Don’t Cancel 2020

It’s easy to look at all of the bad things that happened this past year, but in doing so, we don’t acknowledge the good.

The year 2020 has been described most eloquently as a dumpster fire, but I would argue that this year has pushed every single one of us out of our comfort zones, and that is a good thing. If I were to pick three words to describe 2020, they would be resilience, introspection, and gratitude.

For me, 2020 started like any other year. We took down the holiday decorations and got back to work. I began planning our upcoming yearly vacation and travel to see loved ones. But I started the year feeling burnt out. I didn’t rest enough over winter break because I spent most of it sick with a “nasty virus,” as my doctor called it. In three short months, I would discover that it wasn’t a nasty virus I had but something new, Covid-19.

Between the beginning of the year and when we went into quarantine, my existence rested solely on getting up, getting the kids off to school, getting to work, and then coming home to deal with dinner, homework, and going to bed only to do it all over again. I lived for the weekends as most working adults do, to let my hair down, recharge, and refocus my energies for the new week ahead.

Then life paused.

And I’ll be honest; until we left our jobs on that final day, my mind didn’t even register the threat that Coronavirus posed. I filed it in that part of my brain that vaguely acknowledges politics and world disasters. I live, like most people do, in a wholly singular world focus. If it’s not happening to me, then it doesn’t matter. But that way of thinking bit us all in the butt this year, and we learned one of the first essential lessons that 2020 would teach us, we are all in this together.

For better or for worse, we are all connected, and what affects one can and will affect all.

The food and toiletries shortage is an excellent example of what can happen when people only think about themselves. I made the mistake of taking my children into the grocery store right before we went into lockdown. I wanted them to be witnesses to history. Still, as we went from one grocery store to the next in search of anything to fill up our pantry, it became evident that sometimes history can breed anxiety.

I saw the worried looks on their faces as they watched people crying in the aisles when they realized there was nothing left to get. I saw their fear as we watched people fighting over supplies. For all the negativity, they saw they also witnessed the best humanity had to offer in such trying times. They watched strangers paying for each other’s grocery bills and a willingness to help those who were less fortunate. They were witnesses to humanity at its highest and lowest points.

They learned the true definition of what it means to be a good neighbor.

Collectively we were forced out of our comfort zones to work remotely and to educate our children. It wasn’t easy, but we managed it. We learned to adapt and be creative with how we spent our time. That was the lesson that kept on giving because it pushed us to spend more time together than we ever have.

Before Covid, my children’s lives were an endless stream of playdates, sports, and school. There wasn’t a minute of the day that wasn’t dedicated to something. Our only family time came at dinner, where we rattled off a few daily highlights only to retreat to our corners again.

But now, we’re more connected in all of the ways that count. It’s a shame that it took a worldwide quarantine for us to stop and take time together as a family, but sometimes that’s what it takes. A disaster is sometimes the only way for people to stop and take stock of what matters in life, and I feel like everyone at some point had a chance to do that in 2020.

We gave our children the gift of resilience. We taught them how to navigate the unknown waters and come out on the other side. Generation Z will be the one to change the world because they have something other generations have lacked, and they showed us this during 2020.

The greatest lesson of 2020 was what we learned about ourselves and the world around us. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Black Lives Matter movement and its importance this year.

Most people would focus on the fact that these inequities still exist as a basis for the argument that the world is incapable of change. But as a result of BLM, more people took a hard look in the mirror and held their families and friends accountable for things they used to let slide. They realized that being silent is being complicit. They learned what it means to be an ally and that it’s more than just a quick social media hashtag.

The people who think otherwise, the small majority of the world, those that believe racial injustice isn’t a thing is relatively small. I’m grateful for the Movement because it showed us people of Color that we have more people ready to take up arms for us than are against us. And sometimes, that’s all you need to remember that you matter and that people do care.

2020 gave us permission to feel gratitude, unlike we have ever felt in previous years. Most people were grateful for the simple things, like still having a job and their health. Amidst all of the suffering surrounding us, all of the people losing family members to Covid and other illnesses, we were lucky.

We were grateful to keep our home, have jobs that keep us gainfully employed, and that our children adapted well to elearning. Most of all, I was extremely grateful that my niece sailed through her first pregnancy, faced her doctor visits alone with grace, and delivered a healthy little girl all in the same year that the majority of the world wants to pretend didn’t exist.

If we pretend 2020 didn’t exist, then we negate all of the good we’ve accomplished this year. It becomes unimportant all because trips got canceled and people couldn’t do what they wanted to do. Instead of reflecting on everything that we couldn’t do, we need to focus on what we did do. We, as the human race, accomplished a lot this year. We grew individually as people. We faced fears and overcame odds that were increasingly stacked against us.

Hopefully, with hindsight, we’ll look back on 2020, not as the year the world all went to shit. But instead, as the year that was pivotal in the renaissance that could be on the horizon. 2021 could be the beginning of a brand new world that exists not because of a vaccine but because people changed their hearts and therefore changed the world.

MFA|Essayist| Author| IG: michelle_elizabeth_writer| Email: writer.michelle.elizabeth@gmail.com

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