As the most tumultuous year many of us can remember was careening to a close, we asked you to share one word that best describes your hopes or fears for 2021.
Your responses are depicted in the word cloud above; the bigger the lettering, the more often that word was submitted.
It was a follow-up to a similar request back in March, as the coronavirus was beginning to lacerate New York. We asked you for the one word that captured your emotional state at that moment. The differences from then to now are illuminating.
Back then, the most common responses were "frustrated," "uncertainty," "pissed" and "scared."
This time — even after the lockdowns and lockouts and lost jobs and more than 340,000 COVID-19 deaths in the United States alone — many of you expressed a rosier outlook to carry into the new year.
Your top choices by far were "hopeful" and "hope" with a hearty serving of "optimistic." That spirit is encouraging. We didn’t ask for explanations but we can imagine some: The availability and distribution of safe and effective vaccines, a new administration in Washington that recognizes the urgency of fighting the pandemic set to take over this month, the general hopefulness that accompanies the dawn of another year, the surmise that 2021 can’t possibly be worse.
But many of you are less sanguine at this moment. Perhaps, one reason is the stumbling effort out of the gate to inoculate as many Americans as possible with the vaccine is worrisome. Search the word cloud carefully. Some of you chose words like exhausted, pessimistic, anxiety, hopeless, broken, numb, and terrified. Look, too, for the many words describing emotions and feelings that lie at opposite ends of the mental health spectrum. Love and hate. Tense and relieved. Depressed and jubilant. Angry and glad. Stoic and unhinged.
Those choices are proof that 2020 took a toll on all of us. And that many of us felt that differently, processed that differently, and are moving forward differently. We need to be mindful of that and of the continued need to help each other.
In that sprit, we hope this year will be one defined by a new engagement with our community, one that seeks a genuine understanding of everyone’s challenges in these difficult times as we find our way to a better 2021.
— The editorial board