History Has Its Eyes on You

By Kristi Northcutt
Director, Communications & Public Affairs | Anthem Community Council, AZ

We have almost made it through 2020, my friends. That fact is enough of a reason to be grateful. 

What an EXTRAORDINARY year it has been. Do you remember way back in March, when the ONLY obstacle we were trying to figure out was COVID? Then it was wildfires, hurricanes, civil unrest, derechos, politics, more civil unrest, more COVID, more hurricanes, and then more politics (and then more civil unrest) – among many other issues that used to be “business as usual” that suddenly weren’t so usual anymore. We opened, closed, boarded up, sheltered in place; then we opened again, and it feels like it all started from the beginning… an endless Bill Murray-esque Groundhog Day cycle.

Part of what we do as communicators is try to change the narrative when we can – or at least guide it to the best of our abilities. With all that we’ve faced this year, it’s been hard to stay on message, especially when the message is messy and causes people to get loud and sometimes ugly. 

But for the next few minutes of your day, I’m going to put on my positive psychology hat and try to change our own narrative, using some lyrics from “Hamilton” – because that was one of the good things that came out of this year, at least in my opinion. If you haven’t yet seen it, go watch it, then come back to this article.

I’ve spent a good part of my career trying to get into the room where it happens. But the more I know, the more I find myself wishing that I could “talk less, smile more.” As much as we don’t let people know what we’re against or what we’re for, we do hold the power of the pen (and microphone). 

I don’t know about you, but I have thought VERY carefully about the words I have used this year or scripted for others to say, because quite literally, my job has depended on it. That’s a heavy weight. But it’s also a gift, in that we have the opportunity to tell the story; and what a story it’s been. 

Think back for a minute over the last several months; now, think about the playbook we’ve just written. While we’ve all been feeling completely helpless at times, and wondering if there’s any more wick to burn, we also can be very satisfied with what we’ve achieved in the midst of the chaos.

But it’s no secret that with the way that we’ve had to rise up this year, we’ve been going non-stop. We’ve been writing, filming and pivoting like we’re running out of time. But here’s the thing…a non-stop pace is unhealthy. And if our immune systems take a hit, we’re at even higher risk of literally running out of time. So as counter-intuitive as it is for us as communicators and leaders in our organizations and communities, we have to realize that it’s okay to…

Take a break. I’ve learned to allow myself some time to drive around my community this year – without a checklist. When I do so, I am intentional about saying out loud the things for which I am grateful: the beautiful weather (I live in Arizona, so this one is kind of a given most of the year), mountain views, ducks playing in the lakes, low crime rate, well-kept homes, skyrocketing real estate, my choice of healthy grocers, gorgeous sunsets, abundant playgrounds, pups frolicking in our new dog park, and projects getting underway. Rather than thinking of what needs to be done, I think of all the things that bring me joy, and the part I’ve been privileged to play in them. What is it about your community that brings you joy? Say it out loud. Go ahead, I’ll…wait for it.

In this holiday season and as we approach the new year, because we’re forever a mind at work, we’ll be thinking of new and improved messaging, hoping that increasing COVID-19 statistics don't derail everything, and trying to find a work-life balance, all while trying to stay healthy. Please, find the joy in your work, home life, and aspirations for the future – above all, my friends, focus on a mindset of thankfulness. 

The power of gratitude exists in how we use it to manifest strength and inspiration. It is my hope that you are able to find moments of true gratitude for where you are, what you have, and what comes next. After the year we’ve had, that would be enough.

Your obedient servant,
K. North