Choose Between A Curtain and A Star

Talking to a friend last week, the conversation turned to how the year has been so far. For me, I said, it’s been a particularly strange year that’s been far more difficult than I’d expected heading into it; I’d thought that 2020 was the difficult year, the one that was so hard that it had to be the bottom of the cosmic arc — there was a global pandemic that essentially closed the world, after all — before we headed into an emotional upswing, but so much of 2021 had been, if not bad per se, then at least more trying and weirder than I’d anticipated.

The friend was far more pessimistic, as it turned out. 2021, they argued, was so much worse than last year, in part because many people had started the year thinking as I had, only for things to somehow get worse. How could a year that dashed all those anxious raised hopes be anything other than cruel and difficult? (In his defense, he’s had a particularly difficult year to date, with illness — not COVID-related — and family stress combining to make things far more stressful than anyone should have to deal with.)

The conversation got me thinking about how the year has been going for me. 2021 has, admittedly, been far more of a struggle than I’d anticipated — I’ve lost work, and watched as seemingly new opportunities disappeared as if by magic for seemingly no reason. There have been sick pets, and sick friends and family, as well. (My nephew has tested positive for COVID more than once, although both times was thankfully free of symptoms.) I’ve tried to self-start a couple of projects with varying degrees of success, and it’s not been something I’ve found particularly easy.

Throughout all of this, though, I’ve had an optimism that wasn’t there last year — a feeling that I can get through it somehow, even if it’s just by stubbornness and sheer bloodyminded force of will. The setbacks have, almost entirely, been something I’ve viewed as “weird” or frustrating, rather than debilitating, and that’s what’s been different this time around. Maybe this year has been worse, but my attitude has been better.

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