“Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.” — Helen Keller
As we welcome in 2021, I am hopeful for the healing, health and happiness we are seeking as the country begins to take action with new programs to unravel the horrific effects of social injustice, as we put the presidential election behind us, and as a vaccine for the coronavirus becomes a reality. The promise of once again connecting in person with family, friends, colleagues and clients motivates me. The thought is uplifting and provides hope for new beginnings.
Because we’ve just come out of one of the toughest years of our lifetime, and as we move and look toward the future, I would like to share a reflection of hope through a personal story.
One bright spring morning in 2007 as I drank my morning cup of coffee and turned on the TV to catch the news, my heart sank. Coverage on every channel was focused on a mass shooting at Virginia Tech. Reality hit quickly. My daughter, then a 19-year-old freshman, lived in the dormitory — in fact, on the same floor — where the shootings and killings began. It was surreal, a nightmare. When we finally got the call that she was in lockdown and OK, the feeling of relief was indescribable.
The university shut down for a week, but what I witnessed after that was perhaps even more incredible. I saw the world come together. I saw every other university in the country reach out to lend support. Calls to my daughter came in from all over, including from other universities and sister sororities. The rivalries disappeared, and there was a true coming together.
After a week, Virginia Tech reopened, and my daughter wanted to go back. My husband and I drove her there and arrived in time for the prayer services. The memory of the 32 balloons that were sent up into the sky is forever etched in my mind. It was then that my college freshman looked at me with tears in her eyes and asked, “Will we ever be happy again?”
I gave her hope by telling her that everyone would eventually heal, she would be happy again, and the Virginia Tech community would be happy again.
I share my story because we have been living through unprecedented times with racial divisiveness, business closures, dreadfully high unemployment, lockdowns and widespread illness for which no one was prepared. Rather than dwelling on how we have been emotionally drained to the point of exhaustion (and navigating this new world of Zoom fatigue), let’s embrace the future through the practice of camaraderie, outreach, caring and bonding. In other words, tapping into the lessons of resilience that emerged out of Virginia Tech’s determination to prevail. The students went back and, over time, the university grew and emerged stronger. As poet and university distinguished professor Nikki Giovanni remarked at the memorial ceremony: “We are strong and brave. … We are better than we think. … We will prevail! We will prevail! We will prevail!”
What is the relevance of my story to counseling? Counselors are in a position to help people heal, strive for good health and pursue happiness. We do this through our ability to listen, to reflect, to clarify and to validate the feelings that life brings to all of us. As I think of new beginnings, this may be a perfect time to reframe and reset your goals — and to help your clients continue to grow and flourish in 2021.
The research tells us that only 8% of New Year’s resolutions come to fruition. In that light, here are five alternatives from attorney and entrepreneur Marelisa Fabrega (daringtolivefully.com):
1) Create a bucket list.
2) Create a monthly 30-day challenge.
3) Create a yearly challenge.
4) Create a list of things to look forward to.
5) Create a one-word mantra for the year.
What does welcoming in the new year mean to you?