Where did 2021 go? 

2020 stretched on forever. 2020 felt like three, four, five years—of waiting. A planet full of people waiting, and all of us focused on one thing: coronavirus.

In early spring, the pandemic was declared, and we tried to figure out what that meant to us personally. We acclimated, and adapted, and communicated, and researched, and we adapted some more… and we waited.

Quick aside: I went into 2020 with plans, man. Concrete plans, mostly around talks I was scheduled to give and book signings and all that jazz. Lots of us went into 2020 with plans. I scrapped and shuffled some, modified others, postponed a few. I scrambled. I juggled. I filled any empty spaces with activities that were safer, like learning to make sourdough.

And spring passed, and summer arrived, and we all kept waiting. Summer faded, fall was here, and we kept at it, because we were good at waiting by now. We got very used to it! We asked our neighbors if they were waiting, like us. We asked friends, in zoom or google meet, if they were waiting. Like us. People all over the world waited.

That was 2020.

Winter, at last, the end of 2020 in sight and 2021 came into view (with vaccines!). We were so used to waiting that I, at least, didn’t make plans beyond ‘get vaccinated.’ I’d get vaccinated as soon as I could, and I would see what happened. We expected life to return to normal at some point, but what would that look like? How would it play out? This, we didn’t know. We hoped ‘normal’ was right around the corner, and since we were acclimated to waiting, we remained in that holding pattern week by week.

Around summertime, 2021, some of us started meeting friends outdoors (those first meetings were wonderful) and some of us started seeing our extended family (also wonderful) and most wonderful of all were the postponed weddings now being held. There’s been joy, during 2021, but still a shadow remains, a sense of waiting for normalcy.

This year has passed in a flash, maybe because it wasn’t as onerous as 2020, but I have a hypothesis. I think the reason 2021 passed so quickly is because we went into the year waiting … and with so few plans.

January 2020 came with plans. January 2021 did not.

We entered 2021 in a holding pattern. We’ve been in a holding pattern all year, standing at the starting gate, milling about. What are we waiting for? Permission? Approval? A report of ‘no new cases’? No new deaths?

Among unvaccinated people, in August of 2021, the CDC reports 13 deaths per 100,000 people. Among vaccinated people, that number is under 4 deaths per 100,000 people. Vaccinations (including boosters) protect us. No, not absolutely, but they are a great shield against illness and death.

Health experts have begun recommending a return to normalcy, with safeguards remaining in place (masking, good hygiene, social distancing). Boosters are widely available, at least in the U.S.. Depressingly, there’s reason to think this coronavirus will circulate indefinitely, but it’s worth pointing out that we’ve had other coronaviruses in wide circulation for decades. Coronaviruses cause the common cold, along with rhinoviruses and a few others. Many of us have had coronavirus infections throughout our lives and never batted an eye about it, and possibly this variant is trending toward something equally innocuous. There’s reason to hope, especially among those of us who are vaccinated.

But 2021 rushed past, and one thing’s clear. For 2022, I’m making plans. I’m lining up book signings and podcasts and science talks and climate protests. I’ll do it all safely, natch, and stay boosted, and I’ll keep watching caseloads, but the feeling of making plans is great. I’m going to release a few new titles, too.

I might not even wait, to do it.

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