“The pandemic doesn’t just end when 2020 does.”
It’s such a simple, obvious statement, but when I read this a few days ago it hit me with an abrupt OH. Shit. Put so straight-up and matter-of-factly, it was an undeniable truth. Although deep down I’d known it all along, I don’t think I’m the only one who has been looking forward to 2021 with an unrealistic optimism – imagining that somehow at the strike of midnight, the entire shitshow that this year has been would be erased. Realistically, even with all the potential vaccines and cures and developments happening right now, it could be months or years before we resume a “normal” life, if ever. More likely, it’s gonna be a whole new world post-pandemic, and even that might mean years of adjustments.
Be that as it may, this year has had plenty of bizarre and terrible events that hopefully do remain 2020-exclusive. Here in Newfoundland had a fun year right from the get-go, what with “Snowmageddeon” and the record-setting, national-news story snowfall that shut down the province for days on end. And after that, the whole year just kind of…snowballed out of control. (Sorry, couldn’t resist). Corona-virus, the Black Lives Matter movement, murder hornets, a crazy US presidential election – and that’s a brief synopsis of all that went on. As we approach the end of this year, I don’t think there’s much that could shock us or elicit a response more than a “yep, 2020, what did you expect?” shrug.
I’m curious to see how the Family Newsletter People will spin it. You know, those families that send out an annual update to every cousin they can find a mailing address for, humble-bragging about how great their year has been? Whether it’s the fabulous family vacay in April (“there really is nothing like the full VIP experience at Disneyworld”), or little Johnny ending the schoolyear on a high note (“our little Einstein! We can hardly believe he’s graduated from kindergarten, top of his class!”), somehow every year manages to top the last. No mention of the time said “little Einstein” got in a fist-fight with the kid next door, or when Nana’s Thanksgiving dinner gave the whole family food poisoning. Making this year sound bright and shiny might take a little more effort.
This year has been truly magical. We’ve spent more quality time together as a family than ever before! I’ve perfected the recipe for my already-wonderful banana bread, and the house has never looked better! Little Johnny has had perfect attendance at (virtual) school so far this year, and it was so nice to see the whole family together on our Thanksgiving Zoom chat!
I’m making fun, but at the same time, I almost can’t help admiring the relentless optimism of these people. I hate to be the annoying “look on the bright side” girl, but maybe they’ve got the right idea this time. Maybe in a year so full of bad news, we should cling to the good news stories. I mean, something good had to come out of this shitshow, right?
I think most of us can say we’re finishing this year wiser, in some way or another. For some people, that meant working on an existing hobby – finally getting around to learning to play that song on guitar; for others, it was a nosedive into a brand-new pursuit (hands up if you were one of the many first-time bread makers, frantically searching for the suddenly sold-out-everywhere yeast). Some people used the down time to learn more about themselves, some people used it to (unintentionally) learn more about the details of their partner’s bathroom schedule. So much time in close proximity with family is sure to teach you a few things you really didn’t need to know! Even if it’s in no formal or measurable way – just getting through all this has taught us some tough life lessons. Who and what is important to us, how we spend our time, money, and effort, and what kind of a world we want to live in starts to become more clear.
Those lessons will be different for everyone, of course, but I think that with some serious introspection, we can all find one of two of them. For myself, I’ve learned how beautiful parts of my own province are, only because my larger-scale travel plans had to be cancelled. I’ve learned how few material items are actually essentials, after moving into a new house mid-pandemic and not being able to just pop out to the store any time we realized another little thing we “needed”. I’ve learned how very much a touchy-feely person I am, especially since human touch has become a societal no-no. I promise, once we’re in the clear, I’ve got a lot of hugs to catch up on (cue Oprah voice: You get a hug! And you get a hug! Everybody gets a hug!!).
As much as we’d like to “wash our hands and be done with it” as we move into the new year and leave 2020 behind, I think we should still remember that it wasn’t all bad. Despite the overall doom and gloom, there were days you laughed with reckless abandon, times you felt you could just burst with happiness. There was at least one moment there, somewhere, when you felt at peace; calm, happy, and grateful to be alive. I’m sure of it.
There are brighter days ahead, as well. Researchers are getting closer every day to creating a vaccine to take down this disease. The world’s most awful man will no longer be living in the White House and leading a country to ruin. The air quality in cities, and the health and biodiversity of nature, around the world has improved, albeit as a by-product of this pandemic. So we’re entering 2021 with the potential for better days.
2020? It’s been a year.
And while it may not just *end* when we wake up and start fresh on January 1, it will end eventually. Eventually, we will have a somewhat normal life again. We will be free to socialize, to hug, to let our naked faces show in public (imagine! the scandal!). In the meantime, try not to get discouraged. Remember the positives, be the annoying “look on the brightside” person, stay hopeful, optimistic, and realistic for the year ahead.
Wear a face mask, maintain your social distancing, and wash your damn hands!