I’ve long thought of the New Year as a clean slate — brand-spanking-new blank sheet upon which I can write a fresh start. A sheet that is absolutely pristine, free of the last year’s clutter of Post-It notes or extraneous scribbles.

That’s how I felt this time last year as I bid 2019 goodbye. Back then, I marked the importance of not just a new year but the beginning of a new decade, writing, “2020 already feels important. And a new decade offers the cleanest of clean slates.” Good thing I’m not in the prediction business. Because if 2020 ever offered a clean slate, it was fleeting.

Moreover, I’ve come to appreciate that there may be something even more satisfying than that new-car, first-day-of-school feeling of a clean slate — especially after a year like the one we’ve had. I’m looking at 2021 as a second chance. Now on first hearing, it might seem like there is not much difference. You may be asking, “Isn’t a second chance a fresh start?” Kinda, though I would argue that a second chance by definition means you’ve had to go through some stuff first. Likely the kind of sad and gut-wrenching life experiences which grab your attention by taking you down to your knees.

The multifaceted trauma of 2020 certainly qualifies. A year of so much historic bad news it inspired a new word. "Doomscrolling" describes the unhealthy compulsion to search your mobile device for negative news.

Who doesn’t want doomscrolling, and all it represents, to stay in 2020? I certainly do. But I’m convinced that the eagerness to use the countdown to 2021 as aforget-all-about-it escape hatch, tempting as it is, is not the best strategy. Instead, I’m all about what leadership consultant John Mertz calls a “second chance mindset,” which involves acknowledging the past year’s pain and grief as a bridge to a hopeful near future. Mertz, founder of an organization focused on developing millennials and Gen Z leaders, says, “We can’t change the past, but we can learn from it.” Mertz points out that second chances are “additive.” You must carry some of your recent past with you into the New Year to reap the benefit of a New Year’s second chance.

Anyway, I know better than to expect that 2021 will be a return to the way we lived before the worldwide disruption of COVID-19, much as I want it to be. Because I know there is more suffering to come, I can’t give myself over to the psychic abandon of the many Americans brashly proclaiming their excitement about the year coming to an end. Jenny Paterson’s humorous book is entitled, “Say Goodbye To 2020: The Year That Sucked.” Oregon based Hop Valley, a craft beer company, is using their Cryo Hops technology to deep freeze personal items volunteered by Oregonians who ran out of patience for this year. At 11:59 On New Year’s Eve, Hop Valley will drop the frozen items from 30 feet in an Instagram Live event, smashing the items, including flowers from an ex-husband, a roll of toilet paper and an unused 2020 calendar. Megan McKenna, spokesperson for the company — which touts a beer without bitterness — told Travel And Leisure magazine, “We wanted to help people ring in 2021on a positive note and leave the bitterness behind.”

I’m anticipating a 2021 reality which mirrors much of 2020.

I simply can’t accept the passive hope of a clean slate, and I’ll celebrate the messiness that a second chance requires. In the words of novelist Ling Ma, “A second chance means you have to try harder. You must rise to the challenge without the blind optimism of ignorance.” At midnight on New Year’s Eve, I’ll welcome 2021 with blinders off and gratitude for the opportunity to try again.