When you look back on 2020 what will you remember?
The global pandemic and how unprepared we were to handle it? The craziest presidential race in history? The death of George Floyd and the resulting protests? Business lockdowns and massive unemployment? The proliferation of conspiracy theorists, doomsday prognosticators, fake news pundits and cyberattacks? Zoom fatigue? That Sean Connery and Chadwick Boseman passed away?
Yeah, let’s face it, there was a lot about 2020 that many of us would simply like to forget. A recent Time Magazine cover called 2020, “The Worst Year Ever” with a big red “X” through “2020”.
Perhaps, however, you choose to take a more positive view when deciding what you will remember. That a record number of Americans voted (proving democracy, while flawed, still works)? The stock market reached an all-time high? That the COVID-19 vaccine was actually developed in record time? The global movement for racial equality? The successes of SpaceX and the future of manned space flight? The ability to work from home, do virtual get-togethers, use telemedicine and other technological impacts? That another panda was born?
Each of us will likely have a different set of memories and that’s OK. What I encourage you to do is look back at the year that was 2020 and think about lessons you have learned that can perhaps make 2021 a much better year for you.
Here are some of my lessons learned:
1. People, especially family, and relationships matter most.
Don’t ever take for granted the time you spend with loved ones. I can’t begin to imagine not being able to say goodbye to a loved one because of the quarantine or not being able to be with family and friends for a proper funeral. Prioritize what really matters. In my case, that’s spending time with my family, especially my kids. So why wait until it’s too late? Reach out to family and friends now!
2. Be prepared.
Very few people saw the pandemic and its impact coming and we were caught off guard. So, I was reminded about some common sense advice I received as a kid. Always hope for the best but be prepared for anything. Nothing lasts forever and all good things come to an end. Always save for a rainy day.
For those of you who never had an emergency fund, I implore you to make it a priority once you get back on your feet financially. The number of middle-class families who have had to raid their retirement funds or kid’s college funds to pay everyday bills are tragic.
3. Take care of yourself.
The importance of self-care, especially mental health awareness, has never been more in the spotlight than right now. Control what you can control. Eat better, drink more water, exercise daily and take time for mental relaxation, meditation or prayer. Take time out for you.
Everything in moderation. You can easily become addicted to binge watching TV or playing video games, or worse, alcohol or gambling. Spend your time in more worthy pursuits.
4. Common courtesy and mutual respect matter.
During the pandemic, individual freedoms have come into conflict with government edicts. Look no further than the great mask debate and the forced lockdowns of most small businesses — which are not mutually exclusive. I am all for individual rights and against the singling out of small businesses for rules that don’t apply to big companies. But the idea of following rather simple requests like washing your hands, wearing a mask and abiding by social distancing practices certainly could have helped keep a lot of small businesses open. Just do it!
I saw a photo recently of a protestor holding a sign that said “My Life. My Rules.” To me that is as selfish as it gets and is completely impractical. What if everyone got their own way? We’d be a nation and world without standards and rules. But the post ruffled feathers and got people’s attention on social media so I suppose that made it OK. Respect is a two-way street, folks. Just remember that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
5. “The introverts are finally winning!”
I ran into good friend, and fellow extrovert, Adam Duff, at the post office and in the course of our conversation he said that his wife, Tara, had a rather interesting take on 2020. So, I contacted Tara to get her thoughts.
“When lockdown began in March, my first thought was, ‘Oh, I’ve got this. I’ve been prepared for a lockdown my whole life! No more networking events or awkward small talk!’ I am a classic introvert (perhaps a slightly extroverted introvert, but an introvert nonetheless),” she said. “I love being around people, but I like to choose when and for how long, and I really love being alone.”
Tara believes introverts are often misconstrued as super shy people who don’t speak and are afraid to leave the house. In fact, people often don’t believe her when she tells them she is an introvert.
“I think Amy Schumer describes it best: ‘If you’re a true introvert, other people are basically energy vampires. You don’t hate them; you just have to be strategic about when you expose yourself to them— like the sun,’” she said. “I was fortunate to already have a corporate job where I could work from home. I think many of my fellow introverts who are now working from home due to the pandemic are seeing a significant decrease in their social anxiety and increase in their mental energy and productivity. 2020 has been such a traumatic and volatile year, and I feel for my extroverted friends who are struggling, but I am extra grateful for the silver lining that is my introvert-ism. I’ve been thriving in my alone time! Having said that, it has been a long year and my safety stock of social & mental energy is overflowing. I am ready for some hugs!”
6. Never give up hope
Every one of us got a crash course in resilience and perseverance in 2020. I don’t believe something magical will happen on Jan. 1, 2021 and the world will instantly get better. However, there is something about turning the calendar (especially past 2020) that will be cathartic. It’s the hope for better things to come in the new year.
Despite all the challenges of 2020, somehow, we carried on. I hope that you will make the necessary changes in your life, so you are better prepared to deal with a crisis of this nature in the future. That you will never take for granted all the good things in your life. That you will be ready to pivot as needed to overcome obstacles and to even make the most of new opportunities that may present themselves in times like this.
7. Someone has to care.
People will still need our help. There are always people who have it harder than you. Help others in whatever way you can. What can you do, today and in the near future, to help someone less fortunate than you? Take time to say thank you to the teachers, grocery store workers, first responders, frontline health care workers.
I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, but I really do believe we have it in us to be better than we were in 2020. Let’s make 2021 the year of “we all win.”
Have faith, people, as we are about to put 2020 in the rearview mirror. The new year promises hope for all. From my family and me, I wish you a happy holiday season and a healthy and happy New Year. Thanks for the lessons, 2020. Let’s roar into 2021!