Clean (but confusing) Slates for 2021

It is finally over. 2020 is gone, dead and buried, and if possible, I would never speak of it ever again. But we have to remain realistic, and accept the fact that the changing of the year does not magically solve problems, and whatever mess we ended up in due to the pandemic will still be with us for the first part of this year. Nevertheless, we embark on a new year with renewed hope, stronger faith, humility, courage, and by golly a desperate need to kick ass.

My way of ending 2020 was reflective of the entire year that came to pass – very different. For the first time in 53 years that I have inhabited this planet, I spent New Year’s Eve only in the solemn and silent company of my cats. Mind you, I am not complaining. It was a totally different experience, yes, but not a bad one at all. In fact, it felt very much like a retreat and I was reminded of my childhood days when New Year’s Eve was spent mostly in church. I attended mass online, made a simple noodle dish for myself, and sat down to watch a movie, with two snoring cats as my fellow audience. Cats are perfect movie companions because they don’t carry on running commentaries or ask stupid questions that have nothing to do with the movie. On the other hand, if you miss a line or stood up to grab that half bag of chips that was screaming your name from the kitchen, the cats are utterly useless.

I was blessed to be included in a family zoom call at some point, and of course the text messages flew in faster than any Central European airport. So technically, I wasn’t completely alone, there was just no other body present in the room with me. Fifteen minutes before midnight, I opened all the cabinets, switched on all the lights, and stood at the balcony door to welcome in 2021 with one cat sitting curiously in my arms. Lolita is normally never interested in the outside world, but with all fireworks, she was suddenly alert and very lucid. I found it odd that in spite of all the restrictions on fireworks this year, the Berlin sky was still lit up with brilliant colours. It wasn’t as spectacular as previous years, but still much more than I anticipated, which was a good thing.

How do we proceed from here? That was the question I asked myself this morning as I did my household chores. How do you start the new year in the best possible manner after the horrific year we just walked away from? Be re-defining terms and setting intentions, that’s how.

Positive is bad and negative is good.
This is one of the most bizarre carry-overs from 2020. We learned that being positive is bad thing, because that spells COVID-19 in our bodies, with a domino effect on everyone you were in contact with previously. The definitions and uses of the words positive and negative are so heavily laced with the pandemic that you have to explain yourself properly, both verbally and in the written form, what you mean by someone being positive… positive for what? positive how? Negative why? Negative of course! Negative and positive have ceased to be behavioural attitudes and have transformed into biological determinants for health. Wow, talk about upside-down world.

No resolutions, just real solutions
This isn’t just me trying to debunk the notion of New Year’s resolutions, but it is a frustrated global society anxious to get on with their lives. Leaders as well as politicians are full of resolutions, but few of them are real or practical solutions in the present crisis. The world leaders pushed for the development of the vaccine at top speed, but now we face production, storage, delivery and implementation strategies. Where does that leave us? Resolute, without resolutions for the impasse, and no viable solutions. Confused? So is the rest of the world.

During my years as an HRD trainer, one of the goals was to unmask people and help them explore their true potential, leadership qualities, communication skills, and ability to deliver criticism as well as accept it. It was about being strong but authentic, determined but compassionate, truthful but skilful. Wearing a public mask was not seen kindly, and that meant extra work to reconcile the public and private personalities. 2020 changed all that, and now, an unmasked person is an outcast, a rebel, an irresponsible citizen. As one of the many social media memes reminds us, who knew that the time would come when we had to wear masks to the bank!

Zoom does not mean speed
How many of you grew up with the expression stop zooming around or I will zoom over? That used to mean an expression of movement i.e. speed but has now transformed into a standard form of communication. You don’t zoom over anymore, you have zoom calls zoom family get-togethers. Gone are the days when you would have to account to someone if you were zooming in the fast lane, usually the police. These days you have a zoom account and the faster the better. Good grief.

The pandemic really screwed with our language, neurolinguistics, and social interactions.
In persons – also referred to as influencers or those setting a trend on social media.
In person – Then we had actual appearances of people who were either not expected, on the run, or deemed to be so mysterious and recluses that their existence was questionable. So the expression was yes, they actually appeared in person.
In-person – Ah, but then comes the pandemic, home office and all the zoom calls… so now when you set up meetings or interviews you have to define whether it is an in-person meeting or a virtual one over the internet. It rather reminded me of the writ of habeas corpus… yes, bring the body to court, oh sorry, I meant we meet face-to-face in person.

Since I brought it up, we might as well define another complicated term that took a serious twist down the zoom alley – face-to-face. You have to define what type of face-to-face meeting you want to have. Ordinarily this automatically means two or more bodies meeting in a specified venue. Not anymore. It basically just means a video conference call these days, which is why you have to specify whether or not it is an in-person meeting or not, otherwise one person will be waiting online the other in a cafe if they misunderstood the terms Internet cafe or online cafe. Please pass the cafe.

Last on my list is post- , yes, with a hyphen. Post no longer means letters or packages sent via the postal services. According to Oxford’s list of words to look out for In 2021, we speak of everything that is post-2020: post-pandemic, post-quarantine, and post-lockdown. I look forward to all these and wish.

As we wipe our muddy and muddled post-2020 slates clean, we define our terms of communication and specify our intentions in order to move forward and rebuild, as the Berlin motto 2021calls for: Mit Mut und Zuversicht (with courage and optimism). Good luck to us all.

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