When the woman who had been my grandmother for the last decade died, I went to the ocean.

It wasn’t planned. I just knew I needed a drive. And I drove. I wove through backroads like I have countless times before, when my soul would be stirring and the only remedy was making the scenery move. I had mindlessly headed east until I was just a few towns from the Atlantic — and I decided to keep going. I found a parking spot, I walked the beach, I took in the air and the waves and the rocks.

It was exactly what I did on the day my father died.

I didn’t mean for the parallel to happen, but it did. Which, in many ways, runs parallel with a lot of the events in my life. These constant overlaps occur, like the writers’ room had decided my show should be full of flashbacks and callbacks, that the richness of the show will come in similar scenarios with slightly different details.

If I detach my own feelings from the situation, I see the texture to it. It is a remarkable work of art, even if the brush strokes feel uneven.

“Hindsight is 2020!”

I remember people making that joke at the beginning of the year. But I remember it the same way someone remembers their high school days — with hazy distance, like it happened in another life.

The beginning of the year. Sometimes I have to map out 2020, really categorize and compartmentalize. It feels like a meeting of all the different versions of me — the optimistic teacher at the height of her career; the home improvement expert at the beginning of lockdown, who painted her basement and overhauled her lawn and started a vegetable garden and raised chickens; the adventuring hiker who devoted her summer to the toughest trails; the hysterical and yet hopeful damsel that the fall’s events created…

…and then present-day day me. The current sum of the other parts. Or perhaps sum is the wrong word. It’s not simple addition. Things have been subtracted and multiplied. She is the current function of X, subject to change in this wildly complicated math.

I like this version of her. I like that I can continue to like the present version of me, even if I am constantly looking back on who I was — even who I was just a few months ago — and shaking my head like a parent watching their toddler (my sweet summer child. At some point you’ll grow up).

Hindsight is 2020.

If nothing else, 2020 felt like the season finale on the last five years. The kind where closure is met with character write-offs and plot twists are expected. The kind of year where you look back and stare down the past and see who blinks first.

It has been the kind of finale where, if you hadn’t been paying close attention to the main character, you would think that all of her climactic moments came from left field.

But they didn’t. The main character had it in her the entire time to speak her truth — no, not speak, yell — over FaceTime to someone who should’ve known better. She had it in her to draw lines in the sand and decide what she will and will not put up with. She always had it in her to step forward into new opportunities. And she had it in her to change unhealthy patterns, disrupt them — however late in the game — before they could completely repeat themselves.

Hindsight is 2020. I can’t regret a single thing that the last five years have brought because the last five years have brought me here. What butterfly effect would unravel if one thing had been done differently, even the things that make me look back and shake my head like a parent looking at their rebellious teenager (oh my sweet summer child; you think you’re acting in your best interests)?

There has been vivid and surreal and eerie parallels throughout the year — throughout the last five years. Intricate brush strokes that make me believe something bigger is at play. And even if not: what a rare gem I found — that random chance and paint splatters have made something so layered and exquisite.

A few old songs play as I drive through the night, getting from my house to my best friend’s house, one of the few faces I see during this pandemic.

Because of course. Sometimes the parallels are in reruns of songs when your headspace seems to mimic the same. But these parallels and reruns are not a bad thing, in the end. They are a chance to read over the notes one more time, correct the grammatical errors and see what wording you want to change. It’s a chance to go over trodden ground and become more prepared for it. It’s the map to territories that I both have and haven’t been to yet. There’s a saying that lessons will keep popping up in your life until you learn them. Whether that is divine fate or human folly, I can’t be the deciding vote. But I do know there’s something to be said about returning to the woods until you know how to navigate them, until you can find your way without tripping over roots and backing into brambles.

In some ways, this time of year always seems to run parallel with each other. The holidays have had a bittersweet ring to them for the last six years, and there always seems to be new reason to feel the sharp edges of the Christmas lights.

But these old songs are hitting the ears in new ways. They don’t strike at me the way they used to. Which, in many ways, validates the existence of all these parallels. It is in the similar landscapes that you can see how different the important things are. It is a chance to look back and have hindsight and then see what the present moment is for you with sharp, clear vision.

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