Camille Brayshaw/Fourth Estate

This year has sucked. There’s no way around it. Blaming 2020 for all the tragedy it has brought upon us is a small, easy way to let the frustrations of this tumultuous year out. 

Then I started to hear radio talk show hosts jokingly blame 2020. Next, some news sites joined the bandwagon. It wasn’t long before “2020 sucks” became a meme. But what scared me was when I felt myself thinking “I can’t wait for this year to be over,” as if all the troubles of 2020 will magically melt away in 2021. This isn’t right.

Years like 2020 don’t come out of nowhere to sneak attack us. 2020 is a year that has been years in the making. The major issues that 2020 shined a light on have been steadily growing long before the ball dropped on New Year’s Eve.

This year we’ve faced a pandemic, economic recession, racial injustice, numerous wildfires, floods, hurricanes and a bitterly divisive election. Oh, and beloved celebrities like Chadwick Boseman, Kobe Bryant and Alex Trebek died. Oh, and we almost went to war with Iran. Oh, and whatever else I missed because too much awful has happened this year that it can’t be summed up in one paragraph.

You can jokingly shovel blame onto 2020 for these tragedies, but it doesn’t change the fact that these problems are ours to own. The pandemic was going to be bad no matter what, but our lackluster response should lead us to reexamine how this problem came to be. Instead of wallowing around in self-pity and crying, “Damn you, 2020!” let’s follow the World Health Organization’s advice and actually advocate investment in better emergency preparedness. Let’s follow the lead of relatively successful countries like South Korea to guide our future pandemic response efforts.

The economic recession has bruised many people, leaving millions unemployed and thousands on the brink of homelessness. But before it was possible to blame 2020, we still had the U.S. Census Bureau reporting 38.1 million people in poverty in 2018. It sucks that our Congress is still split by partisanship. Don’t let them blame 2020 too. Call them, write them and tell them that they need to act. They can’t ignore the masses, and we can’t ignore our problems.

If there is one clear observation from this recent presidential election, it’s the growing divide in America. The failures of our elected officials are a reflection of the failures of the electorate. Political polarization has been trending poorly for years and only continues to get worse. The good news is that 2020 isn’t the first year we have deemed “the worst.” 

Another year had numerous celebrity deaths, a tumultuous election cycle, natural disasters, racial tensions and widespread protests: 2016. Four year ago, if you were to search up “the worst year,” you would have seen 2016 all over the internet.

But humanity has had worse years than 2016 and 2020 combined. Historians will point you towards the bubonic plague that killed millions, the horrors of the world wars, or A.D. 536 when a volcano erupted in Iceland and dimmed sunlight for a year and a half. This doesn’t diminish the pain that 2020 has held, but indicates that humanity has made it through worse.

We can get through this too, but it starts with relinquishing this year from unjust blame. Apologize to 2020 and make sure it knows that it’s not the problem, we are. 2021 can be a year we rebound and make progress, but it’s got to start with taking ownership of our collective failures.

On Dec. 31, I’m going to be watching that ball drop and ready to scream “Happy New Year” too. But I won’t be cheering because 2020 is over. I won’t be cheering because 2021 has begun. Maybe I won’t be cheering at all. But I know what I will be: ready. 

I’ll be ready to own the issues of 2020. I’ll be ready to let the mistakes of 2020 stay in the past where they belong. I’ll be ready to carry forward with solutions into 2021. I hope you’ll join me.