Most of last year felt like a strange daydream. Just every time we thought it was “getting better”, something bizarre would happen that seemed to completely uproot society. No longer was anything familiar, and to be honest, it felt like nothing was surprising anymore either. It wasn’t surprising that we could take a common struggle, something that should unite people, and use it as a dividing factor. Last year was filled with situations like a global pandemic, a human-rights revolution, and multiple climate catastrophes. These happenings affected some more than others. It was a particularly tough year for Black Americans, a particularly tough year for those who lost loved-ones to the COVID-19 pandemic, and a particularly tough year for those affected by the California forest-fires. But, that’s not to say that it wasn’t hard on everyone. From the small child forced to stay at home to do online-learning, to the small business owner struggling to make ends meet, life became stagnant and confusing. Yes indeed, 2020 was not a great year (which I’m sure everyone can agree with). Nonetheless, it’s second nature to wallow in self pity, especially when 2021 hasn’t magically lifted everyone’s problems. As we move on to a new year though, the best we can do is keep moving ahead and making the most of the situation, reflecting on the things we learned during the year.
It is my personal belief that no matter how bad anything is, there is always something to learn from it. The past year is no exception to this rule. In fact, as a teen growing up in a strange and foreign world, it seemed as though 2020 was the year in which I learned the most. It isn’t like other years didn’t teach us lessons– like in 2016 I learned how an election truly works, or in 2019 I learned how to step outside my comfort zones and venture into new environments.– Yet, there is something about 2020 though that made most undergo a dramatic change. Who people were at the beginning of 2020 is probably not who they are today. Having the time to step away from a jam-packed life, left us more time to find ourselves. People picked up new hobbies, and called old friends, and learned to really appreciate the things they once took for granted. It’s crazy how much life changes when we just change our perspective. I remember quarantining at home with my family and spending nights watching movies with my mom, or cooking dinners with my dad. Things that used to seem so “normal”, now felt like a unique and fun bonding experience.
When it came to going back to school or work, everyone faced an even larger struggle. Parents stumbled through a dark room when it came to deciding whether to send their children back to school, health care workers had to learn to adopt numerous practices to keep others and themselves safe, and many people wondered if they would even have a job to go back to. Now, I can only speak for myself, but the experience of holding up an occupation (even if mine is “student”) during the pandemic, showed me how connected the world really is. Did anyone imagine that the lives of an entire population could be so easily transplanted onto a small, lit-up screen? Doing school or work from home has been a huge challenge, but also a way to sleep in a little later, sit down and enjoy meals, or go outside for fresh air more. Unlike last year, I now go to school through “Zoom”, I take music lessons over “Facetime”, and I pick up the phone to call my friends a little more often.
If we look past the pandemic, there are countless lessons that 2020 still taught us. For one, it taught me that our differences will either be the end of humanity…or the beginning of it. I know that may seem a bit dramatic, but after the horrors of 2020, I honestly believe that. Suddenly, the lives of human beings is an “opinion”, something else to argue over. The candidate one supports in an election became the reason for the end of many friendships, it led to violence, questioning of a democracy that has been upheld for over 200 years. For a while, it became easy to join the masses. If everyone is so “fiery” about their opinion, then I should be that fiery too. At the end of the day, when everyone is speaking so loudly, no one really hears anything. 2020 taught me to listen more, and talk less. Hear those with different opinions, but also hold strongly to your values and do what you know in your heart is the right thing.
Lastly, 2020 has taught us to be unapologetically ourselves and to find what we’re passionate about, putting time into that instead of draining relationships or jobs or friendships. We learned that when you find good people, you better hold on to them tightly. They are far and few between today, the people who will check up on you, find ways to make you feel full of hope in a hopeless time, and laugh with you until you can’t breathe. The past year also showed us so many small things that I could never list out in one post… some of them being how to smile with our eyes, how one small act of kindness can make a person’s day, and how a year that seems to take without giving, has actually been slipping us life lessons all along.
Last year was a whirlwind of emotions and crazy circumstances. But ultimately, it is these circumstances that will prepare us for the year ahead. I want to wish you health, wealth, and happiness in 2021. I hope you will find everything you are looking for, and maybe even some things you weren’t. We never really know when things will start going back to normal, all we can do is look around in our current state and realize that everything happens for a reason. Life works in the most odd ways, just enjoy the ride.
“To lose patience is to lose the battle.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Happy New Year!
Featured image by @kellysikkema on unsplash.com