COVID-19

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.

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