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12.28.2020

Reflections and Resolutions

Guest Blogger: Molly Oswaks

This year has been painful, challenging and overwhelming to say the absolute least. I’ll never forget my first panic attack, which had me breathless, gasping on the floor in the dark of my quiet apartment. I spent a lot of time alone, missing friends and wishing things were different. 

Much of what once seemed doable is now a logistical impossibility. Like so many, I’ve found it difficult to accomplish the goals and plans I’d set for myself last January. Too often I’ve felt my creative magic zapped by emotional overwhelm.

Going into 2021 with a mindful perspective shift could make all the difference.

One of the best early choices I made this year, as the pandemic took hold of our collective consciousness, was to call and check in on my two elderly grandmothers more often. If you're lucky enough to have grandparents still living, call them. While there's very little we can do on an individual level to change what is going on in the world (beyond wearing a mask, of course), we can be of service to those in our immediate circle, especially our elders and those living alone. I’ve grown closer than I’d have ever imagined with my grandmas this year, and that in itself has made these last few months not just more bearable, but valuable and precious in ways I’d never have predicted. I’m so grateful to have had the foresight to prioritize my time and attention in this way, because now when I look back on 2020, there are so many treasured conversations and moments that shine out above the ongoing ticker tape of bad news. 

Indeed, 2020 was a year of bad news and mixed messages. The virus was going away by Easter. Now it's going to be a very difficult winter. Masks were optional. Now they are life-saving and essential. Some felt pressure to use this time to write their great American novel or Oscar-winning screenplay, like how Shakespeare wrote King Lear during a different pandemic. Others urged to avoid placing undue pressure on an already difficult situation, with a reminder that keeping yourself healthy and alive is a feat in and of itself. 

I’ve felt a lot of anxiety recently, looking back on these last months and what I accomplished. I’ve stayed healthy the whole time, even after protesting police brutality in packed crowds around my city, but didn’t phonebank despite ample time to do so. I wrote a bunch of newspaper stories, but barely touched my pilot. I watched a ton of movies and television, but never finished the Coursera class I signed up for in August.   

But this was also the year that I learned to make lemon curd from scratch, roasted a whole duck first the first time, bought fresh rhubarb and turned it into the best jam ever, hiked more, walked when I could have driven, and heard the story of how my grandma fell in love at sixteen. When I look back, I’m grateful for this time –– for how I spent it. 

In the coming year, which is slated to look much like this past one, I plan to be gentle with myself, with my expectations, and to see as valuable all of the little wins and along the way. I’m aware that it is a privilege to be in a field not decimated by shutdowns, and I’m grateful to have writing assignments to keep me busy and give a shape and purpose to my at-home hours. I have my family and friends, all healthy, and that’s more than many can say. While some wonder what there is to say on the phone, when every day is a grim Groundhog’s day of the last, I will make a point to check in regularly with everyone I love, because I know now more than ever how precious it is to have them here. 

Molly Oswaks is a freelance writer in Los Angeles. Her work appears regularly in the New York Times, and has been featured in Glamour, Travel & Leisure, Cosmopolitan, Teen Vogue, ELLE, Playboy and elsewhere in print and online. 

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