Year in review: What did 2021 mean to us?

Ellie Montemayor

More stories from Ellie Montemayor

Seventeen days into 2020, we naively asked ourselves what the year had in store for us (“Is 2020 going to be our year?”), posing an innocent question blatantly unaware of what was about to take the world by storm. We did it again 11 months ago (“2021: a sigh of relief?”), quite possibly jinxing ourselves into another cycle of twists and turns worthy of M. Night Shyamalan.

As we look back on what our lives were like the past two years, it almost feels like a fever dream. A year and a half of our lives passed by entirely in our homes in perpetual lockdown. I still feel like a wide-eyed freshman as I anxiously await for colleges to send out their early action decisions, and I still feel like I’m in Algebra I as I learn to evaluate triple integrals in Multivariable Calculus.

Events that took place outside our homes feel completely removed from us.

Articles on the latest Donald Trump scandal or voter suppression in Texas had the same emotional impact as the dramatized events from “Designated Survivor.” Podcasts that announced new breakthroughs in COVID-related knowledge piled up in the same brain space as “The Walking Dead” lore.

As the world (sorta kinda) resumed again, things still didn’t feel the same. Walking into a convenience store in the middle of a road trip didn’t feel the same way anymore, but somehow that odd uneasy feeling held up both in masked, vaxxed, and waxed shops in Bethesda and the dirtiest backwater corner store up in the Pennsylvania mountainside. Nearly every teleconference or in-person meetup features at least one awkward callback to the (early) COVID times, that one part of the conversation that no one ever really enjoys but somehow ends up dealing with.

The year 2021 gave us a tiring succession of relief and distress, offering us a more palatable life but cruelly pulling it away at the last instant. The few sighs of relief the world wanted to have—POTUS, the 2021 Astroworld Festival, Dave Chappelle and that one brief moment that we didn’t have to wear masks indoors—ended up disappointing and falling short.

Should we finally accept, though, that our wishful thinking is just that: an unreachable fantasy? Absolutely not. As we reflect on this tumultuous past year, we ask: what does 2022 have in store for us?