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from 2020101 (2021) by Shannon Curtis

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disruption → perspective → danger → catalyst → evolution

The first of the themes that emerged from our story collection — which seemed to serve as an apt introduction to this project and a scene-setting for the other themes to follow — was of people coming to grips with what the idea of “normal” meant in 2020.

People shared about …
their experience of the world coming to a stop,
their lives and busy schedules slowing way down,
being overwhelmed by the new pressures of school- and work-from-home,
routines being disrupted,
plans being upended,
and how what had been normal in the time before was nowhere to be found in 2020.

When would normal return?
Or would that normal ever return?
And did we even want it to? …

… because I also heard in people’s stories how in that disruption — that slowed-down state, being forced off of their routines — people had an opportunity to evaluate the previous pace and patterns of their lives.

Had those patterns accurately reflected what’s important to us?
Was that pace actually getting us to where we want to go in our lives?
Had the old normal really been serving us?

Sure, there were parts of normal that they missed: the coffee dates with friends, the gathering to cheer on their kids’ soccer games, the movie theater outings, the traveling to see family.

But once they stepped off that treadmill, and looked at the world from a stiller place — a stance that, because they weren’t moving a hundred miles a minute, no longer blurred the sharp edges of the world around them — it became apparent to a lot of people that that world can be a frightening and dangerous place.

A novel virus which was a potential threat to literally every human on earth.
Economic hardship like some had never faced before.
A dawning realization that for many, that level of precariousness of existence is what had always defined normal.

Sometimes we don’t realize the mire we’re in until we stand still for a minute.
Sometimes we don’t see other people’s pain until we’ve come to understand it for ourselves.

Sometimes it takes a major disruption of normal to help us see the ways in which normal could be a lot better than it’s been.

Sometimes it requires us getting off the dizzying merry-go-round to see that

life has always been just this fragile,

and every bit as precarious as we experienced in 2020. It’s just that we’ve developed some pretty sophisticated ways to avoid feeling the vulnerability of that ever-present reality. Comfort can be blinding.

And as I think about that, I’m coming to an understanding that this reality …

… places us squarely in line with the magnificent history of the evolution of life itself.

Here’s what I mean:

Every time life has reached forward to evolve into something new,
it has done so as a response to being thrust into a disruption of the status quo,
into a position of potentially grave danger,
where the breathtaking improbability and impossible beauty of life itself
comes into stark relief,
and compels it …
… to change
… to stay alive
… to keep reaching forward

… to create a new existence.

We’re on the precipice. Do you feel it?

Is it terrifying? Yes.
Is it thrilling? Also yes.
Because with eyes toward what’s possible,
arms and hearts open wide to one another,
this is how we’ll survive.

It’s how we always have survived.


It’s been a weird year
With everything all slowed down
I can see how weird it is
That I’ve never stepped off this merry-go-round

The illusion of moving
Imagined because of the speed
Promised that it would get me there
It never took me to where I need

But at least the path was known
That’s how running in circles goes

This is the year that we found out
We’ve been living on a precipice
We can’t afford to slip
And so we don’t, we don’t look down
We fix our eyes on the sky
Our arms and our hearts open wide
This is how we’ve always survived

Making me dizzy
Suddenly still for a change
And I can see with widened eyes
The precarious landscape of this place

The imminent danger
The fragile existence of life
The catalyst to becoming something new
Like it’s been since the dawn of time

We’re always leaving what came before
And reaching out for something more

This is the year that we found out
We’ve been living on a precipice
We can’t afford to slip
And so we don’t, we don’t look down
We fix our eyes on the sky
Our arms and our hearts open wide
This is how we’ve always survived

We’re not going back to normal
All that came before has died
We know that our path goes forward
This is how we’ve always


from 2020101 (2021), track released February 16, 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


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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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