in hopes that we the people and our elected representatives can begin to build back the better that so many vigilantly and tirelessly campaigned for in the past years.
We need to come together in unity to begin the process of healing. For that to happen, there needs to be transparency from the administration, we the people have a right to the truth even when it’s hard to hear. This is why, even though many folx have sacrificed so much to get to this point where democracy remained victorious, the work is only just getting started. We must hold our elected officials accountable, but our methods need to reflect the values we carry as Americans.
In my effort to extend more kindness going forward, I keep in mind the incredibly difficult task of finding the patience to have meaningful conversations that build bridges instead of barriers. Like many of us coming out of 2020, I find myself feeling apathetic and exhausted, I have lost countless friends and family members to vitriol and words coated in the fear of what is not known. It’s not an easy task to find kindness in the face of cruelty, but that is the task that religions, philosophers, and leaders before us have called for and one I feel a calling for as well.
During my time Canvassing with Progress North, during the Presidential Election Campaign, I had the opportunity to speak with individuals across Wisconsin, we shared vulnerable stories and often, through our differences, found ways to connect.
One of the conversations I had was with a woman who was on the opposite side of the political spectrum. I’m Progressive and she’s Conservative, we spoke about health care and covid, and human rights. What I found was that we agreed on one fundamental belief, kindness, and that helped us find common ground to build on.
She said to me, “The country needs more kindness. Even if I didn’t want to be your friend, if I saw you struggling to carry your groceries inside, I would offer my help.”
The impact this conversation had on me was substantial, it gave me gleaming hope in the face of so much division. Our common belief that everyone deserves human decency and kindness, helped us bridge a divide to have a difficult conversation with compassion.
Her stance on kindness was so powerfully moving to me. A woman who stuck by her conservative views, was still able to offer me kindness after I shared that I was part of the LGTBQIA+ community. I was in awe for she had given me more kindness than I had received from some of my own loved ones when I came out as Bisexual. That was significant to me, it meant unity was possible, and that inspired me to work harder.
Like many others though, I felt emotionally overwhelmed while I experienced this first week of a new Presidency. The Inauguration was the emotional release I had been holding my breath for and exactly what I needed to feel rejuvenated. It was a day full of tears with so many huge accomplishments, so much history made, and it’s only January!
My greatest hope is we move forward together as a nation. That we can find a way to unite in our private lives, in our communities, as Wisconsinites, as Americans, and human beings within the world. Indigenous or just arrived, Black, brown, or white, we should commit to finding kindness and compassion going forward into these new chapters of this latest series of our lives, and this administration.
As we finish the last pages and close the volume on one period of our lives, I also have to encourage others and myself, to be reminded that it is of great importance to health and wellbeing to give ourselves kindness, to be gentle on the judgment we dole out on ourselves.
We are a fiercely caring community, we find strength in the face of peril, and we never sway in our ability to take care of our own, but it is equally important to remember that to take care of others in the way that we so fiercely do, we need to care for ourselves first.
The CDC challenges us to find one small way to take care of ourselves each day. I hope that we can find the strength I know we have within ourselves to live our lives with more kindness.
Chelsea Anderson is the Communications & Digital Strategist for Progress North