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As many people count down the days for the long-awaited new year of 2021, these last few weeks of 2020 will be spent in reflection of the last 12 months. What went well this year? What was learned? How did people grow? Where did God move? How can people best prepare for 2021? What does it look like to move forward after this difficult year? Will life ever go back to “normal”?

As one year moves to the next, Emily Nuckolls, resident director of Hartill at the University of Northwestern–St. Paul, expects that “people’s attitudes will have shifted and will be in a different place of acceptance and flexibility.” She also acknowledges the fact that the nation will continue to be culturally, politically and racially polarized, but prays, “this will allow us to see the need for unity and diplomacy and listening without an agenda in conversation with others.” Hanson anticipates more peace in the new year. She hopes for “a more consistent and predictable schedule of everyone’s daily lives, more movements rising up that will combat injustice and racism and more grace…given in finding jobs and internship searches for college graduates.”

In a lot of ways, it feels as though some have already “let the ball drop” this year. How can people prepare for this upcoming year? Nuckolls says, “I think we can take the spiritual, psychological, social and cultural lessons we have learned in 2020 and bring them to 2021.”

Krista Hanson, a senior intercultural studies major, adds that people can do this by “looking at the mistakes we’ve made…. and [moving] forward in more love and grace and peace.” 

Many lessons have been learned, and many will be remembered in years to come. According to Hanson, this has been a year of exposing who people truly are on the inside. She has taken this as a token of wisdom as, throughout this year, she “has learned a lot about who [she] is and what [she] believes.” She continues, “I learned how to grow in my flaws and how to rest in God’s love for me regardless of my imperfections.”

Nuckolls echoes this mantra when she gives a piece of wisdom she learned during this year: “stand humbly and honestly for what you believe in, and always be ready to listen and realize you might not be right about everything.”

Now, the question many people have pondered: will 2021 be the year everyone goes back to “normal”? How much are things going to change once the calendars turn to January? Are some changes good? Should some stay? 

Nuckolls says, “Hopefully in 2021, we will find a ‘new normal.’” Through the massive cultural and economic shift that was the year 2020, Nuckolls is hopeful for the continuation of conversation around solutions for social justice and racial reconciliation. She states, “I am hoping that those topics continue to be key ‘normal’ pieces of our everyday conversation and prayer, as Christians. [Aspects of the] old normal like being able to go to a coffee shop and read a book, have a party with friends or go out to a restaurant with people you love I hope will return soon.”