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The Maastricht Diplomat

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We Still Lived

Earlier this week, I stood on the bank of the Seine and waved at the people passing by on one of the bateaux mouches, the “fly boats” that give throngs of tourists views of a stunning Paris from the Seine. As a young woman in her twenties, there was—of course—this quiet voice in the back of my head telling me that I looked “cringe” for waving at strangers from a boat. I kept waving anyway; my boyfriend laughed. It’s cute, I told him, waxing embarrassingly poetic about the endearing human desire not only for connection, but also to be seen. It is cute: they’re waving at us as if to say, “hey! I’m on a boat,” while we wave back in response; “yes, I see you! You’re on a boat!”

I know I’ve been lucky to be able to see the turn of the New Year with the people I love most in the world; to spend time with family after passing a somber holiday season missing those we’ve lost. It would be an understatement to say that this year—as well as the one before it—has been immeasurably difficult. For this Sunday Summary, however, I hope we can look to this week as one of quiet reflection. This new year brings no more certainty than the last. In fact, 2022 will not see the faces of Desmond Tutu, Vicente Fernandez, and countless other valuable souls who’ve been lost to the tragedies brought by these turbulent times. Even still, we cannot forget that this year and the one before it were not simply experienced: they were lived. It wasn’t mere survival, either. Our experiences still composed the vast tapestry that is the human experience: perseverance and love and some small joys, all colored by or even made more meaningful by pain and grief and loss.

It can be so easy to lose track of the past years in the mist of the Covid fog. We remember all too well (Taylor’s Version) the mundanity of lockdown; the health scares of family or friends; the trauma of hearing someone on the bus coughing nearby. Two years have collapsed in on each other, and it can be a daunting thought to prepare for yet another year of the same uncertainty and fear. Through all of this, however, we can use this week to remember just how rich our lives still were. Instead of counting the passage of time by big events like travel or parties or concerts, perhaps we can measure our lives through the smaller moments: intimate evenings spent cooking at home with a friend, catching up on old hobbies, learning to bake banana bread, or maybe finding a way to fall in love amidst all the craziness of these rollercoaster times. We still wave at strangers from boats, and those strangers still wave back.

This week, we’ve been reminded that Covid rages and Omicron is scary. 2021 took Betty White right at the end just to show it still could. Russia is being too nosy a neighbor to its old friend, Ukraine. In short, 2022 is off to an uneasy start. Even still, that moment waving at people on the Seine comes back to me: we still find connection in chaos. We are still seen. We still lived. The best we can do is remember those we’ve lost, hold on to the ones we can, and do the same for another year.

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