2020 is the Year of the Snail

At the beginning of 2020, I had my tarot cards read for the year. It can be hilarious and eerie to connect the dots between the cryptic card’s pictures and the events that unfold in your life. I’ve written about that before and my friends and I love to talk about our psychic experiences. It can also bring clarity or give you a push in the right direction. But really it’s just fun. It’s fun to have someone guess about your life like you’re playing Two Truths and a Lie with playing cards.

I was so excited to see what 2020 would bring for me, as is everyone. No one literally looks ahead toward the blank expanse of the coming year and thinks ‘this will be the year it finally all goes to shit!’ We all LITERALLY say: “This will be our year!” and we mean it as if we’ve never said it about a year before. As if a year is something any of us can tackle or tame or at least expect a birthday gift from.

Regardless, I believed it like I do any other year. Especially since 2019 was a year I shook things up in my life. I turned everything out and upside down like I was writing twists for M. Night Shyamalan (you can pick the movie to fit the reference you desire like a choose-your-own-analogy). It was the year I understood and loved myself more than ever. I opened myself up for change, for love, for peace, for new career opportunities, and artistic adventures. I shook all of it right up, so 2020 had to be the year it all landed. 2020 had to be the year it would all “happen”, right?!

The first card she pulled — a card that would symbolize the entire year — was a snail. 2020, she told me, would be the year of…the snail.

Fuck snails.

No one wants to hear that the animal spirit that embodies the coming 365 days of their life is a sniveling snail. Snails aren’t fun. Snails don’t party. No one wants to die and come back as a snail trailing slime behind as you slowly make your way across the pavement. People don’t dress up as sexy snails for Halloween. No one says “for a good time, call a snail”. Snails are slow and ugly. Snails are covered in goop AND a shell. Like, bitch, pick one. You’re already a snail. Isn’t that bad enough?

And yet for the next year, I would be the snail. It was iN tHe CaRdZ$z!!!

The all-knowing, all-interpreting tarot reader explained that 2020 would be a year of slowing down. She emphasized how good this would be! Snails have to slowly move their solid body across the Earth, so they are forced to stay present. She said this like it was a good thing and not an image of me dragging my solid body throughout the year and begging my more successful friends to wait up for me.

She said slowing down would bring life’s truths forward. It would force me to really appreciate the moment. It would be a year of listening and growing as a result of the slowdown. It would be a year of enjoying small pleasures as I harness my #SnailEnergy. She emphasized again how the cards were telling her all of this would bring great joy to me. I couldn’t see how. I wanted life to take off. I knew that in 2020 I had a book coming out. I was writing a one-woman show that I was very excited about. My boyfriend had an exciting career touring the country and I was hoping to visit him on some of his amazing adventures. I wanted 2020 to be BIG with exciting launchpads. Instead, she was telling me it would be confined to a shell.

No one wants to hear that their next year will be slow and small! We all want to be bright, brilliant starbursts. We want to be stars. Stars get remembered. Snails get stepped on.

Then March 2020 hit and delivered a global pandemic. We sheltered-in-place for three months to flatten the Coronavirus curve. My boyfriend’s tour was cut short, so he came home after touring all over North America and waited for things to resume. We both watched the year’s biggest shows, festivals, weddings, and vacations get postponed as we instead filled time with making bread and finally watching The Wire. We saw the potential year unfold ahead of us: it would be one of slowing to a near halt. The whole world suddenly spun at a snail’s pace.

Then the police murdered George Floyd and the general public finally demanded that police be held accountable. Non-black people paid attention and got angry in a way they never had before and joined black people to supercharge a new civil rights movement that demanded action.

We hit the streets, we cared, we listened, we read, we donated because partially — perhaps — that’s what we had to focus on. Everything slowed down so much that we finally had the time to listen. Even the wokest among us, those of us who constantly read and consume information about social reform, realized we had been snoozing a little. We let activism sit on the shelf while we all got consumed by everyday life. Not anymore. In June 2020, midway through this year, we have time and energy to throw at these causes more than ever before and most of us can see that the cities rapidly attempting to open businesses and let us outside — even with spiked Coronavirus cases — are trying to distract us. Too late. We all slowed down enough to see the fire through the smoke. We’re here to put it out.

The cards were right.

And the cards were right about small pleasures. In a time of deadly viruses and outrage over deeply flawed racist systems, the small pleasures are the only things that really feel appropriate. Having big celebrations seems unsafe. Resuming to life “as normal” seems tone-deaf. We have to keep fighting and stay vigilant about health and justice. So instead? We take pleasure in tie-dying old clothes. Going on long walks. Learning to make paella. Watching movies and reading books we never had time for. Mixing the paints in our closet to form a new bold, beautiful purplish-blue to paint the walls. Finding new positions to cuddle in.

It’s halfway through the year and I feel content about this slow down. I feel good even. I have the time to listen and to care. I have the time to drag my body across miles of pavement in a march for justice, using this “snail energy” for the greater good. I needed this slowdown, whether it came from the cards or the universe or if I’m just making lemonade out of the horrible shit-lemons the year is giving us (it won’t stop either — remember it’s an election year). No matter the reason, I am appreciating what it’s given me and what I hope it’s given a lot of us. A lot of people viewed this time as a pause before we go “back-to-normal”. But this is not life on pause. It is life! We are living this moment right now and we will only go forward, trekking onward and leaving the slime behind us.

We’ve all become snails and it’s really fucking powerful.

Stephanie is a writer and comedian whose work has been featured on Reductress, Slate, The Weekly Humorist, The AV Club, Mental Floss, Atlas Obscura and more.

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