Not Quite, But...

Anna Demelo

At 11:59 pm, December 31st, 2019, my stomach was churning in anticipation.

For me, it has been a fact of life that 2020 would be a year to remember. Throughout elementary school, this number, stapled to the front of classroom bulletin boards, greeted me every morning; at the end of each school year, it followed me home, emblazoned on the back of my class t-shirt, decorated haphazardly with the Sharpie signatures of my fellow classmates. By the time middle school rolled around, 2020 had officially wormed its way into my identity, occupying a space somewhere in-between my birthdate and my zip code. There was a sense of pride that I took in belonging to 2020 and having 2020 belong to me. After all, 2020, before the fact, was kind of perfect—special even. Wasn’t it? 2020 is a re-arrangement of 2002, my birth year. 2020 would mark the dawn of a new decade. 2020 would be a leap-year, a year lucky enough to have an extra day. 2020 held the promise of Corning’s “A Day Made of Glass” series as well as the excitement of a Summer Olympic Games. 2020 would bring in a new president, the first that I would be able to vote for. 2020 would not be just another year. 2020 would be limitless.

At 12:00 am, January 1st, 2020, 1 million people witnessed the Times Square ball drop live in New York. 600 miles away, I was sobbing in the middle of my living room.

In the span of less than a second, I felt a decade’s worth of nostalgia hit my lungs at full force, processed the fact that 2020 was finally happening, and realized that I was not entirely ready to be a legal adult in a few months, all the while questioning whether the anticipation of 2020 for years on end could ever be matched by the year itself.

Unsurprisingly, those were not the last tears that I shed over the idea of 2020. Just a few months later, as COVID-19 progressed from an epidemic to a pandemic, the world suddenly stopped right when I had expected everything to begin. My dream of a perfect year was shattered, and I spent the first few weeks of quarantine selfishly mourning it. As days began to bleed together, I went from longing for 2020 to wanting it to be over.

At 5:23 pm, September 29th, 2020, I sit at my computer looking for the right words, if there are any. Perhaps this moment means something more to someone else.

Ironically, now that 2020 is slowly drawing to an end, I am not quite ready to part with it. I have finally come to appreciate 2020 for all the quiet hours it has given me to reflect on myself and the world around me. This year, I have learned so much that I had not allowed myself to understand earlier. Some of what I have learned may seem to be simple truths but are not so simple for other female-identifying individuals to accept. For example, I’ve learned that wanting to lose weight doesn’t make me any less of a feminist. I’ve learned that I don’t have to wear my hair down, up, curly, or straight for anyone; the way I wear my hair is for me. Most of all, I’ve learned that hitting the unsubscribe button to being a “good girl” does not make me any less of a good human.

For too long, I have been policing myself with quick internal reminders that good girls don’t ask, good girls don’t make mistakes, good girls aren’t “bossy”, good girls don’t voice their opinion if it causes conflict, good girls do what is asked and expected of them, and good girls always keep a plastic smile on their face. Good girl syndrome, as it is called, has left me feeling like I am not good enough more often than not, and has caused me to rely on external validation. This idea of a “good girl” is not something that I chose, but rather something society has subconsciously conditioned me to believe.

Now that I have the choice, I choose to leave the “good girl” image behind. Recovering from good girl syndrome isn’t something that I have done in a day; it’s something that I’m still working on. It comes in small successes, such as speaking up when I have an opinion to share or admitting that I’m not okay when I have had a bad day. It means that I can finally accept that I am imperfect and be myself, not the person that society wants me to be.

I am not perfect. The world is not perfect. It was ridiculous and certainly naïve for me to expect 2020 to be perfect. All those years ago, sitting in my kindergarten classroom donning a class of 2020 t-shirt, I could not have known what the numbers on my back would bring. While this year is far from the vision I expected to wish into reality, I am thankful for what it turned out to be. It may not be a shining symbol of optimism, but for me, 2020 has been a symbol of growth, and in a broader sense, a symbol of resilience. To 2021, I say, bring it on!