After a year that can be summed up by words like “quarantine,” “social distancing,” and “cultural-reckoning,” New Year’s resolutions for 2021 are more important than any other year; this year we have to think bigger.
When I reflect on what I accomplished during the last year, almost every achievement was small and personal. Last spring, almost everyone I knew took on new self-care habits. My sister and I, for example, committed to do a 20-day Chloe Ting workout challenge and going on runs. My friend put Tiger King aside to go to sleep at a normal time each night. No matter the act, my friends’ goals and my goals have been focused on persevering throughout this turbulent and difficult time. And that makes total sense —
these ten months in quarantine took our meaning of “normal” and threw it out the window.
But now, as we welcome the new year with vaccines and the return to school, the state of this global crisis is changing, and so should our resolutions. 2021 is the year that we should focus on looking outward rather than inward, as we leave our homes and begin the recovery process in the aftermath of the pandemic. Most of all, 2021 needs to be a year of healing for not just ourselves, but for the world around us.
The first place we should look to make New Year’s Resolutions is our communities. Knowing I’m not alone has brought me comfort during these past ten months; everyone is dealing with the added difficulties of the pandemic. But that also means that everyone is in need of healing too. After months of isolation, we need to feel the comfort of community. We have to resolve to return to school and hold ourselves accountable for taking care of others, even in the simplest ways possible.
This is the year to say “hi” to friends in the hallways, forge new communities and friendships, and fully embrace the social responsibilities we have to every person who attends our school. A commitment to others, which defines us as a school, will help us through the healing process in the aftermath of this pandemic.
Next, we have to look to our country. The pandemic sparked a social reckoning with the other great plague in our country: injustice. In 2020, when people of all backgrounds joined together to protest, to hold representatives accountable, and to vote, they brought about real change. In 2021, we will have a new president and new laws, but that will not be enough to heal the deep fractures in our country caused by social injustices and the pandemic. The pandemic has shown us the importance of a government that is committed to its people, and we should resolve to hold our government accountable to that ideal.
Our resolutions must include continuing difficult conversations when the justice system falls short of our democratic ideals, or when our elected leaders do. Our resolutions must include looking to the communities hit hardest by the pandemic, and asking ourselves what we can personally do to fix that damage. 2021 should be a year of civic engagement and civic mindedness for all of us.
Lastly, we have to look to our world.
The current global crisis has caused lockdowns, loss of life, and economic hardships. While I’m talking about the pandemic, in just a few years, these could be the real effects of global warming. Obviously, no one wants to be thinking about a second global crisis amid a first one. But after seeing the stakes, we should be resolved to fight this second crisis so that it doesn’t cause the same pain as the pandemic, but probably prolonged and worse.
Now, we are almost at an inflection point, where economic productivity has been slashed, carbon emissions are lowered, and most production has come to a halt. We are faced with the question of how we build back and who and what we prioritize in the process. How we answer this question will dictate whether or not we or our children will have to live through a
crisis like this again. When faced with a decision like this — a turning point — I think it is only right for everyone to decide that this year they will help fight to rebuild sustainably and protect our environment. Whether this means participating in climate marches, writing your elected officials in support of climate action, or going plastic free, 2021 is the year.
We’ve had the past ten months of quarantine to exercise more often or eat healthier, and we’ll probably have more time in quarantine to do so. But in 2021, when we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, we need to think past ourselves. It may feel difficult to set goals for ourselves when the future seems so uncertain, but it’s necessary that we help heal each other, the nation, and the natural world.