Dear World,

As I sat down this morning to write I had in mind a pithy post about self-discovery in 2021. It wouldn’t have been a bad post, but I just didn’t want to write it. No, instead I wanted something without headers and subheads and all that blogging nonsense and instead just speak to you from the heart.

2020 just about broke me. Even before the pandemic, it wasn’t off to a great start to be honest and I found myself self-destructing in what has been a familiar cycle in my life. Then the pandemic hit and everything got oh so much worse.

This is not a “woe is me” post though and I have my health and life, which hundreds of thousands of people around the world do not have. That IS something. That means that in spite of the terrible manner in which my own country responded to this global crisis, some people did do the right thing and, as a result, if you’re reading this then some modicum of success has been achieved.

But it’s also ok to vent about what 2020 did to you without feeling guilty. Survivor’s guilt is a thing but 2020 hit all of us hard and even though we do indeed have our health, that doesn’t mean that everything is fine and it’s necessary to be honest about that.

At the very outset of this crisis I wrote that mental health would be the real pandemic, and I was right. In fact, we don’t have any idea just how bad it’s been for people and we honestly won’t for many years. From suicide and addiction to depression and anxiety, we have collective PTSD and it won’t go away anytime soon.

But just because millions of us lost our livelihoods and saw all of our plans stolen from us doesn’t mean we have to wallow in feelings of despair. In fact, it’s vital for us to once again look towards the future in ways we haven’t been able to lately.

What this means varies from person to person. For some it means being recalled to work while for others it means having to find a new career when they least expected it. Some will have to move and find new places to live and parents around the world aren’t finished with suddenly becoming teachers, at least not right away. But what I’ve noticed is that one of the greatest sources of anxiety is literally having nothing to which we can look forward.

Weddings, vacations, graduations even the mundane errands of everyday life, all future plans since March have been scrapped and, as it turns out, the human brain needs to have something – anything – on the horizon. We need to have future joys in mind, we need to have plans made and special occasions in the works. I think that, along with the health fears, has done more harm than any other aspect of this mess. So, what to do?

This is very specific to the individual, but for me it means I have to plan trips. During the worst of quarantine I found myself planning what I thought would be my first “post-lockdown adventures.” They all had to be cancelled, but it briefly filled me with hope and cheer, no matter how fleeting.

Then, once we were allowed some limited movement again, I started to plan short regional road trips. Rather than remaining travel blueprints, these actually were realized and the simple joy I felt from not being at home for a couple of days was greater than I could have ever imagined. I progressed to flying to some spots around the country, but I haven’t had a grand trip since 2019.

Moving forward each and every one of us needs to plan something. It can be a small party just for the members of your household or it can be a short (and responsible) road trip to some spot nearby you’ve never managed to visit. Go beyond this though, do what I’m doing which is planning that first epic travel adventure for when we are all vaccinated, for that time when it is totally safe to travel anywhere in the world and we can start to enjoy ourselves once again.

It doesn’t even matter if you ever take this trip. The joy you will feel from planning the adventure, deciding where to go and what to experience, that is the simple release your brain needs right now as we move into 2021. It will provide some optimism as we feel our way through the months and make each and every one of us a happier and healthier human being.

Thank you for reading this. Stay safe, stay healthy and please take care of one another.

Love,
Matt

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