In the waning days of 2020, you could forgive someone for thinking that this year surely would be easier. After all, we struggled through a pandemic and economic crisis that resulted in lost jobs and separation from family and friends. We saw the industries that drive our state’s economy — energy and tourism — suffer as demand slowed and people stayed home. We experienced illness, hardship and deaths.

And yet 2021 wasn’t a whole lot easier. We didn’t face another year of closures, but COVID showed it isn’t leaving any time soon. Our energy industry got off the mat, but with thousands fewer jobs than before. And the political strife that we witnessed in 2020 seemed to only accelerate, with an attack on our Capitol and incivility in our own statehouse.

Given all of that, it’s easy to feel exhausted, anxious and not terribly excited about what next year might hold. And yet, one of the benefits of the holiday season is that it renews us with new energy and optimism as we bid goodbye to one year, celebrate with those who matter most, and get ready for what we hope will be a better 2022.

There are reasons for optimism. Demand for Wyoming’s natural resources — fossil fuels like natural gas and coal, but also our wind — is increasing. Our state government is flush with cash after a bleak 2020. And we are seeing attempts to invest here, both in an advanced nuclear reactor project in the west and gold mining and rare earth mineral production in the east.

We should also take comfort in the fact that we’ve taken one heck of a punch and are still standing. It’s difficult to survive the years like we’ve encountered in 2020 and 2021. But surviving hardship teaches us that we are capable for more than we thought, that the challenges we face can be overcome, even if it’s sometimes painful.

And we can enjoy the fact that there is still much to be grateful for. We’re spending more time with family and friends that we have before. We’ve continued to enjoy the benefits of living in a state bursting with outdoor opportunities. We’re battle tested and hopefully a bit wiser after surviving so many obstacles.

There’s plenty of people to thank for all of that. Thank you to the health workers who continue to care for patients despite a virus that’s taxed our medical system. Thank you to the teachers who continue to educate our children despite burnout and constant challenges. Thank you to everyone who continues to show resiliency amid the pandemic. And thank you to all of those who’ve supported one another through two difficult years.

So here’s to a better year ahead than the ones we are leaving behind. Here’s to an improving economy and solutions to our problems. Here’s to remembering that despite all of the strife we’ve witnessed, there is more that binds us than what keeps us apart.

Casper Star-Tribune

Dec. 26

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