Today marks the dawn of the last day of the old year. The last day of 2021. The last day before a new horizon line of a bright new year is laid out in front of us. In Africa, and correspondingly the Caribbean, you might hear a phrase that seems a bit foreign to your ears on our generally stated “New Year’s Eve.”
“Happy Old Year.”
Ponder that for a second…Maybe what we celebrate today is not the bright new year ahead of us, but the challenges, the victories and the bright and shining moments in time from the year in our past. Maybe we should spend a bit more time reflecting today, and tonight, rather than looking forward in celebration. There have been losses. There have been hard ships. There have been stumbles on this path through 2021. But, there have also been a lot of really wonderfully beautiful moments as well.
I’ll bet, if you dig deep, you can find 365 things to celebrate from 2021 that will surprise you. For me personally, I think about the growth and progress in both my relationship and myself, I think about the way my niece now says my name with excitement when I’m on the phone with her, about how my nephew lights up when we see each other, I think about cherished moments and new memories created with my family, I think back to days at sea with no land (or wi-fi connection) in sight, I look back at photos from our adventures over this past year.
I’m willing to bet that giving up a little gratitude for the itsy bitsy good times and moments…And, yes, the tough love lessons as a result of hard times…will give you more cause to celebrate than the prospects of what’s next. We made it through. It was tough and it was long (right???). But, here we sit now, looking back on 2021 and turning a new page on the calendar at midnight tonight.
I’m going to give a quick News of St. John recap of some extra special moments here on St. John over the past year. Some moments I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to live and to write about. Let’s take a quick walk down memory lane before I bid a fond farewell to 2021 with you!
This year, we got some traction and forward movement on Caneel Bay…It may be a far shot in the future, but we are seeing some movement with the beloved resort once again! Cinnamon Bay Resort and Campground is re-opening soon and Concordia just re-opened their doors. ZoZo’s returned to their rightful home on St. John and the decrepit baseball field near Mongoose Junction will soon have the giggles of children filling the air once again. The Wharfside complex is coming alive again with the re-opening of the Beach Bar, Joe’s Rum Hut, the new hotel and retail shops The Cruz Bay/Charlotte Amalie ferry resumed operations and the Red Hook/Cruz Bay ferry is back to pretty normal hours. None of these things have been “normal” since Irmaria. And yet, amidst the adversity that COVID has created over the past two years, these things have slowly been put back into their places.
On the brink of the pandemic, I personally wondered just how many businesses we would lose on St. John as the drawbridge across the moat to the territory was drawn up tight. In 2019, we had just FINALLY gotten back to normal business and a super busy season. Only to be stopped short in our tracks by a territory shut down. Instead, over the past year, the USVI has not only survived, it has thrived. And has been a forerunner in the re-opening of the Caribbean to visitors. We have had more business than we know how to handle. Small businesses, friends’ businesses, did not close, they expanded.
In 2021, abandoned vehicles have been removed from their, seemingly forever, resting places on the roadsides. Road crews have begun the slow and daunting process of repairing our roadways. New street signs have been installed. The Battery has re-opened. Storm and wastewater management projects have been started and completed. Electrical lines are being placed underground as resiliency measures. WAPA has some new generators. The infrastructure of St. John is slowly being repaired and upgraded and much of that headway began in 2021 (Thanks Shikima!!!).
In the Park, native plant restoration projects have been ongoing throughout the year in an attempt to restore some of the growth and shade that was destroyed in 2017. The playground in town is being funded and construction will soon begin. The volunteers that clear our trails and cultural areas have been hard at work to keep them beautiful and useable for our residents and visitors. The turtle nesting was record breaking with hundreds of new baby turtles birthed on our shores.
For the positives of the COVID front, we can look to the capacity expansions for bars and restaurants, the reemergence of dancing and bar seating. The kids going back to in-person learning. Free testing and vaccinations have been offered in abundance throughout the territory. We were able to have one day of Carnival celebration in July and holiday celebrations with friends and family over Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Oh, and one more very positive thing to put on the Love City gratitude list for 2021…We did NOT experience a catastrophic natural event. (Knock on wood 2022, ya hear me?)
We still have a long way to go here on St. John. I can think of a million areas that still need improvement. From long term housing to cultural awareness. From the “new school” being built to expansions of health care. And yes, Centerline road is still a wreck! 🙂 But, I choose today to look at the progress that we HAVE made. Instead of what hasn’t been done.
I guess, what I’m pointing out with all of this is that, yes, this year has SUCKED at a lot of points in time. COVID fatigue is real. Many people I know have lost loved ones for one reason or another. Plans have been changed, canceled and then reinstated. Or lost all together. Time with those we love has been cut short or canceled. And there are SO many people on St. John sometimes….I wish we could all just get a little break from it all.
But, all in all, its been a pretty good year. If you look at the good stuff. You know it’s in there. Sometimes you just have to look under a rock or two to find it 🙂
So, before you go about your festivities this evening. Make a list. Maybe a mental list, maybe on paper, maybe on your computer or in your phone. But, make a list all the same. Of a few things to be thankful for and smile back on from this year of roller coasters. Cherish it, give thanks for it and then put it behind you as you move into a new year with new horizons.
I’ll leave you today with a quote that is often stuck in my head from one of my all time favorite Christmas movies….
“If you’re worried and you can’t sleep, just count your blessings instead of sheep. And you’ll fall asleep counting your blessings…” – White Christmas
Happy Old Year to You All. I wish you good tidings and great joy in the year to come!