Each year becomes more difficult to distinguish from the last. 2021 was a little creature attached at 2020’s hip, a hung-over afterthought crafted in poor taste. Since 2018, I’ve been giving a name to each year: part guide, part vision, part self-fulfilling prophecy. In lieu of a retroactive archive, looking back on a year that has passed and attaching an appropriate label, I engage in the practice of looking ahead—naming something before I know what it will be like. Carving a path in the dirt for the water. I also prefer it to New Years’ resolutions because it’s more interpretive than prescriptive, and that’s how I like to live.
I write this on the 31st of January, which is the last acceptable day for this kind of thing. It still feels okay to be living in the past year, writing and erasing “2021” on my journal entries. This seems forgivable until January passes entirely, and we move into the new year on the lunar calendar.
Eleven months to go. And for the first time since graduating from high school, I am looking to the future with hope.
I used to think that if I noticed myself not in a state of despair, it must mean that I have been ignorant or detached from the state of matters—that if I was truly present and aware of what was happening in the world and my relative position to it, depression would be the only state of being that made sense. I no longer feel this way. There was no intellectual shift or growth that suddenly made me more optimistic. But if to hope means to imagine a different future, and to exercise and rehearse that future in the present moment, it almost feels like a duty to hold onto hope, to continue to strive.
I hope 2022 will be yellow. This is not my favorite color, but I did beg Mom for a bright yellow rain jacket a couple years ago. I was old enough to buy one for myself, and it had been years since I stopped shopping with my parents. But in that moment, I enjoyed the tenderness and dependency of asking for clothing, almost reflecting the youthful quality I longed for in the rain jacket itself.
2022 is a big year in many ways. Solidifying my undergraduate academic trajectory, with no backing out this time. Studying abroad in Berlin, an exploration I’ve planned and yearned for since before the pandemic. Spending a summer writing, and being held to it. The first period in my life I will get to dedicate myself fully to this craft, (hopefully) with compensation and mentorship—and if it doesn’t go well, perhaps the last. Perhaps even a period that defines this work as hobby or livelihood for the next few years. 2022 comes with high stakes, and I can only hope to handle them with a yellow sense of joy and wonder rather than gravity and singularity.
In a picture book I read and re-read as a child, all the colors were conceived as shapes with their own personalities—orange was a loud, attention-seeking star, blue was a calm, absorbing rectangle stretching into the distance. Yellow was the villain, a group of pointy isosceles triangles that invaded every other color and eventually caused chaos.
Yellow is an expression of the trajectories I hope to take this year. It’s not in my nature to be active or to insert myself into new spaces, but maybe that’s what I need. Maybe I need to let myself fully experience happiness when it comes. Maybe I just need some fun.
2021 was “low tide” because it was a year to uncover, turn over, and renew. 2021 is a year to expand and create. My rain jacket is a wonderful lemon yellow and it lives in my tiny dormitory closet, a reminder of my belief that I never have to grow up; I can choose to grow wide, so that I may carry more of myself. I want more of myself this year. I want more. I want to want. I want to have. I want chaos and joy and yellow, yellow, yellow.