2020 was the year of people showing their true colors. It was also the year I (and many others) went full-blown KonMari on my life and the people in it. Because when you’re trying to manage remote learning and a full-time job, while keeping your family safe and surviving a global pandemic, you have not one ounce left for bullshit in your life. And that includes closet assholes.
In times of crisis, people tend to show who they really are. Which is why 2020 was also the year that it became crystal clear that being a nice person is not the same thing as being a good person. In fact, some of the seemingly “nicest people around” are actually Trump-supporting, covert racists who scream about OPENING UP THE SCHOOLS BECAUSE MY KID IS FALLING BEHIND, AGGHHH.
This realization has been, to put it bluntly, deeply traumatic. Parents of kids my sons had played with just a handful of years ago turned out to be people who start or sign petitions to get school administrators fired if they don’t REOPEN THE SCHOOLS NOW! Folks who consider themselves to be “good Christians” supported a pussy-grabbing narcissist who had kids kept in cages. People who are seemingly smart, successful, educated people turned out to be anti-maskers.
It was shocking to realize that someone you had respected is actually a hypocrite who voted for Trump. Twice. It was painful to be called names by extended family members. And it was terrifying to realize that so many people can willfully ignore science and facts so they can keep “living their best life” – all while their actions actually put people at serious risk literally living.
I have always believed that most people are mostly good most of the time – and I still do believe that, but now it is painfully obvious that “most” is far less than I had previously thought.
I am a trusting person. I believe in cutting people some slack, especially when we’re in stressful, chaotic, uncharted territory. We’re all muddling through after all. Sometimes we fall short. We deserve grace.
But man oh man, the shit that has gone down over the past year is just too much. There’s only so much slack to be cut before you realize that someone is actually just a selfish jerk. And if there is one thing that that I’ve learned in the past few years, it is that I have zero energy for selfish jerks.
The past year has been a continual process of choosing who I want to be surrounded by, and the people I want in my life. Quarantines and amped-up anxiety have solidified some friendships, while others have slipped away. I’ve reconnected with old classmates over shared values, even though we may not have been friends all those years ago. I’ve unfriended and unfollowed more people than I can count.
But now, god willing, we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The pandemic won’t last forever. Eventually life will get back to normal – or something the sort of resembles normal. But what do we do about all those fractured relationships, the friendships that fell off because we realized someone wasn’t who we thought they were, the family members who threw insults at us on social media? What do we do with all of that? Is it possible to unsee their true colors?
Personally, I don’t know if I can unsee what I’ve seen over the past year. I don’t know if I want to. I’m not suggesting that I want to set fire to every relationship where we don’t see eye-to-eye. Quite the contrary. This has never been about a difference of opinion; it’s about a difference in values. And because I too want to live my best life, I just don’t have a lot of room for people in my life who have different values.
Oh, sure, we’ll be friendly at school drop-offs and when we cross paths in the grocery store. We’ll like each other’s pics of dogs and kids (assuming we haven’t unfollowed each other). And we’ll say “hi” at group get-togethers and parties. We’ll chit-chat about the weather and compliment each other on our shoes or earrings. We’ll ask about vacations and new jobs. Over time, life will calm down. Emotions will settle down. Everything will become less charged.
But deep down, we know. We cannot unsee what we have seen over the past year.
Of course, people can change and I write very few people off completely. Lord knows, I have more than my fair share of regrets and mistakes. And I will continue to hold out hope that people I had thought of as good and kind people will one day act in a way that aligns with that. But once a person has done things that cause such deep harm – like refusing to wear a mask or voting for an actual white supremacist – the bar is pretty damn high. I might have a glimmer of hope, but truthfully, I’m not holding my breath.
Because 2020 was a year of true colors, and we can’t unsee all of that.