Originally written on December 31, 2020
I don’t know how to talk about this year. Not just here, I mean, in general. I’ve tried. I was discussing the events of this year with my siblings and after your fifth “Ooof, that suuuucked”, you don’t really want to talk about it anymore. But here I am. Writing about 2020 in generalities because such a shit year deserves some kind of “It’s over” marker.
My roommate texted me a couple weeks ago and said, “Can you believe that we saw Oklahoma THIS YEAR?” which is insane, not just because of time, but because the audience was invited to stand on the stage floor to partake in chili and cornbread from shared crockpots *this year*. At the beginning of 2020 I said to my friend Tess, “I just have to remember that if all I accomplish this year is directing my first show and stage managing at the Edinburgh Fringe then that’s an amazing year” which remembering now makes me want to scream into a pillow. I will not be partaking in that whole trend of posts, “Let’s spread the positivity! Drop something POSITIVE you did this year! We need some positivity! Let’s be positive!” as if that fixes anything; that shit’s not even good for a boost of serotonin. So. Yeah. I’m not interested in talking specifics. We all know what happened.
But it’s over. Well, it’s not actually over, the virus is still living and spreading, but, the year is over. The year is over. The only other year I’ve ever been as happy to bid goodbye was 2016. Which got me thinking about one of the weirdest experiences I had in 2020 and the only specific I’ll discuss here….watching Hamilton.
As we all know, the recording of the original Broadway cast of Hamilton was released on Disney+ this past summer. It was a fun bright spot of the year. I sat down to fulfill my theatre kid duty, and with the opening cords I was fully pulled into a sense memory. I was on the Path bus, eyes glued to my phone, watching the number performed on the Today Show for the first time. I remembered rocking and swaying on the bus, working very hard to contain my excitement. The rest of my 2020 Hamilton viewing was like that. Random lines brought back specific memories. Walking through New York City on a freezing cold night, speeding through the lyrics to My Shot to keep us distracted from the cold. Smiling to myself on the subway platform while I played Helpless on repeat. When everyone was quoting the Reynold’s Phamplet after the Access Hollywood scandal…ya know, “He’s never gonna be president now” (talk about cringe). Despite the variation of memories, I only cried four times. Schylur Sisters out of joy, Helpless from bittersweet memories, Quiet Uptown for obvious reasons, and then at the very end. At the very end of the musical, Eliza gasps, the lights go out and I went from 0-100 in SOBS. I’m still not 100% sure why. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the gasp got me. It was unexpected and beautiful. But after I described my viewing experience to my friend Mimi, and mentioned the sudden sobbing, she said, “Sounds like a grief response”.
Maybe I was grieving the heartbreaks of 2016. Maybe I was grieving the reality that, because the whole world shut down, there is not a singular piece of art to frame this year the way Hamilton framed 2016. Maybe I was grateful. Grateful that, much like the Parks&Rec reunion special a few months prior, stories and characters that got me through one difficult year had showed up for me again. Maybe I cried because I was emotionally tired. Maybe I cried because, in a way, living through all those memories again gave me hope.
Hope because…I don’t have an issue citing specific memories from 2016. It stings, sometimes, sure, but it was what it was. I got through it. I healed. I can talk about that year, and I can make jokes. Laugh, roll my eyes, cringe, tear up, smile. I may not be able to do those things in regards to 2020, but I will eventually. There is a sixth stage of grief and it is Attributing Meaning. We’re not there yet. Definitely not today. No, today is for reflecting if you want and then boldly saying, “BYE, FELICIA”.
So. That’s my take. Reflect if you want, but if you’re at a loss as to how to respond, I think that’s ok. It sucked, and you can send off this year and get to the sixth stage of grief later. We’ll get there eventually and it doesn’t have to be today.
I’ve said my piece and I want to abruptly close with two Hamilton quotes.
One, a word of comfort from a year that seems, even at its fullest, empty (especially to those in the arts):
“Every action’s an act of creation”
And another to laugh and kick this year to the curb:
“I need no introduction, when you knock me down I get the fuck back up again”
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!