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2020 was undeniably a year that took the world by surprise. In a matter of weeks, countries enforced lockdowns, social distancing was the new norm, and everyone suddenly had a strange obsession with Tiger King. As the months dragged on, it became clear COVID-19 was going to be around for a while. For many, 2020 was a strenuous and tragic time. Loss of loved ones, unemployment, racial injustice, and political tension all added to an an already difficult year. Many deem it the “worst year ever”, focusing on the many downsides to 2020, and understandably so. However, I propose a different take on the previous year. The world is filled with negativity and tragedy, no matter the year. In fact, a quick Google search will show the media painting every. single. year. the “worst ever”. Of course, previous years pale in comparison to 2020, and I am certainly not downplaying the obstacles many faced. However, as we enter 2021, reflection is of utmost importance, and 2020 has a lot to offer in terms of lessons we can apply to our own lives.


The importance of respecting nature

Mother Nature certainly put humanity in its place this year. COVID-19 likely originated from an animal involved in the wildlife trade. Through animal markets in China, the virus easily could have passed from an animal into humans. As humans continue to decimate precious forests, harvest natural resources with little sustainability, and take animals from their natural environment, the likelihood of a virus entering modern life once again will continue to increase. If this year could teach us one thing, it would be to respect nature and the importance of preserving the natural world.

Finding stillness and acceptance in what we cannot change

Getting sent home from college was the opposite of how I imagined by freshman year to go. Staying home for the first semester of my sophomore year was another unexpected turn. There were times that I felt some major FOMO, sadness, and imagined all the “what ifs”. Eventually, though, I realized there was no point in pondering how things could be different. We’re living in the midst of a pandemic, after all! At the end of the day, thinking of life before or after coronavirus only distracted from the moment at hand. The only time that truly matters is now. Once I realized this, it made life much more enjoyable. 2020 could teach us all about how to fully live in the present and accept what we cannot change, while also embracing what is right in front of us.

Standing up for justice

May and June brought tragedy and pain for many, as police brutality against POC made headlines. It increased racial and political tension, but it also sparked a wave of protests not just within the US, but globally as well. Standing up for what is right and being an activist during a pandemic could prove difficult, but it didn’t stop many in the fight for justice and bringing awareness to important issues. 2020 was a heavy year, but hopefully these recent events will continue to draw awareness to systemic racism and change old systems for the better.

Community connection 

Despite the fact that we had to social distance this past year, people were brought together in a lot of ways, too. From getting to know neighbors on the block, to picking groceries up for elderly neighbors and grandparents, to FaceTime and Zoom calls, small communities were much more connected in 2020. The last year could teach us all about lending a helping hand to those who need it, and making sacrifices to protect others.

2020 was a difficult year, but rather than focusing on the negatives that we all know so well, there are bits of positivity that we can shift our attention to instead. Now, already a month into 2021, may we continue to move forward with optimism and gratitude, and search for the sliver lining in any obstacles that may arise in this new year.

Ashley is currently a sophomore at UH Mānoa. She is majoring in biology with an interest in marine and wildlife conservation. In her free time she loves to practice yoga, read, create wellness content for her instagram @soulfullyashley, and explore the island.
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