Was 2020 really terrible?

I’m starting to see posts on blogs and in social media about how terrible 2020 has been. Good riddance to it, they say. Bring on 2021!

For some, 2020 really was terrible. The pandemic cost them their job and they experienced serious financial difficulty. Or they lost someone they cared about to COVID-19. Or they got COVID-19 themselves and ended up a “long hauler” and spent many months too weak to fully function.

We all saw our freedoms curtailed through lockdowns and restrictions. Many of us still choose to limit contact with people outside our households and perhaps our “bubbles” of a few people whose behavior we trust, so that we stay healthy and keep the virus from spreading. This has led to isolation, which isn’t good for our mental health.

None of us escaped political stress this year, especially in the US because of the Presidential election, and in the UK as Brexit roiled.

2020 was undeniably hard in many ways, even for those of us not directly harmed by pandemic or politics.

But terrible? I’m not so sure. I bet that if you put your mind to it, you can find some good things about 2020 that would not have happened in a normal year. I’ll bet some of those things are very good. Here are four from my life that I can think of right off the top of my head:

  • I rode my bike a lot during the warm months. I love to ride, but most years I do it very little because I have so little time for it outside of work. But the pandemic forced me to work from home. I got an hour of commuting time back, and I spent a lot of it on my bike. It didn’t matter that I got sweaty. Nobody can smell you on Zoom!
  • The complete upending of my routines gave me a great deal of creative energy. I wrote more blog posts and made more photographs than ever in 2020. I even published a book of my stories and essays!
  • My wife and I enjoyed and appreciated evenings out more deeply. We couldn’t have them at all during lockdown, and as our world slowly reopened we could have them only when the weather was good. Businesses bent over backwards to create safe experiences for us. Indianapolis closed some of its streets to allow bars and restaurants to set up tables for outside service. Because of that, we spent a couple lovely evenings sitting in the middle of Massachusetts Avenue sipping lowland scotch. I’m sure we will remember these nights out for a long time.
  • We ate many more dinners together as a family, simply because we were all home at the same time more often. Especially during lockdown and in the weeks that followed, where were we going to go anyway?

What good things came to you in 2020 that were directly or indirectly due to the pandemic?

Even if you still think that 2020 was terrible, don’t delude yourself that life automatically trends toward the better on the first day of 2021. We’re still in this pandemic, amid a spike in new cases. I just captured this US new-case graph from the CDC’s site. The trend over the last several days is going in the right direction. Yet each day the number of people testing positive for the coronavirus is greater than the population of Providence, Rhode Island; or Santa Rosa, California; or Fort Lauderdale, Florida — all cities of about 180,000 residents.

The red line is the seven-day moving average

Also, on the first day of 2021 we will still live in a time of deep division between conservative and liberal, or educated elite and common working class, or the rich and the rest of us — choose your dividing line. If your man lost the election, you’re probably deeply worried about what’s to come. If your man won the election, curb your celebrations because the conditions still exist that saw the other guy elected last time.

In 2021, I hope you’ll continue to limit contact outside your household, and wear a mask when you go out. Even if you think this pandemic is overhyped, or is primarily a political tool, COVID-19 remains deadly for some and disruptive for all who get it. Please take these precautions so that as much as it depends on you, the virus doesn’t spread.

Also, I hope you’ll seek to understand people who aren’t like you and don’t share your views — especially if you think people whose core political beliefs are different from yours are mindless, deluded idiots. Please remember that they are human beings trying to make their way in life just as you are. Not only does their background and the reality they currently live shape them in concrete ways, but the information sources they consume tend to reinforce their views. Just like you. The more we seek to understand each other, the more we come back together as a nation. Our strength has always come from our unity. Let’s rebuild it in 2021.


18 responses to “Was 2020 really terrible?”

  1. Dani Avatar

    2020 was worse for me because I lost my dad and had to deal with unpleasant relatives regarding family matters. I miss my dad immensely but frankly, I don’t think he would have faired well mentally between the social injustice, and the political and pandemic fallout.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m sorry family nonsense had to be a part of your 2020. Hopefully that is wrapped up now, or will wrap up soon, and you can just get on with life.

      1. Dani Avatar

        Dang, I meant to say 2019 was worse for me than 2020. That family nonsense ended about this time last year.

