If I wrote a screenplay of my life, late December, 2000 would be the “All is Lost“* point. The lowest point for the protagonist, the point where it cannot get any worse but you also can’t figure out how it could ever get better for them.
I flew to Toronto from Virginia on Christmas Day, 2000. It was mostly a practical decision; my 6 months in the US (the longest Canadians can stay without any sort of visa) was ending soon, and I figured I would come home for a week and then go back and restart my time. (Note: I am now aware it doesn’t work like that, but I didn’t know that then.)
It was also a sentimental one, though. I had never been without my family on Christmas Day, and I was looking forward to seeing my grandma, my uncles, my cousins and my parents. I had plans with friends each day I’d be back in Toronto, and then I would return to the US on January 2.
I left Toronto in July, 2000 on awful terms. Time and distance healed me, but no one else, and being back in this place, it was suddenly like no time had passed at all. Immediately, I regretted my decision, and wanted to go home. Virginia was home. Toronto was not, and it was as eager to be rid of me as I was to be rid of it.
On December 27, I found out I could not go home.
By New Years Eve, I was about to be homeless, had no job, no money, and one week’s worth of clothes in a backpack, most of which were now worn and dirty.
I asked for help in every way I could, but there was little to be found. I burnt a lot of bridges on my way out, evidently, and now I was on my own.
One friend said she would ask her parents if I could stay with them for awhile, but I didn’t have my hopes up.
By the time the clock struck midnight, I was at a party with my friends from high school, counting down and shouting Happy New Year! with a brightness I absolutely did not feel.
I ended the year 2000 in a world that was both familiar and completely foreign, and entered 2001 with absolutely no idea what the future could possibly hold and nothing left of the world that I knew.
Sounds a little like 2020, right?
I have been struggling hard with this 20 year anniversary. History seems to repeat, like an endless, less funny Groundhog Day. Uncertainty looms again; due to a new lockdown, my workplace is closed for now. I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel right now, though I hear it’s out there somewhere.
But here’s what became of my life in 2001.
By January 2, my friend and her family came through, and I moved in with my high school friend L.
Now known as Sister Coyote.
By mid-January, I had a full time job. My trainer at that job annoyed me at first, and I him; that trainer became my friend, R.
Who is now Mr Coyote.
On July 10, 2001, I got to live my longest-held dream, at that point, when I met Brian Wilson.
My relationship with my family did not recover in 2001, but it did recover eventually. I was not able to be with them for Christmas, this year, for the first time ever; another weird unfamiliar moment in 2020.
There was also tragedy in 2001, there was more failure, health issues, healing and backtracking. And more change than I could process; more than I could handle. It was difficult, and nothing was familiar or easy. But 20 years later, the good parts of that year are the best parts of my current life, and I am immensely grateful for them.
The tragedies the world has endured in 2020 will never fully make sense. There is no justification for the millions of deaths, and nothing can ever make that better. No one has been unscathed; livelihoods have been lost, poverty is rampant, people have lost their homes.
I do not mean to minimize this.
But my wish is this. On December 31, 2000, there was nothing left for me. Everything was gone, and 2001 looked bleak and hopeless and empty.
It wasn’t. At all.
New Years’ isn’t magic; we aren’t going to suddenly turn off the ‘rona switch at the stroke of midnight, bring back the jobs and the lost lives and the world we all knew.
But I do hope that out of 2021, there will be things worth salvaging, for all of us. Things that in 20 more years, we’ll be grateful for, even if borne out of tragedy and hardship.
Hang on, everybody. The “All is Lost” screenplay trope is there to lead to the protagonists’ great redemption.
Whatever weird and wild world 2021 becomes, I hope it is wonderful. For all of us.
*I learned about the “All is Lost” moment in college, through the excellent book, Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder. Highly recommend!