I’m a little annoyed that a year that sounds so pretty in the mouth had to be so filthy in the blood. 2020 will be the most attractive number I live through in my lifetime—not counting 2000, since I wasn’t there for most of it. We’re heading into the asymmetry and instability of 2021. The silver lining is that I took a leave from school and am now part of the class of 2024, which is decidedly sexier than 2023.

Enough tinkering with numbers. Time to face this uninspiring “tradition” I set up in 2018 when I decided I would give every year a name. Some combination of a theme, mantra, expectation, or resolution, governing the general sentiment of the coming year. Zeitgeist, but make it micro and narcissistic. I’m not particularly opposed to discarding traditions or rituals when they no longer feel helpful, but I think I want to keep this going for now. Things make more sense in retrospect anyway; when I named 2020 “sail”, I wasn’t hoping for a year of grand exploration or discovery, as the word might suggest. I was actually just thinking about how sails are designed so they can catch the smallest wind and still turn it into propulsion.

So despite the underwhelming holiday season and New Year’s celebrations, I have a couple hopes in my back pocket. And while I’ve been deposited back onto a floaty bed of lost intentions, I can at least ask myself: what is 2021? If that’s too grand of a question (and it is), which images or ideas am I drawn to when I consider what the coming year looks like?

There are times to widen and times to deepen. This year feels like a time to deepen; a contrast from last year, which surprisingly turned out to be a widening year, despite all the restrictions it had. I will also spend most of this year unaffiliated with an institution, so there is also a general meandering energy to it. It feels like freshman year is finally over (even though it’s been over for a while). Like the year of fucking around is over. I want to grow up this year, but also not. I want to assume the form of an adult and retain the heart of a teen. Amidst these scattered reflections on what I envision for the coming year, I started thinking about tides—the idea of cyclical change between high and low, full and empty. I also enjoy gravity, large bodies of water, and the moon, so this is an all-around attractive concept for me. My name for 2021 is Low Tide.

Water withdraws from the shore due to the moon’s gravitational pull. Curiosities are revealed in the glistening sand. Stories are unearthed, maybe. The flood of tasks, progress, and substance is pulled away. Not as a result of some focused intention to improve self-care habits, but coming forth from the natural order of things.

While preparing to write this post, I read an article about how earthquakes along mid-ocean ridges should, according to conventional theory, happen more often during high tides. Scientists expected that at high tides, when there is more water sitting on top of the fault, the ridge’s upper block would push down and cause earthquakes. But instead, a soft, pressurized pocket of magma below the surface expands and puffs up during low tide, causing more earthquakes.

I don’t feel like over-explaining why that phenomenon somehow means something to me. The kind of disruption that catches you off-guard. Happening when there’s less happening. Seismic activity. Soft pockets of magma allowed to breathe. Tremors.

*Cover image created by WNC.