Let’s just be cool, 2021

Twelve months ago, I had feelings of hope and optimism. There we were, ushering in the year 2020. The year that seemed so futuristic in novels, movies and television shows. What would the year bring us? Flying cars? Aliens? According to pop culture and science fiction, the possibilities were endless.

I did not have “a worldwide pandemic that would alter life and the global economy” on my list. Neither was “presidential election that would divide our nation in two,” nor “bubbling up racial strife that leads to protests and riots across the country.”

Who did?

January of 2020 I was naively stressing out about the farmer education events we were programming for High Plains Journal. Creating a series of learning webinars was a pipe dream that I thought we had time to explore, before rolling out to our expanding audience. Little did I know that we’d figure out the virtual learning format in under 30 days because a pandemic wouldn’t allow us to gather large numbers of people under one roof.

In February 2020 I was traveling to Las Vegas, Nevada, and San Antonio, Texas, for work events, connecting through major airport hubs and cursing crowded conventions. Looking back, if I’d known those would be my last long-distance travel destinations, I would have taken a little more time to enjoy them. Maybe even grab a few of the hotel hand soaps.

Who could foresee a year like 2020? A year in which, the world had a crash course in epidemiology and the Constitution. No March Madness bracket challenges at our workplaces. County fairs closed to visitors. No parades filled with candidates for office riding in convertibles. No annual ride on “Ye Olde Mill” at the Kansas State Fair or making Kylene Scott participate in the Celebrity Goat Milking contest with me. No fall trip to Manhattan to catch my Kansas State University Wildcats take the field. No Thanksgiving with my extended family.

And toilet paper and hand sanitizer would be the currency of the realm.

It took me from March to June to finally get adjusted to working from home in front of my picture window. Now I’d give anything to hear the regular routine noises of a busy office.

Oh, to be fair, 2020 had some positive points too. We learned new ways to get things done. We learned to adapt and to change to moving goal posts week by week. Collectively we all figured out how to sew the parachutes while we were jumping out of the metaphorical airplane. Can’t gather in groups? Figure out how to use the internet tools we have at hand to simulate the experience. From youth livestock shows to school to family dinners with grandma in the assisted living facility, we all learned how to log on and connect in ways we never thought imaginable in 2019.

But, I don’t think we have any more flexibility in us to handle much more.

Therefore, as we all enter the year 2021, I’m vowing to keep my expectations lower and my caution higher than this time last year. My strategy when looking forward into this new year is pretty much the same strategy I have when working cattle. Look, 2021, just relax and be cool and we’ll all come out whole on the other side. No need to yippi-ki-yay our way into a stampede and broken dreams. Just go slow and steady and mind the flight zone.

I’m far from superstitious, but you can bet I’ll be dining on black-eyed peas come Jan. 1, and leaving all the doors in the house open at the stroke of midnight to sweep out the bad luck. If I thought it’d do any good, I’d tap-dance outside in a Baby New Year diaper costume while whistling “Auld Lang Syne,” and twirling noisemakers while lighting an artillery barrage of fireworks to scare the bad spirits away from the new year.

I’ll do just about anything to make the next 12 months more rational than the last 12.

Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807 or [email protected].