When we landed in Helsinki in January 2009, Candy and I watched the inauguration of Obama from our hotel room at one o’clock in the morning. Then came a bizarre decade spent roaming between New York, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and New York again. Ten years later, we returned to Helsinki before heading to a remote island in the Finnish archipelago. Flipping on the television in our hotel on December 18, 2019, we caught the final vote tally as the House impeached Donald Trump.

I try to imagine my reaction if someone had described the decade to come while we watched Obama wave from his motorcade. That a vicious game show host would become president, that propaganda and Nazis would return, and objective truth would disappear. Or that Britain would leave the European Union and seemingly pointless technologies like Facebook and Twitter would rip society apart. I did not see any of these things around the corner, just as I could never have imagined I would lose my parents or grapple with so much dark psychological terrain in the years to come.

Looking back on the optimism I felt a decade ago, it’s impossible for me to determine whether my sense of the world today is naturally rooted in growing older and reckoning with the upheavals and disappointments of life—or if my mood truly reflects the seemingly perilous state of society, technology, and the weather. Regardless of the causes, my project this year is to recover some degree of optimism and perhaps even something resembling faith.