A print that says "One day at a time, Darling" next to a vase of flowers and a sculpture

“A Roundtable With Darling” offers real talk from a few of our writers. This Q&A series will take an issue and share the writers’ personal experience and lessons learned. The hope is to create a space of connection and transparency.

This year has been hard, to say the least. Let’s look back together. Even in the hard bits, there can be lessons learned and hope for the future.

A handful of Darling writers got together (virtually) to look back on the past 12 months. Gather around the table with us as we reflect. As if we were all at a table together laughing, crying and sharing our stories over a warm meal—pull up a seat as we look back on all there is to mourn and appreciate about 2020.

Here is what our Darling writers had to say about the year 2020:

What have you lost personally in 2020?

“Control. The funny thing is I never really had it. So in that sense I feel like 2020 has forced me to let go of this idea that if I do things just right that I can control the outcome of external things.” – Shelby Cormier, Carlsbad, California

“I lost a sense of home. I was displaced from my apartment in NYC for almost four months, and when I went back, nothing was the same. So many people were gone and not coming back. So many stores, restaurants and bakeries that made up the neighborhood I knew and loved were closed down, most for good.

Even now with so much uncertainty about how the city will rebound, the feeling of ‘home’ seems so far away. It’s made me question so much about what makes a home and how to be content without one.” — Bailey Price, New York City, New York

“Even now with so much uncertainty about how the city will rebound, the feeling of ‘home’ seems so far away.”

I’m really lucky in so many ways. My family is all safe and healthy. I’ve managed to replace the work I lost thanks to the pandemic. That definitely took some time. As a freelancer, I’m used to a bit of instability, but I had to turn over my entire income stream in March and April. 

Maybe the most frivolous but also most cherished thing I lost were a few travel opportunities. I was so excited to learn about some new places, but it’s the time with my friends I really regret losing.”  Shelbi Polk, Raleigh, North Carolina

How did you process feeling overwhelmed by what was happening in the world? 

“As I was shedding this idea that I could control my surroundings, I had moments where I got extremely overwhelmed. I was scared for the health of my loved ones mainly, and in those moments, I reminded myself that whether this is the craziest year or the most mundane, I still cannot control the outcome. The only thing I can control right now is maintaining my mental health and spreading as much love as I can to the people in my life.” – Shelby Cormier

“There were so many days where it all just felt so unreal. It was like I couldn’t get my brain to process what was happening—the numbers, the gravity, the global and collective loss. I tried to process out loud with family and friends, but a lot of days, I just sat quietly and prayed. When the world feels too heavy to understand, the only thing I know how to do is look up.” — Bailey Price

“When the world feels too heavy to understand, the only thing I know how to do is look up.”

I actually liked staying home the first few months. I’ve never been good at carving out the time for myself when I need it, so being forced to slow down wasn’t the worst thing that’s ever happened. I didn’t have enough work, but I was working out twice a day, attending Zoom birthday parties for friends who lived hours away and finding new hobbies I could do from home. 

However, after I’d been living more or less alone for a few months (my roommates were quarantining with other people, mostly), the summer hit hard. I slipped into a depression worse than anything I’ve felt in years. I’m so blessed to have some amazing friends who were able to help draw me back out of that spiral. My family, my church and friends all around the world helped me rally—largely by convincing me to Zoom when I didn’t feel like it—or even scheduling distanced hangouts.”  Shelbi Polk

What in 2020 left you disheartened? What in 2020 left you hopeful?

“The division in this country has left me deeply disheartened. We’ve started to cling to our ideals and beliefs for dear life, so much so, that when communities and people ask for support, and are seeking to be heard and seen, others are incapable of empathy. Because for many, their unyielding commitment to their notions born out of fear seemingly take precedence over community. 

On the flip side, I have felt a deep sense of hope seeing people set down the fervent commitment to their beliefs in order to love one another and see one another. Being a Black biracial woman in 2020 has come with a myriad of emotions, but what brings me hope is the amount of people who have chosen community over self, listening over judgment and collaboration over competition.”  – Shelby Cormier

“What brings me hope is the amount of people who have chosen community over self, listening over judgment and collaboration over competition.”

The anger left me disheartened. It was such an angry year in every possible realm. So much of it was good, righteous anger (I shared it deep in my bones), but there was a lot of nonsensical anger too—outrage and divide. It just didn’t seem to make sense or to serve anyone well.

The stories of resilience left me hopeful. The restaurants that did creative, wild things to make it through. The people that found ridiculous ways to stay connected to their loved ones. The seemingly endless stories of people choosing joy, love, faith and survival in the midst of so much suffering. It was all such beautifully defiant hope.” — Bailey Price

What’s a personal take away from the last 365 days that you’d like to take with you into 2021?

“We control only ourselves. As somebody who likes to think I have way more control than I actually do, 2020 has humbled me to my core. I have had to learn over and over again, in a new way almost every day, that I can only control my attitude, how I take care of myself and how I show up for those around me.” – Shelby Cormier

“There was something beautiful about being forced to view my life under the microscope that lockdown created. With so few distractions, I became acutely aware of the way I spent my time, what I valued, what I enjoyed and who I really cared to share life with.

It’s almost as if before the pandemic, I was floating through my days unaware of how precious it all was. Now and going forward, I want to hold those things in such high regard. I want to choose the things, people and places that make up my days with so much more intention and purpose.” — Bailey Price

“Before the pandemic, I was floating through my days unaware of how precious it all was. Now and going forward, I want to hold those things in such high regard.”

