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Back in my senior year of high school, I had a teacher who told us we would love her, then hate her, then finally come to appreciate her. I scoffed at her logic back then, but as an adult I often think about that phrase. Now that 2021 is here, I’m thinking about it even more. I expected big personal change in 2020 and in a way, I got it. Last year, I learned that progress can feel like many things simultaneously, but your actions dictate how far you move. 

I noticed that a big part of learning this was changing my perspective on first steps. Multiple times through the year, I labeled certain events as “the easy part.” I only did this because I’m a forward thinker and I drum up multiple scenarios in my head. Contrary to that, I realize the events were nowhere near easy or simple. However, when I posited potential future events, they seemed easier in comparison. These events were always the first step to something new.

The first step can be difficult, but only from the perspective you have in that moment. When you look back to your first step in whatever journey you take, you realize how far you’ve come and how hard you’ve worked, and then somehow that feels easier. Think of it like a bell curve.

For example, I left my first full-time job at the beginning of February. I was unemployed for most of the year, minus a month of temp work and some freelance projects speckled throughout. It was the first time I felt like I had no real sense of security. I live with family but I also help financially support our home. You can imagine the anxiety. Despite that, the “easiest” part of leaving this job was telling myself that I deserved better for my well-being.

The next step was to unlearn some of the habits and beliefs I picked up there. As you can imagine, not an easy thing to do. But if I hadn’t taken that first move to leave, I wouldn’t have space to unlearn those things. I’m grateful I made that choice because I feel more prepared for my next job.

When Biden and Harris won the election (finally), we knew how much work was coming. We knew the damage that lay before them. Winning was the “easy part.” When we were protesting for rights and the end of police brutality in the streets, we knew that things couldn’t change overnight. Years and years of injustice that even our grandparents were chipping away at are still figurative road blocks. Showing up to march was the “easy part.” So then when do we reach the hilltop? I don’t have an answer for that. Every day I hope that all this work will pay off so we can reach the hilltop.

We’ve grown as individuals, as a race and as a country over the last 12 months. Years seem to repeat, leading us to face another deadly catastrophe, but I have more hope than ever that we can survive and grow from it every time. I pray that our 2021 ends better.