This time last year, Colorado had its first COVID cases. And soon after, The Colorado Sun responded by starting this “Write On” column. Now at about 170 pieces and counting, it has offered a chance for Coloradans to share their bewilderment, epiphanies, stories, and heartache of the times. 

Although we were uniformly shocked by the pandemic, there was great diversity among the submissions: Retirees and new graduates. Prose and poetry (and even song!). Urban nature and wilderness nature appreciation. Joyful stories and difficult ones. 

And yet, big commonalities stood out: Honesty. Frankness. Vulnerability. 

I often tell my students, “We have free speech in this country, but not always frank speech.” Lack of genuineness lends itself to all sorts of societal and personal repressions which have serious consequences. I encourage them: “No Hallmark, please, no glossed-over stuff. Give me the real and the raw.”

That’s what this column has done above all else, I think. Allow a space for that. And as one contributor put it honestly, “having courage to sit with darkness makes you a badass.”  

MORE: See all of our Write On, Colorado entries and learn how to submit your own here.

It sure does. We are badasses. We have risen to the occasion. 

We have been sick or lost income or had hard times—and if not that, we’ve helped those who have. I have to imagine that no one has been unaffected. We’ve felt the buzz of depression, the surprise of unexpected anxiety, the wince of sorrow. Like one of those inflatable punching toys, we’ve been knocked over repeatedly and done our best to bounce back up. 

We’ve gotten used to seeing ourselves in masks and staying at home. We’ve picked up new ways of spending free time—for me, this is most evident in the evenings, when in normal times I’d have been out at dinners or music or theatre, but instead have picked up the guitar and crochet needle and a novel. 

Indeed, our adaptability—isn’t that the thing that gets you sometimes? Makes your heart feel like it’s jumping up and saluting humanity? Case in point: I went on my first big trip of the year a few weeks ago, a safely-distanced cross-country gig to do some reporting, and I had to laugh at the number of cars pulled over in a safe stopping zone, two doors open on the far side with someone mysteriously in between — a sure sign that everyone was avoiding rest-stop and gas-station bathrooms. There was even a certain camaraderie evident here that made me proud that a touch of modesty had been sacrificed in favor of pandemic safety. 

This column creates the same feeling in my heart, and the camaraderie is obvious in these many submissions. It’s hard to go it alone when it comes to big trauma. And why should we? Therein lies perhaps the biggest value of sharing stories—to discover that we are in this aloneness together.

As I pointed out a year ago, in my column that started this series, plenty of evidence shows that writing about hurt and upheaval can help us process and keep perspective. Another reason to write is simply that this obviously a historic time, and to not write about it seems like a serious missed opportunity.

And so we will continue to write. Through those voices, guiding us through the pandemic and beyond, we can continue to reveal and revel in our connections, our storytelling, and our love for Colorado.