Thank God it’s over.
Wildfires, record storms, murder hornets, police killings, poisonous politics, armed protests, never-ending elections, losing John Lewis and RBG, and a pandemic that sickened millions and killed more than 300,000 in the U.S. alone, not to mention the resultant reeling economy that has left many struggling.
With this annus horribilis finally behind us, it’s apparent that this January won’t be one for resolutions but rather anti-resolutions: the things we’d rather not see or do ever again, thank you.
Many of those center around those words we hope will fall permanently out of use: Zoom (as a verb, anyway). Social distance. Masking — especially “facemask haute couture,” as doctoral candidate Archana Basu, put it. The words “asynchronous,” “synchronous,” “hybrid,” and “flex” as modifiers for any form of teaching, if Jill Alys Radsken, associate director of communications for Harvard College, had her way.
Jill Casey, who manages marketing and communications for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, has a simpler request. “After 2020, I never want to hear or say the word ‘unprecedented’ again,” she said.
And Basu, a research scientist in epidemiology at the T.H. Chan School, added her own not-so-fond farewell to such alternative-office “venue choices” as “bedroom or living room,” as well as the semantics of COVID-protocol boundaries. “Do I live at work? Or work at home?”
Looking ahead to what has to be a better year, some focused on the pandemic rituals they hope will depart with this sorry season. “Home-schooling three kids (part-time) while working (full-time),” has grown old for Brigid O’Rourke of the University’s Public Affairs and Communications Department. As for Michael Ricca, administrative coordinator for the deputy director’s office at the Harvard Art Museums: “I promise never again to engage in outdoor dining in the month of November” or to “sit at a table that’s surrounded by a haze of exhaust while outdoor dining.”
As even bringing food home has become risky, groceries fit into many anti–resolutions. Ashley Bowditch Hawkins, executive assistant in the Department of Science dean’s office, wants to “not have to sanitize everything we bring in the door” in 2021. Shopping itself became a recurring theme. “I long to go shopping unfettered with all this extra covering,” said Peg Herlihy. The Astronomy Department administrator lists the requisite mask, gloves, hat with visor, and protective glasses that make her feel “like a bandit,” particularly when she then ventures out to find shelves as bare as if “a robbery has already taken place.”
As for venturing out, travel — or the lack thereof — dominated lists. “I’m hoping to never have to cancel another much-looked forward to/needed vacation to somewhere new,” said Hawkins. That one hit home for Sarah Lyn Elwell, the FAS Division of Science’s director of research operations. “In 2020, I canceled family trips to Italy, Utah, Puerto Rico, and China,” said Elwell. A promise for the future? “We are looking forward to continuing to work toward our goal of visiting all seven continents before my boys graduate high school,” she said. More modestly, Ricca hopes to never again “consider a walk to the post office to be a ‘special day out.’”
More expressed the fervent wish that the year’s losses will end with 2020. “I hope never to see another favorite restaurant or small business close,” said Hawkins, speaking for many. Basu also hit a universal theme when she turned serious, hoping for the end of worrying about loved ones far away, and the return of all those missed hugs. Perhaps most poignant, she wants an end to “having to say goodbye to ill or dying loved ones through video chats.”
A good number gladly kissed the politics of this election year goodbye. Physics librarian Marina Werbeloff looks forward to “not seeing Trump’s name or face ever again, and not hearing his voice.” Robert N. Stavins, A.J. Meyer Professor of Energy and Economic Development at the Kennedy School, was more specific. “Once this year is over (or more precisely, once it is past noon on Jan. 20), I hope to never have to worry about what ex-President Trump says or does again.”
Others vowed to take forward the lessons learned. “I will never again trust someone who voted for Trump,” said Liz Hoveland ’22, who is also determined to “never take my white privilege for granted again.”
A few actually found something good to make permanent. “My feet have been the beneficiaries of working remotely during the pandemic,” said Martha Tedeschi, the Elizabeth and John Moors Cabot Director of the Harvard Art Museums. “I have become accustomed to the comfort of bare feet and Birkenstocks. I find I can actually concentrate better on my work.” Her resolution? “Never again will I ruin a perfectly good day or a lovely evening event by wearing high heels!”
Hoveland shared a similar goal. “I will never get my hair done at a salon again while I can do it just fine myself at home,” said the history and women, gender, and sexuality studies concentrator.
On a related note, sweatpants were invoked in several resolutions, both pro and con. “I will never wear real pants again when it is socially acceptable to wear sweats,” swore Hoveland. Ricca, on the other hand, swore off the comfy athletic wear, at least “while attending a meeting.”
In a nod to tradition, a few made anti–resolutions with an eye toward self-improvement — and a 2020 slant. John Connolly, associate director of marketing for the Harvard Art Museums, for example, promised to “stop using Zoom meetings as my own personal mirror to fix my hair.”
For Archon Fung, Winthrop Laflin McCormack Professor of Citizenship and Self-Government at the Kennedy School, the goal for 2021 is simple. “I will never watch ‘Tiger King’ again.”
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