“Gray November, I’ve been down since July,” sings Taylor Swift — in reality, it’s more like “Gray December, I’ve been down since January.” 2020 has not been kind: Zoom University without reduced tuition, staying home for months, ineffective administration, COVID. It is weird to think that exactly one year ago I was having the time of my life in China, and one year later China remains the only place I’ve travelled to. “Can’t remember what I used to fight for” from the same song sums it up well doesn’t it, when even the shiniest wheels begin to rust. I wish I could relate to the line “writing letters, addressed to the fire,” but one realization that precipitated from one year of isolation is that there simply is nothing to write about when nothing ever happens in one’s life.

In retrospect, Easy (Troy Sivan - In A Dream) defined the Spring and Summer that passed by so fast in the car ride to Chick-fil-A which happened to be the only opportunity to leave home. Especially with the window down and wind running through the now longer hair, it’s so easy to listen to. Bad Friend (Rina Sawayama - SAWAYAMA) reminds me of everything that did not get to happen, all the missed opportunities, an entire summer wasted without anything memorable. “So don’t ask me where I’ve been, been avoiding everything” is a testament to the recluse I have become. But I swear I miss all my friends, and I swear I am sorry for my terrible responding and keeping-in-touch skills. Maybe I’m just a bad friend. this is me trying (Taylor Swift - folklore) is us celebrating the smallest of victories when every day is an unchanging, bleak repeat of the previous. “I didn’t know if you’d care if I came back” fittingly sounds a Bad Friend’s confession, but most importantly, please remember that even if I poured my heart out to that stranger, I did NOT pour the whiskey. So. Celebrate that. I really am trying.

With that said, COVID shouldn’t be an excuse for complacency (a trap so alluring that I have been tempted into many times). Successes we cannot guarantee but try we must, get back up we must. One of the many odd occasions during which I cried in the past year is watching the Stellaris Three Year Anniversary Trailer: “this seemingly endless galaxy is still there, lingering, waiting for our next move, knowing that its greatest story still lies ahead.” Indeed our greatest stories do lie ahead. This too shall pass, better things will come. “And it’s yours to tell,” ends the trailer, and indeed it is. The latent, trying, cruel summer will be ours to tell; the Zoom classes we took, the Chick-fil-A we ate, the shows we started but did not finish, the HIIT exercises we did at home will all be ours to tell; to our grandchildren, how the historically hectic social experiment of 2020 went down will be ours to tell. Most importantly, where the future leads and everything beyond will be ours to tell. For me, I will say: 2021, 化好妆,继续前行.