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Jessica De Maria is an Atlanta theater artist who writes, performs, directs and composes. Her original musical, The Pretty Pants Bandit (written with Chase Peacock), is scheduled to premiere at Georgia Ensemble Theatre this year. (Photo by BreeAnne Clowdus)

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I think we can all say that 2020 was a veritable avalanche of events, moments and lessons. If I’m being honest, the overarching theme for me is loss. This could be as deep as the loss of the loved one, or loss of time with loved ones. Loss of momentum, opportunities, even the things we use to define ourselves — such as a career to which we are passionately devoted. And of course, loss of the old beliefs you held valid when confronted with the pain and experience of others.

My biggest takeaway has been the realization that we so often refuse to accept loss. If we lose a loved one, we wait for “heaven.” A beloved pet, we build a rainbow bridge. An opportunity, we say, “When one door closes . . .” or “When the timing is right it will happen.” I’m not necessarily saying that this is invalid or wrong, but I think that perhaps now, at least speaking for myself, I have learned to accept loss. To acknowledge it, grieve it and then move forward. You can’t let it defeat you, and you have to turn it into action. Otherwise, with what so many of us have sustained this year, we’d all be circling the drain.

I think there will be a contingency of people who will take this past year, put it in a box, then put that box in another box and mail it to the deepest recesses of their mind. I also think there will be a contingency of people who are determined not to have wasted this time and will turn these lessons into self-improvement, strength, activism and resiliency. I plan on sincerely trying to be a part of that second group.

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