Guest Blog by Hannah Hickman
We have entered yet another Jewish New Year in the midst of a global pandemic. We have witnessed and experienced profound gains and losses, many of which have been felt so personally. Part of entering the new Jewish year is taking the time to reflect on this, taking it in, and letting go of what is holding us back.
For many of us, the losses have outweighed the gains, whether it was the loss of loved ones who have passed from this plane to the next, the loss of jobs, or the loss of homes, both literal and figurative. We have seen our communities ravaged by natural disasters brought forth by climate change, most recently the wildfires that continuously plague the West. Racial injustice has been highlighted time and time again, with attacks against Black, Indigenous, Asian, Hispanic, and all other people of color.
The 2020 election brought forth a lot of stress, tension, fractures, and anxiety. We watched the insurrection unfold in our backyard, with some of us fearing for our lives and the lives of our loved ones. The heightened volatility of our politics has caused massive rifts between families, friends, and other loved ones. I am sure that I am far from the only one who has cut off some of those I once considered dear to me in the light of learning their beliefs.
We mourn both those lost to death and those from which we have distanced ourselves; for missed opportunities and all the cherished moments we had no option but to witness over Zoom. We mourn the reality we once lived in, and the norms we assumed were permanent. We mourn the way things used to be and mourn a new, uncertain future.
But we cannot look back at this year and only see pain, suffering, and hopelessness. While our initial instinct might be to admonish ourselves for finding the good in all the bad, we must find the balance, lest we fall into a spiral of depression and dread. Reflection means taking stock of what we have gained and what good has come out of darkness.
The 2020 election brought hope to many in my circle, with a new administration elected with the highest turnout of any presidential election in more than a century. With this new administration comes greater attention to issues close to my heart, such as the climate crisis, healthcare access, LGBTQ+ rights, and racial justice. More people are now aware of voter suppression and are continuing the fight to ensure that all people can vote unencumbered by restrictions.
The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in remarkable scientific collaboration, with worldwide teams working together to create a vaccine. As it stands today, we have seen three vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson) hit the market in the United States, with more expected to be approved soon. Over 50% of the American population is now fully vaccinated. The strides we have made in medical science this past year set the tone for the future, with increased international collaboration and hope for new treatments and cures of illnesses and diseases. We have entirely eradicated some diseases in the past year, with wild polio wiped out from the African continent and Malaria eradicated from China.
This past year has given us the chance to be at home and to evaluate our lives. Many of us have been able to connect with ourselves in a way that we had not been afforded previously. Many of us have finally had the opportunity to take care of our physical and mental health. I have had the chance to address and better manage chronic medical conditions, recover from past trauma, and even address long-standing issues, with a new diagnosis of ADHD and a transformative treatment plan.
Losing some relationships has meant freeing ourselves from toxic people in our lives. Many have also reconnected with old friends near and far. The relationships that we have nurtured have become stronger and more profound, more meaningful, and enriching. Time has been taken to mend broken bridges and strengthen the bonds we share with loved ones.
This past year has also afforded many people to pursue their goals and dreams. Those who longed to own an animal now have a furry friend with animal shelters sitting empty across the country. People have quit their jobs on their terms and shifted their careers towards fulfilling a passion. Workers have stood up to their bosses, demanded better pay and conditions, and moved on to greener pastures. I have found work in a field that has allowed me creative freedom and to further my career in a way that aligns with my values.
The High Holidays are a time for us to reflect and atone; a time to think of how you have treated others and how you have been treated, and forgive others for their wrongdoings while asking for forgiveness for those you have wronged – including yourself. Understand that this previous year was incredibly difficult. Future years may be challenging as well, and you might not always live up to the expectations you set for yourself. Going forth, take from those experiences, learn from them, and take the time to learn about yourself. It can be hard to forgive yourself but know that you deserve it and that you will grow as a person as a result.
Shana tova to you and your loved ones.