What, if anything, has 2020 taught you about humility and being a student of life?

“2020 has taught me so much about humility. I have learned that I cannot control the outcome of things, that it is OK to say that I was wrong and I am willing to learn. 2020 has also taught me that it is not a sign of weakness to ask for help. We all need each other and asking for support from those who love you is totally OK.”  – Shelby Cormier

“I’ve always thought of humility as an individual pursuit. I’ve been humbled so many times in life, and each one has felt both lonely and important. Humility is a virtue I long for, but only ever considered it on a personal level.

2020 changed that for me. There was a global humiliation (in the truest sense of the word) as we were stripped of the lives we’d built and the things we thought we knew. There was something kind of beautiful about it. As if we all stood around looking at each other thinking, What did we miss? How did we get here? How are we going to get through it? Maybe this collective journey is even more important than our personal pursuits. Maybe on the other side we’ll be a softer, kinder people because of all we’ve been through this year.”  — Bailey Price

“Maybe on the other side we’ll be a softer, kinder people because of all we’ve been through this year.”

“I love change and novelty, but I didn’t realize I was chasing them as a way to ignore some lack in my own life. I don’t think of myself as a lonely person because I’ve never had to. Whenever I wanted more, I would sign up for a new class or event. I didn’t feel lonely because I was always able to meet new people and pursue possibility.

This year, there was no possibility. No chance encounters on the street or random new friends in hostels. I was humbled by my own inability to change my circumstance until I moved to a new town in August and happened to land with the best roommates. We were adamant about meeting our neighbors and staying connected. I think the biggest thing I learned was to settle into my feelings and to not immediately try to relieve them. I know more about myself and what I want than I have in years. There’s a middle, somewhere, between running away from feelings and stewing in them, and that’s what I’m shooting for.” – Shelbi Polk

What is one area you’d like to grow in next year? Is there something you’d like to learn more about?

“One of the things I’ve been able to be more mindful about in 2020 in my own effort to be sustainable and climate conscious. I look forward to learning more about how I can contribute to conserving, saving and loving our earth in 2021 and taking as much personal responsibility to make positive change that I can.”  – Shelby Cormier

“I want to be a better neighbor. It was such a strange phenomenon to be stuck at home for so long and realize I had no idea who the people were that were stuck in the apartments around me. I didn’t know how to help them or what their needs were during lockdown. I didn’t even know their names.

2020 taught us so much about the importance of loving the people around us by seeing them—seeing their needs, their pain and their suffering—and moving toward them in love. I really hope to better engage the people within my reach and learn to truly live out the call to ‘love thy neighbor.’” — Bailey Price

“2020 taught us so much about the importance of loving the people around us by seeing them—seeing their needs, their pain and their suffering.”

“I’ve been writing professionally for a few years now, but it’s time to focus in on my creative work. If anyone wants to start a writing group, hit me up!” – Shelbi Polk

How can adversity spur us to growth and hope?

“I personally really have to continue to unlearn this falsehood that at some point in our lives we will reach a point where we finally ‘get it’. Right now we are realizing in individual ways and collective ways that there is no such thing as ‘making it’. In 2020, we have all—together and alone—faced so much adversity, and it has swung the door wide open for growth.

“In 2020 we have all—together and alone—faced so much adversity, and it has swung the door wide open for growth.”

2020 was that humbling reminder that we haven’t ‘made it.’ It showed us that there are gaps, that in many ways we have been wrong and that we can cultivate much more collectively. Adversity provides us with a choice—to fight it or to soften to the idea that there is more here if we choose to grow through this pain.”  – Shelby Cormier

“We don’t get to choose whether or not we will face adversity. We only get to choose how we’ll respond to it. We had so many opportunities this year to make that choice; there were so many moments—big and small—that required us to choose between despair or hope.

If we can view adversity as an agent for change and if we can walk into the fire with a willingness to let the things that no longer serve us burn off, then we can come out on the other side strengthened and hopeful. We just have to have the courage to do so.” — Bailey Price

“I really don’t know if I would have taken the time to figure out what I value most if I hadn’t been forced to slow down. My hope is that we all come out of this refined and focusing on our resilience. The pandemic has only exacerbated our world’s inequalities and systemic issues. I really hope that the conversations this year has started don’t fizzle out. If this year helps us really further the fight for racial reconciliation, then that would be a fantastic outcome to a mess of a year.” – Shelbi Polk

What final words would you like to say to 2020?

“Oh 2020, you’ve been quite consistent in your reminder that we have a long way to go. Thank you for not giving up on us. Thank you for reminding us that we belong to each other, even if we haven’t found our way back together quite yet. I can’t say I’ll miss you all too much, but I can say that I am eternally grateful for you. You have pushed me to grow in ways I could have never expected.” – Shelby Cormier

“You changed us—all of us. You took away our feelings of control and certainty; you took away lives, jobs, travel plans, routines and any sense of normalcy we once had, but you didn’t win. As you see yourself out, we’ll hold on to all we gained in spite of you—perspective, hope, appreciation for what we have and a whole new idea of what really matters. Now get out.” — Bailey Price

“Boy howdy, am I glad to see you go. Hope your next few successors are a little kinder to us.”  Shelbi Polk

What have you learned from 2020? How do you create space to grieve lost things while also holding hope for the future?

Image via Tony Li

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