Death to 2020 (What I Learned in a Year of Covid)

As we enter March, I cannot help but reflect on life this time last year and how much has changed in the world. It feels absolutely unreal to consider life before this pandemic and yet in the same way it feels unreal to consider what life will look like after.

This past year has simultaneously seemed like a second in time and an eternity. One small moment and a thousand points on the map. On one hand, it is easy to mourn what we have lost. For many, we lost precious time with family and friends, holidays and graduations and big life events that we had always imagined, and yet all of this feels infinitesimal in comparison to the lives that were tragically lost and the unrest and fear that has settled like smoke in this country. 2020 was truly an insane year- one that will most likely be described in textbooks as “unprecedented” and one that will be hard to contextualize in our own lives moving forward.

For all that this year has taken from us, ranging from the inconsequential to the absolute, it has also given us many things that we never knew we needed- time with family, time for ourselves, and a chance to slow down and consider where we are and where we want to go. In all this darkness, there is still room for light. Even the smallest stars can be seen on moonless nights. For all the misfortune and grief of 2020, this year has provided many valuable and important lessons that I want to take with me into 2021 and beyond. 

Stars in the night sky Photo by Sven Scheuermeier on Unsplash

1. Cherish the small things.

I was a high school senior when the world went into lockdown last March and at the time, I felt like the greatest losses I would experience would be the ones that I had always dreamed of the most- walking at graduation, dancing at prom, leaving through the doors on my last day of school on a gentle spring day.

I had gone to the same school for my entire education and so many of these events had been ones that I had imagined for years. I had expectations for them- I had painted them so vividly in my mind in color that I could as easily imagine being there as I could imagine not. These hallmark events and traditions, while the capstones of senior year, had always existed in the fantastical facet of my mind and therefore while I felt a real loss at their cancellation I did not feel as deep a grief as I thought I would.

No, it was the little things. It was the things that I had not realized I could ever miss because I had never realized how much of a gift they were. I had taken them for granted. I felt their loss so deeply because I had never realized that they were ever once mine. Saturday morning dance classes when it would rain and the smell of the wood barre and the way the fairy lights glittered in the glass mirrors. The silly rituals of friendship- seeing someone in the hallway and gleefully waving. Taking my little brother to school each day. The little routines that had filled each day and I had felt confident were mine were the greatest losses. They carried the weight of a certain kind of death- the idea that the things we believe are in our control are truly not. I had failed to see the privilege of going to school every day because it had been such a normality in my life. Only when it was gone did I truly realize how lucky I was to even have it for a moment.

Cherish the little things. The smiles between strangers. The way the sunlight glints from behind the branches of a tree. The sound of rain falling onto water. These are the things that matter. 

Newly Graduated People Wearing Black Academy Gowns Throwing Hats Up in the Air Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

2. Answer every phone call.

I will admit that I have never enjoyed talking on the phone. Not only is it anxiety inducing but it can also be rather exhausting. However, in 2020 there was not much of a choice. So much of the world moved online and onto Zoom and I realized that I would have to make a greater effort to connect with people. It is so easy for friendships to fall apart because it is easier to remain silent than it is to speak, than to take the time and the effort to pick up the phone and reach out to those who matter.

I lost a grandparent this year and I regret not reaching out more, picking up the cell phone every time it rings because we do not know when it will be the last. Our words are all we really have, and we should never take them for granted. While there are many things that I wish I would have done differently, there is no reason that I cannot start improving my relationships now. Answer each phone call, treasure each phone call, because one day the phone will not ring.

selective focus photo of a gold iPhone 6s home screen Photo by Benjamin Sow from Unsplash

3. Take time for yourself.

This year has been paradoxical in many ways. It has taken time from us and yet given us time with family and time for ourselves. One of the greatest things I learned was to take the time to simply breathe. This year gave me the opportunity to slow down and work towards healing my mental health and dealing with stress. So, while it was painful to see opportunities go and traditions end, 2020 gave me the time to figure out who I am. In its paradoxical ways, it has scarred and yet given time to heal. It has destroyed so much and yet it has brought people closer.

woman leaning on door looking out onto the city Photo by Kinga Cichewicz from Unsplash What a year. I still cannot believe how much life has changed, yet looking towards 2021 I am filled with hope. I wish everyone a beautiful March and I hope that we all spend time reflecting on the past year and what we want to take with us into spring and what we want to leave behind in 2020.