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2021: A Year to Believe

It’s the end of 2020, a time to make grand gestures, to talk about how horrible this year has been, a time to think of bright new potential for the future…or to lament how little change took place in the face of evident need…or maybe something completely different. I’m not sure myself.

This is also usually the time where I’d make a grand commitment, a resolve to do something different in the new year. Generally, it’s been something attached to “productivity:” to post more often to Intelligame or Patreon or Twitter or something. Maybe to work out more, to meditate, something to show that I’m capable of consistency (which, as most of you know, I struggle with). But I can say that at the end of this year, I don’t think I’m set up to make those kinds of commitments.

For so many people, this has been a year of job losses, of housing instability, food instability…a year of sickness, a year of death. It’s been a year of political turmoil, of rising conspiracy theories. It’s been a year highlighting police brutality, a year of protest, of tear gas, of riot gear. It’s been a year of right-wing extremism, of authoritarianism. It’s been a year where the bad guys won… a lot.

Some parts of me feel like expressing or finding any joy in a year where I’ve only scratched the surface through those descriptions is a bit callous. But if there’s a lesson that I take away from 2020, it’s that few things in the world are clear-cut. Another lesson: there’s some stuff you just can’t plan for.

This was a year that reminded me just how fragile practically everything we love and use is, from our food supply to our internet to social order itself. It also showed me how much privilege I have, being able to work from home amidst a pandemic, to have my own room to work from, housemates who are kind and patient, savings for tough times. It also drilled into me the importance of family, of the people I care about, and how much it can hurt to be separated from them.

People are power, and this year showed me the power of community, how strong people are when they come together. I saw friends grow as activists, as leaders, as creators…but also simply as humans. I saw people slow down, take note of the world around them, appreciate each other. In the midst of the hell year, people didn’t just find hope…they created it. They created it with homemade masks, with donations, with community support groups and livestreams and book clubs and Zoom knitting circles and all sorts of wonderful things. And now, as we enter 2021 and the pandemic rages on, it’s hard to feel like we’ve learned much of anything…but we’ve learned a lot. We’ve done a lot. And, as tired as so many of us are, I know we’ll continue to do more.

Instead of a resolution, I feel like my 2021 deserves a framework, a mindset. 2020 ripped apart many of my plans in ways I could have never expected…but it also gifted me opportunities I never could have planned for. I paneled for multiple virtual game events. I helped run fundraisers and online events for non-profits around the country. I helped launch the store for Among Us merchandise. And Intelligame’s grown in ways I can barely believe: we raised over $13K for the Minnesota Freedom Fund, we broke 1400 followers on Twitch, and above all, we’ve maintained a community that centers compassion and growth in the face of all the struggles we’ve taken on.

So I guess I just don’t feel too keen on making year-long plans. Instead, in the vein of friend and adventure cartoonist Lucy Bellwood, I’m setting a word as my frame: “believe.”

Certainly the past year has shown, in ways both amazing and horrific, the power of belief to change the world. So I’m setting a core value: believe that the world will get better, and that I can be a part of that change. Carrying hope is hard, even as someone who’s only seen a fraction of the struggles that many of my friends have, particularly those working in healthcare, or as activists on the ground. But I’ve also seen the ways that so many of them keep pushing, day after day, to help make the world better for the people whose lives they touch. They believe there’s a brighter future out there.

I do, too.

See you next year.

-Josh

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