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Before / After

from 2020101 (2021) by Shannon Curtis



And here we are: it’s the last song of the 2020101 project.

Back when we began this project — when I was organizing the themes that emerged from the stories we collected from people’s experience of the year 2020 — I decided that this theme might be a good one to end with. I’m so glad I did, because — as I’ve worked through the material for this song, and in the process of writing it — I have found it to be a healing, helpful theme for me in my own life. I hope it is for you, too.

There were more entries in my notes about this theme than any other in our story collection — it was clearly a very big thread running through people’s experience of 2020. Over and over again, I read what people shared with us about how the events of 2020 conspired to bring them to a realization that something akin to a total personal transformation was required in their lives.

A change in perspective.
A need to slow down.
A focus on the question, “What really matters?”
A commitment to self.
A commitment to the relationships that matter most.
Going deeper.
A reckoning.
An active pursuit of healing.

Somewhere in the exploration of these imperatives, people shared how they had a realization that the way they’d been doing things — living on autopilot, maintaining the status quo, never pushing their wheels out of well-worn ruts — was not working for them anymore. In fact, they came to an understanding that old ways likely hadn’t been working for them for a while. But with the world — and their lives — suddenly interrupted by the historic events of the time, the jarring stop was like an earthquake rattling the house, calling attention to the fact that some fundamental things had to change.

Letting go …

… of busy-ness.
… of old patterns that no longer served them.
… of unhealthy habits.
… of self-judgement.
… of fear.
… of people-pleasing.
… of material possessions.
… of manicuring their image for social media.
… of unhealthy relationships.
… of connections to people who harm their wellbeing.
… of anger.
… of old beliefs that had held them back for too long.

Letting go … so that they could make room for …

… taking their own power back.
… physical and emotional healing.
… an understanding that they are enough.
… vitality in their bodies and minds.
… grace for themselves and others.
… a life that they enjoy.
… time for themselves.

… introspection.
… learning about themselves.
… following their curiosity and daring to try new things.
… deeper connection with loved ones.
… delving into spirituality.

… calm, peace, and gratitude.
… listening to their own instincts.
… fulfillment in their work.
… sobriety.

… enjoying simple things.
… establishing healthy boundaries.

… self-love.
… wellbeing.
… abundance.
… hope.
… transformation.

I imagine that world history might record 2020 — with its global pandemic, its loss and grief on a mass scale, its social justice uprisings and political instability — as a year that formed the fulcrum between what was Before, and what came After.

But in absorbing people’s telling of their individual experience of this time, it’s apparent that many humans’ memory of the year 2020 may also be a personal story — of who they were Before, and who they became After.

And maybe this phenomenon — around the globe, people facing some kind of a individual reckoning, almost simultaneously with potentially billions of others — will be a sustaining impulse for us, citizens of planet Earth, to establish ourselves on a path toward collectively creating an After that serves us all.

So long, Before.
Here’s to a better After.


Well, I guess this is it, then
We’ve come to the part where I let go
Because going on from here
Requires a lighter load

I thought that I needed
This to be what I’m supposed to be
But I have changed my mind, in fact
It’s changing everything

And I’m letting go
I’m letting go
I’m letting go
So I can say hello
I can say hello
So I can say hello

It may look like nothing (May look like nothing)
But the fundamental structure of belief
Under all I do and say and make
Is changing now, you’ll see

‘Cause history came here
And didn’t she throw a spoke into the wheel?
I straightened up from grinding
And felt a weight I could no longer wield

And so I’m letting go
I’m letting go
I’m letting go
So I can say hello
I can say hello
So I can say hello

There was a time before (There was a time)
And there will be a time after
(My whole perspective has changed)
(Total transformation)
(I got inside myself)
One thing I know, if I’m to get there (One thing I know)
I must shed the old masters
(What really matters?)
(If I continue on like this, what will my life look like?)
From before
(Old patterns that no longer serve me)
(Goodbye to people-pleasing)
(Old beliefs that held me back for too long)
To welcome the after
(I’m taking my own power back)
(Listen closer to my instincts)
Say goodbye
(I am enough)
(I’m welcoming abundance)
To before
(What do I have to lose? Only what needs to be let go)

I’m letting go
I’m letting go
I’m letting go
So I can say hello
I can say hello
So I can say hello

Well, I guess this is it, then
We’ve come to the part where I let go


from 2020101 (2021), track released May 27, 2021
written and performed by Shannon Curtis

produced, mixed, and mastered by Jamie Hill
at Department of Energy Management, Tacoma

co-produced, programmed and recorded by Shannon
additional programming and recording by Jamie


all rights reserved



Shannon Curtis Tacoma, Washington

Shannon Curtis is an artist who works as a songwriter, storyteller, and author. Shannon lives in Tacoma, WA and makes artpop music with her husband, producer / mixer Jamie Hill (deptofenergymgmt.com/work).

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