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          Ah. So 2020 has been a better year despite all that’s gone on!

      2. Andy Avatar

        In 2020 I was furloughed and then my work closed permanently – at least for the foreseeable future. Maybe it will reopen one day. I’ve moved on to other things and will most likely not return there if they do reopen.
        I’m also a part-time musician, and sadly, every single booking that my band had on the calendar was cancelled from March into 2021.
        We had riots in Nashville this year, a terrible tornado that hurt the city, and on Christmas Day someone parked an RV loaded with explosives on 2nd Ave. and blew up a big chunk of the block north of Broadway.
        That’s some of the bad stuff. On a positive note, I’ve had more time to draw and paint and I’ve started selling some of my artwork.
        My band has still been creative. We collaborate on Zoom, we’ve been making videos separately and then editing everything together. And we’ve had a few in person jam sessions outside, spread far apart and all masked up. It was a little odd, but very memorable.
        My immediate family has been spending a lot more time together, as we’re all at home most of the time.
        So not all of 2020 has been bad for me. It certainly could have been much worse.

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          Losing your job does suck. But I like how you’ve made the best of everything. Not a totally great year, I’m sure, but not a totally crap one either.

  2. Rich Arland Avatar

    WOW!! James, you have a very good grasp on the current political and cultural situation we face in this country. You have put things into perspective for the common man and should be commended. Well done, Jim. Your list of “positives” for 2020 prove that if one looks inward they can find the silver lining in an otherwise bleak year-long situation. Me….my daughter, Maja, (who lives 850 miles away) and I are in the middle of a photographic competition with each other. While I am a very good photographer, she is an outstanding photographer, and has graduated from Marrywood University in Scranton, PA with a degree in photography! HOWEVER, she’s still a rookie! Our first show down is on New Years Eve….and I’m gonna blow her high heels off with my images.

    Again, thanks for taking the time to remind us all that no matter how bad we think things are there are some positive things that shine through the chaos.

    Happy New Year to you and your family. remain well and safe. Thanks again for the positive reminders, Brother. God Bless.


    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      A photo contest with your daughter is a great idea! I wonder what I could do along the same lines with my sons! I miss them terribly. I’ve seen them less this year than in any year of their lives.

      A happy new year to you as well, Rich!

  3. Joe shoots resurrected cameras Avatar

    I remember a year ago people saying that 2019 sucked and how they were looking forward to the Roaring ’20s being back. Maybe we’ll get there eventually. But you’re right that we can always find the good in a situation.

    To quote Eric Idle, “Always look on the bright side of life.” ;)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I think societally we’re going through major upheaval and it’s not over yet. I think that’s what has us saying each year “this year sucked; bring on the next.” I hope we pull through this period soon.

  4. Khürt Williams Avatar

    Toxic positivity, Jim. I just want someone to le the say the year was utter garbage and give me a hug.


    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Nope. It’s called self soothing — the skill of giving yourself that hug.

      1. Katie Yang Avatar

        I see we are keeping to the social distancing rules rather strictly, well done!

  5. brandib1977 Avatar

    I wrote something about this for New Years Eve. Aside from being unable to travel, this year was pretty great for me. I kept my job, worked from home a lot, kept my health, learned some new hobbies, read, enjoyed nature more…. the list goes on and on.

    The environment also improved as we saw things like fish in the canals of Venice.

    Sadly, the year was horrific for many I know either due to illness, death, lost income or strategic problems related to childcare. I mean really. How do working parents juggle having their kids remote learning while they have to go to work?

    Anyway, I feel privileged and fortunate that 2020 was good in my corner of the world but try hard to empathize with people who have struggled.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Same here. I mean, there have been things about 2020 that have been hard for us all. But overall, we have been fine here, and in some ways, life is better.

      1. brandib1977 Avatar

        I know I write from a rare place of privilege when I say that my life is better. My nerdy, introverted self is pretty happy.

  6. analogphotobug Avatar

    Yes 2020 was a horror, but not because of COVID. Please don’t ignore that there can be other bad things going on that can’t be fixed by the end of COVID. As you know I have been fighting one of those battles and it will continue into 2021………

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      You really.have been through the wringer this year. I didn’t mean my post to invalidate truly difficult experiences such as yours!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: