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  • Céline Peterson

One year later. As I write this, I find myself sitting in the exact same spot that I was last year on this day, staring out the open window with the cold breeze coming through. The difference? Last year, it was silent outside. This year? I can hear the hustle and bustle of life outside these walls. The cases are astronomical, but there is a desperation to return to normal life, regardless of the cost for others. Instead of showing appreciation for our health care workers from our balconies by cheering, clapping, and banging pots and pans, we’re all but spitting in their face because we’re “over it.”


Lives lost – millions of them. 2.6 million and counting. Let that sink in for a moment.


Close to 3 million people, from across the world, of all ages, have died in the hospital, at home, alone, unnecessarily. But we are still having conversations (more accurately, fights) about wearing a mask and now, receiving a vaccine that will allow us to return to normalcy – whatever that looks like – without risking the lives of people around us. But that is too much to ask?


I work in an industry that was one of the first to shut and is certain to be one of the last to fully reopen. We’ve lost countless venues around the world and imagining the number of people who have been jobless for a year, struggling to get by, makes me nauseous. One year later and I can say with complete honesty that I have no idea what this industry will look like when we’re back.


When I am part of conversations where there are complaints about masks, refusal to vaccinate, and laughter in the face of stay-at-home orders, my blood pressure hits a boiling point. The lack of respect, courtesy, basic human decency, and quite frankly, dignity and sensibility, is mind boggling to me. Among the countless reasons why these conversations make me sick is the simple fact that your refusal to even attempt to be a part of the solution, means that people I care about and work with, are going to continue to struggle to put food on their tables and pay their rent, because there is no work in sight.


One year later and we have definitely seen the true colours of those around us. For some, nothing has changed. For others, everything. Between the pandemic, election, protests and insurrection, showed us that everything has changed. Beliefs that were always there, have come to the surface and to some, have made all the difference in the world. Relationships have ended, family members have either been exiled or exiled themselves, and some of us have been forced to come to terms with where the line is for what we can accept and tolerate in our lives, and what is just too much.


I can say with confidence that one year later, I have grown exponentially in ways I didn’t expect. I have shared stories and experiences with those close to me that I never thought I’d share. I have grown closer to friends that I’d lost touch with, and those that I didn’t think I could get closer to. I learned that my voice is powerful and important, as is yours, and that standing up for what I believe in is necessary. I have learned that my struggles are valid, and my anxiety is nothing to be ashamed of. I have learned what it means to respect human life, respect someone’s boundaries and space, respect time, and respect myself. One year later, I am a stronger woman than I was a year ago, even if it doesn’t feel like it.


I’ve spoken on more than one occasion about the necessity of only doing what we’re capable of during this and the importance of putting ourselves first. Don’t feel like answering the phone? Don’t do it. Didn’t return that text? That’s okay. Missed a commitment? Apologize and acknowledge it and then move on. We get to not be okay. We get to admit struggle. We get to communicate our challenges. Remain upfront and honest about what you’re experiencing, and anyone who doesn’t show you compassion, understanding and respect, is not worth your time. Personally or professionally. Be confident in who you are and remember that all anyone can expect from you is your best. As long as you are giving all you have to give, if a mistake is made or a ball is dropped, I can at least promise that I will meet you with understanding and compassion. Because I need understanding and compassion given right back to me.


One year later, and I can’t wait to see and hug my loved ones. But I have to, so I will. I can’t wait to be an in-person audience member again. But I have to, so I will. I can’t wait to travel and continue seeing the parts of the world that have been on my list for years. But I have to, so I will. I can’t wait to lose the anxiety and worry that comes with being around people – especially those more vulnerable than I – whom I love and don’t want to fall ill. But there is no telling when that particular fear will dissipate, with or without a vaccine, so I will wait and do my best to be patient.


There will be more loss. There will be more heartbreak. There will be more conflict. There will be more stress. But there will also be growth. One year later I can see human growth and I can see the slightest glimpse of light at the very end of the tunnel. It’s there and I’m holding onto it. One year later, I’m cautious, yet hopeful. One year later I’m grateful for my circle that has surrounded me this past twelve months and always. One year later I am hoping we have all learned something and will stand up for what we believe to be right and will never be afraid of the consequences that may come with speaking out against injustice. One year later, I expect more of myself than I did last year.


One year from now, I don’t know where we’ll be, but we’ll be stronger.

  • Céline Peterson

January 20, 2021: A day that we all knew would be historic. A day that we all knew would be important to so many for a plethora of reasons. But to express such an overabundance of emotions that I couldn’t feel coming, shows me how truly numb I have been for so long, especially this last year. I believed whole heartedly that I was tuned in and feeling everything as one would be expected to, but I know now after the events of this morning and the vibrations of hope, excitement, warmth, gratitude, and relief that are now surging through my body at a rapid pace, that I was subconsciously only allowing myself to feel a fraction of the emotions that my heart and mind needed to feel. I have genuinely been numb for months and I had no idea. But today, as I sat at home in my bed with my eyes glued to the television, a cup of coffee in my hand, my dogs in my lap, and the fresh air coming through my window, I realized that aside from everything else that this day represents, the woman being sworn in today represents me. I can see myself in her. I can see my nieces in her. I can see my friend’s daughters in her. I had previously been unaware of how much seeing myself in Vice President Harris in this moment would mean to me. This is monumental. Of course, today marks the start of a new day. One with hope, science, humility, kindness, truth, compassion, and civility at the forefront. Our President spoke as a human being. He once again denounced White Supremacy with conviction and vowed to serve all Americans, even those who do not in any way support him. He promised honesty, and I believe him. But for me, as I stated previously, today is about Vice President Harris.

Another shining star today is United States Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman, who stood proudly on the steps of the Capitol and recited one of the most profound and beautiful works with strength, dignity, and grace, and left me absolutely breathless. At an astounding 22 years old, Amanda Gorman is the youngest Poet Laureate in US history, and today she, like Vice President Harris, showed little girls all over the world that their voices matter and can and will be heard despite any and all attempts to silence them. In Ms. Gorman’s “The Hill We Climb”, she consciously spoke in a tone rooted in hope, but clearly had the goal of reminding all Americans that there is work to be done, truths to be acknowledged, and changes that must be made. I encourage you to take a moment and watch/re-watch her historic moment in today’s inauguration: https://www.npr.org/sections/inauguration-day-live-updates/2021/01/20/958743170/poet-amanda-gorman-reads-the-hill-we-climb.

Today is about allowing myself to feel the tons of weight that have been lifted off my chest. Today is about celebrating the end of a horrifying era. Today is about taking a moment to feel any and all emotion that we need to feel, raising a glass, breathing deeply, screaming, crying, laughing, clapping, dancing, resting, and just doing whatever it might be that we feel we must today, for tomorrow there is much work to be done. Tackling the years of work ahead of us will take the help of each and every American citizen who believes in what that country actually represents. I am proud to be one of those citizens who is prepared to do what I can. For the first time in years, I am able to state that I am proud of this Citizenship and it feels great. I am a proud young Canadian-American woman of colour, who today, is reminded that there is indeed light at the end of the darkest tunnels. Take it in, friends. Enjoy this moment.


-Céline Peterson


  • Céline Peterson

Around this time each year, I usually put together some photos of my favourite moments from the year and write about them as I look back. Not this year. This year there is very little I want to look back on because when I do, I see disappointment, frustration, anger, helplessness, loss of work, sadness, sickness, injustice, and so much more. Yes, I can see the moments that don’t fall under those categories and there are some moments this year that have put a smile on my face and given me a reprive from the madness where I could take a deep breath, or even where I can feel proud of an accomplishment. But that is all momentary because of what this year has really felt like, at least for me. For me, it’s been hard to find the happy.


The disappointment that I experienced this year was not just from those I don’t know. For so many of us, our disappointment, confusion, and heartbreak was closer than we ever imagined it would be. We’re disappointed in our friends, our family members. Things won’t be the same. How can they be? When you discover that someone you respect has been part of the problem in attempting (and failing) to contain the global spread of this virus, which basically means that someone you respect has shown that they have no respect for other human beings living on this planet…that’s jarring. It’s a lot to swallow. For me, I’ve had a particularly hard time with resigning to the fact that people I used to hold close - whether friends or family - are refusing to acknowledge their own prejudice, racism, privilege, or otherwise. That has been hard. It was actually easier for me to call undecided voters ahead of the election than it has been for me to even attempt conversations with people I’ve known for years. The difference? The undecided voters (for the most part) were willing to have a conversation with me and treated me like a human being. I was not always shown this courtesy by friends or family members.


We have all had dark moments both this year and throughout our lives. But this year tested me in ways I was not prepared to be tested. For me personally, I’ve had moments where I crossed a line I never wanted to cross. That whole “When they go low, we go high” thing was a tough one to follow for me. I’ve had a hard time not wishing for individuals that I consider to be evil to just no longer exist. I’ve had a hard time showing empathy to people who need it because all I can see is the damage they’re doing. Compassion? Another hard one for me this year. I’ve just been mad. I’ve also had moments of distraction, but really I spent a lot of time being mad and completely depleted of the energy to look for empathy and compassion when it was so much easier to just scream and cry about how truly awful human beings can be.


So, it’s a new year. Is it a happy one? Not from where I’m sitting. I can’t find the happy just yet because I can’t just leave this year behind me. If I did, I’d be ignoring the fact that half of the voters in the United States voted against my right to exist in my own skin without being subject to prejudice. Half the voters in the United States voted against science. They voted against logic and they voted against equality for all human beings. Fine. He lost. Multiple times. But that doesn’t mean that this just goes away. This means that we all have more work to do now than we did before. This is just getting started. Am I leaving behind the devastation of the pandemic? Nope. Hospitals are full. People are continuing to die. Businesses are still closing. My industry is completely shut down. People are being evicted. We can’t leave any of that behind because it's all still happening. Happy new year? Not so much. But a new year. A chance to do better. A chance to speak up. A chance to stand up.


As I have always said, I am a lucky woman. I am surrounded by wonderful human beings whom I love with all my heart. They are what have gotten me through this year. There are so many who do not have support and need it much more than I do, so I hope that we can all take some time to make sure that we reach outside our circles and offer love and support to others. We might not know what they’re going through and we don’t have to. We just know they need it, so show it. Show patience, kindness, compassion, empathy, friendship and love. Do better than I did this last year. Find the happy.


Peace.

CP


Suggested read:

2020 In Review: A Year of Triumph and Tragedy for Black Lives Matter (WBGH)


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