In January of 2020, the theme for the New Year became “the roaring 20’s”. Social media feeds were filled with 1920’s styled New Year’s Eve parties and hopes that this year would bring prosperity and fun. Here, in the United States we were enjoying the play on the new decade with gangster and flapper attire adorned with an old-fashioned cocktail. We had no idea that the roaring 20’s would come to a screeching halt by March.
The Year of Surprises
The year 2020, quickly became a year of surprises, to say the least. Most of us were about to experience the rest of the year with many unbelievable “firsts”. As we entered into a pandemic environment in March, we had no idea that we were going to learn so much about our country, our neighbors, our schools, our children, our extended families, our mental health, our physical health and our economy. Our country was entering into a state of new normal that would continue to evolve and change through the months. The theme of the year changed from “the roaring 20’s” to “that’s so 2020”, indicating that nothing is normal, and nothing should be surprising this year.
This year was the year that bars, restaurants and non-essential businesses shut down. This year, was also the year many of our schools stopped in person learning and adapted to virtual learning. Our libraries closed and playgrounds were taped off. All contact sports stopped. Concerts canceled. Large group gatherings were not allowed. Our doctor’s offices were not seeing patients in person and our grocery stores were turning into chaos as customers began hoarding essential items like toilet paper, disinfectant cleaners, soap and hand sanitizer. If employees could, they were asked to work from home. Daycares closed. Families were now stuck at home with each other trying to make sense of what was happening and adjusting to being productive and caring for our immediate families at the same time. If and when we left our homes, we were asked to do our part and wear a mask in public and keep our distance from others as much as possible.
Despite the hardships and many emotions the pandemic has caused, many of us have learned a lot. As our daily lives changed and we were forced to slow down, we became less distracted with our conventional past times and social activity. Individually, we were thrust into making decisions for our immediate families that may not align with our extended families. We saw a resilience in ourselves and especially our children as our social entertainment stopped and we were spending more time together, digging deep for more patience. As difficult and fatiguing as it was making decisions to feel safe in a pandemic, confidence began to emerge about how to be pandemic parents. We noticed how polarized our communities were on many levels, politically and socially. Many in our society began to see the difficulties others were facing and empathy emerged.
We started thanking our first responders and health care workers, appreciating the hard work and dedication they put forth for our communities. We could see clearly that our intrinsic social-economic systems were creating disparities in our communities. Health, security, safety and having an income were all no longer taken for granted. Counting our blessings took on a new meaning this year.
Can Change be Good?
If good could come from the year 2020, it would be change. Changes that will emerge in due time from the lessons that we have learned this year. We have learned that we can adapt to keep our businesses, schools and even our social lives running by stretching our technology. We have business meetings and happy hours at home with Zoom technology. We have changed the way we shop and eat with online ordering and curbside pickup. Just as the Great Depression, that began in the late 1920’s, changed the way people viewed economic security; this pandemic will change the way we view our health and health care system. We have adapted to rapid COVID screenings and antibody testing. We have learned that our healthcare system can be overrun, and change is necessary to support our healthcare workers.
Individually, we have changed the way we view family and security. We have become more confident with our own decisions, even if that includes thinking differently than other extended family members and having uncomfortable conversations about our own health and safety with each other.
Without the daily distractions of sports, extracurricular activities and forcibly slowing down our individual lives, we started seeing injustice in our society and demanding change to systems that are creating inequity in our communities.
The difficulties and sacrifices of 2020 created a forward movement that may not have been possible without the slowdown of the pandemic. Our lives may never be the same or back to what we knew it as before. My hope is that our sacrifices from this year will not end in vain and one day, historians will look back to describe the year 2020 as the beginning of an awakening that led to a positive lasting change for our society.