The end of a year only feels like an end. In truth, there is no temporal reset, just the same relentlessly forward-scrolling continuum as always, with all the same problems waiting on the other side of it.
Time is a construct, and there’s no point in conflating the horrible things that happen within any given unit of it with the unit itself, as though 2020 were a malevolent force hell-bent on creating chaos.
It certainly did feel that way, though.
The past 12 months are going to leave scars on most people who passed through them. The pandemic cost countless lives and livelihoods, and it also cost any last scrap of hope that the U.S. government can effectively look after its citizens. The George Floyd protests—and the way politicians on both sides of the aisle diminished them—radicalized a generation. The election and its seditious aftermath ensured that the ideological division in America is only going to get worse in the months and years ahead.
With the COVID-19 vaccine arriving, and Donald Trump set to depart the White House, things are already looking slightly more optimistic for 2021. It’s starting to look likely that, one day soon, we’ll be breaking the ice with strangers by talking about how each of us made it to the end of 2020. Whether we remember it at that point or not, part of the answer to that question for many people will be: with memes.