While waiting for a Moses to lead us into the promised land, we have forgotten how to walk. –Wendell Johnson

Our guided first steps are taken in a moment, in a place, and in a world already midstride. We cannot start at the beginning of the journey or the beginning of the story. Alone on the inside looking out and trying to process what we encounter, we step into a role that others seem to be scripting around us. Often, others who care about us. Who want us to fit in because not doing so can be, for many, very dangerous indeed.

And so there we sit, some years later, accepting the reality given. Typecast and dressed for the part with all the right props, we are moved along to an expected future without noticing that we likely have never really learned to walk – never really learned to move forward with only our own authentic sense of direction. Never really learned to see clearly that much of what passes for reality is only held in place and empowered by our collective acceptance – even when it begins to go off the rails a bit. We spend a lot of time in the expected costumes, waiting for others (who we believe are keepers of that reality, who must certainly know its ways better than we do) to tell us we if got it right.

2020 has taught us a lot about waiting and about the guises of our particular reality in this time and in this place. It has highlighted for us, as we sat and waited and watched what humankind can be at its best and at its worst.

It has shown us how easily we can damage or end the life of a unique and irreplaceable individual. How easy it is to accept the unacceptable. How fragile we and the reality we believed to be solid and enduring really are – how easily that reality can slide (with a little push from silence and complicity) into another reality that we thought could never be in our time and in our place.

But It has also shown us what it is to care enough about another to risk all – to give all. We witnessed how important and life-changing kindness really is and, in turn, how we can change the character of reality around us with each choice we make to help and not to ignore (to pretend it is okay – that it isn’t our responsibility). We have learned a bit more about what we can create together even in the most challenging times. We might have surprised ourselves seeing what innovative problem solvers we can be on so many fronts. And we certainly have been given many chances to better understand the immense power of the simple act of telling the truth about what is and what is not, as well as having the personal courage to oppose the untrue and the unacceptable. It has allowed us to begin to see in greater detail what heroism is and what kinds of individuals and acts should be celebrated (and which should not).

2020 has allowed many of us to more fully realize that each individual life should be seen for what it is – a one-of-a-kind treasure. A treasure complete with all the distinctive imperfections that make the whole perfect. A treasure worth a great deal of investment to hold on to for our collective benefit, but a treasure nonetheless even if lost to us – for a while. As we look ahead with hope to 2021, perhaps we are better able to see afresh the reality around us – the wonder in each of us. Which may allow us to be better able to step away from our assigned roles assumed in one version of reality and for us to allow others around us to do the same (come out from behind the masks, as it were). Perhaps we are coming to understand more completely that the future will comprise a reality of our collective making – requiring great care and mutual support as we make each choice that will determine what we will be and also what we will not be.In that light, maybe 2020 was a very good year. A shared time of waiting, watching, and wondering that allowed us to see more clearly that the promise of the future can only be made real as we learn to walk forward together with care and courage.

Here we come, 2021...

Joyce Feucht-Haviar
University Senior International Officer, CSUN
Dean, Tseng College, CSUN