There is so much work to be done in 2021. It feels overwhelming: continuing to fight for equality for Black Americans (and indigenous peoples and other minority communities), navigating a global pandemic, rebuilding local economies.
At the same time the new year can be misleading. The word 'new' has a shiny quality to it that makes me think, for a moment, that it will be different; that the problems of 2020 will fade away as a new chapter begins. If this past year has taught me (and all of us) anything, it is that our greatest obstacles will not disappear...they may remain for longer than we thought possible.
But that doesn't mean we should be hopeless. It means that we need to re-frame our ideas about progress, achievement and work.
Buckle down, take tiny steps and remember that each step is absolutely moving you somewhere. I promise.
[i find motivation in the bandana I'm wearing in the feature photo at the top of this page: keep on truckin']
everything is made of smaller things
All things are comprised of smaller parts. You: a complex composition of cells which are orchestrated by DNA to form a breathing, conscious being that moves autonomously throughout the world. Democracy: a social pact between millions of people to respect a process. As we saw yesterday, political structures are fragile things. Any government is merely a conceptual machine made up of individuals.
But the the tiny things that bind together to make something larger and more beautiful can also be a metaphor of hope.
I hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2018. That's a big thing, a 2,191 mile big thing. Yet, it was only possible because of millions of small steps that I took one after the other. Every step brought me closer, but it also meant that there were many more steps to take.
no progress is wasted
I've been living in my van for a few months and finally I feel like it is a home. I bought the van in 2017, which means I've been working on building my home on wheels for over three years. That's a long time to work on a project, especially when I finally organized all my clothes in the van only last week.
Causes, projects and adventures worth pursuing take a long time to manifest.
I can't tell you how many scraps of wood, tools, and ideas I had to throw away during my van build. Each time I made a mistake I learned something: I figured out what tool I actually needed, or found a better material to build out the walls.
No amount of progress is wasted, even if it 'fails'. When there is work to be done, if you keep trying there are no failures, only lessons.
the work to be done is worth it
When I wake up in my van I can't believe that I finished such a huge project (but for real, it's never done. I'm figuring things out, and finding more things that need figuring out every single day).
For me, such a project is a metaphor for 2021. Last year sucked in so many ways, but there is always a silver lining. The pandemic has birthed a renewed interest in nature, gardening and outdoor community spaces. The Black Lives Matter movement spread into the cracks and fissures of this country. The attack on the Capitol yesterday galvanized a bipartisan resolve to confirm President-elect Joe Biden's win.
And those silver linings are the result of individuals, 1 person + 1 person + 1 person...all deciding to make the most of an unprecedented situation, or to fight for equality and democracy.
Big, sweeping changes are not made in a day. Like turning a van into a home, or walking from Georgia to Maine, or uniting a racially and politically divided country, the work that needs to be done must start small. Your effort, no matter what it is, it always worth it.