Stefan Modrich


There exists in our collective psyche an idea that we somehow can shed the baggage of the previous year when heading into the next one. It seems to function as an easy way of reassuring ourselves that a fresh start will fix everything.

Understandably, 2020 is a year many would like to forget, for a whole host of reasons. But the COVID-19 pandemic is not going out the door when the clock strikes midnight on Jan. 1, 2021, and the general sense of unease and anxiety from social and economic upheaval and political and cultural conflict in the U.S. will continue as well.

Those who have lost loved ones and who are otherwise suffering from trauma or hardship are certainly justified in their grief.

But there is, I think, a tendency that is a part of human nature to dismiss our own failures and cast them off as someone else’s fault. On the other side of the coin, for those of us who have milestones to celebrate — birthdays, engagements, new jobs, new beginnings of all sorts — those things are no less valid and deserve recognition. You should be proud of what you’ve accomplished this year, and if you’re not, you can use that as motivation to set yourself on the right track.

I’ve found that my biggest gains in terms of personal growth have come from embracing past mistakes and learning from my shortcomings. As a result, I no longer dread the thought of how far I’ve come, instead focusing on how I’ve used my past experiences and applied them in situations where they benefitted me.

In fact, I think about this regularly, in learning to swallow my tongue instead of lashing out in my daily dealings with rude or difficult people on the phone when seeking quotes for a story, and evaluating how I could have done a better job communicating with friends or family.

Similarly, in each of our top 10 stories this year, there is a theme throughout — that we can learn from our history.

The sordid past of the Jaybird Monument is not an easy one for the people of Richmond and Fort Bend County to come to grips with, and yet, there is a desire to educate the public about the mistreatment of African-Americans and the ghastly legacy of Jim Crow there.

This momentum resulted in the historic election of Eric Fagan as Fort Bend County’s first African-American county sheriff since the Reconstruction Era, and Jacey Jetton as the first Korean-American to be elected to the Texas Legislature in House District 26.

The death of Stafford Mayor Leonard Scarcella led to months of reflection on his legacy and a debate over the new direction of the city that was answered partly by a runoff election and figures to continue well into 2021 and beyond.

ICU nurses and first responders across Fort Bend County have worked long shifts with minimal sleep to help keep us healthy and safe, and essential workers in retail and service industries reminded us just how much we had taken for granted their importance in maintaining our quality of life.

So if there’s one thing I’ll ask you to do in 2021, it’s to leave behind old grudges and things that held you back, but don’t forget the lessons you’ve learned in 2020 and don’t stop finding ways to make your home, your neighborhood and your community a better place to live.

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