Many of you may be grateful that 2020 is over. You are ready for better days, to conquer the world and make up for lost time. However, when I reflect back on 2020, I remember the year with (some) fondness. Here are the top lessons that 2020, the year of COVID-19 has taught me.
Like the character in the Christmas movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, I’ve taken for granted all the good things that I’ve been blessed with until they were gone. Here are some simple luxuries that I miss: spending time with friends and family, having informal gatherings and dinners, celebrating special events and milestones, going on vacation, watching movies at the theatre, talking in close proximity with another person, shaking hands, and hugging.
Being forced to cease these simple pleasures of life has reminded me how blessed I am. Maybe I’ll appreciate these good things more when they come back. I am grateful for this lesson.
Never in our lifetime have we all gone through the same thing, at the same time, regardless of age, social economic status, gender, sexual orientation, ability, religion, or race. The pandemic has given us the same thing to talk about, complain about, and look forward to ending.
This experience has reminded me that each person is deeply interconnected. We are all the same on the inside. We feel joy, goodness, love, and compassion all the same.
Likewise, suffering and pain doesn’t elude any of us. This is the human experience. We’re all in this together. I’m comforted that I didn’t have to go through the pandemic alone.
The virus does not discriminate. None are immune, all are impacted. It treats us with equality. Thus, only giving some people the vaccine does not help any of us. We all need it. Otherwise, this virus will keep going around the world for years to come. We won’t be able to travel or feel safe anywhere. Economies around the world will not recover. Lives and livelihoods will still be at stake.
We need our brothers and sisters around the world to be safe and healthy. We’re responsible for one another. Our neighbours in developing countries need us, wealthy nations, to advocate for their health and wellbeing, so that they too can receive the vaccine in a timely manner (and not be last in line just because they can’t afford it).
We can achieve equity, by giving people what they need (the vaccine), not based on fairness (if they can pay for it or not). We have the ability to promote both equality and equity. I am reminded that we can be the change that we want to see.
Never have we all hoped and longed for the same thing. In the midst of waiting, suffering, and being patient, we collectively hope for a better future, a world free of COVID-19.
I find myself daydreaming about where I’d travel to first when the pandemic is over, how I’d have a big party at my house to celebrate by burning all our masks, how I’d hug all my friends and family, and the joy we’d all feel when the day comes. We’ll have a communal sigh of relief and gratitude.
I remember when we had to decide who’d be part of our bubble outside of our immediate household. It was easy to know who’d be part of my bubble.
I’m grateful for my bubble, my people. I don’t know what I would have done without them. They’ve kept me sane, kept me company, and provided love and comfort during what would otherwise be a hard and isolating year.
Just being together with my bubble was enough. Just knowing that my bubble was safe was enough.
COVID-19 gave me an opportunity to think beyond myself and consider others; to have empathy and compassion. It was wonderful to call friends who lived alone, offer help to elderly people, comfort those who felt anxious or had experienced lost, give money to those who needed a hand, and volunteer my services.
The mystery of serving is that the more I serve, the more I feel served.
It’s like buying the perfect gift for someone and feeling more excited about giving the gift and seeing the reaction on the recipient’s face than how that person might feel about receiving the gift.
2020 gave me permission to feel everything from gratitude, to anger, to sadness, to boredom, to anxiety.
I learned to hold two opposing feelings at the same time, while acknowledging both feelings to be equally true. For example, I felt extreme sadness and grief for the great losses people suffered and at the same time, felt deep gratitude for the safety and wellbeing of my friends and family.
I felt stir-crazy at times, but grateful for the slower pace of life. Upset about the loss of opportunities, but hopeful about the new year.
It was freeing to be able to feel all the feelings, without editing them. Feeling feelings is what makes us human.
2020 was a year of confronting hard topics like racism, death, loss of livelihood, corruption in politics, and so on. I was forced to slow down, hold the mirror to my face, and examine blatant uncomfortable truths.
The events of 2020 reminded me of my lived experiences with racism, micro aggressions, and white supremacy. It also reminded me of my own prejudices and biases, which caused me to pause, examine my own heart, and not cast the first stone.
I had wonderfully hard conversations with friends, colleagues, students, and clients about oppression, harassment, and racism. This was a “hard good” that made us think and feel deeper and become more real with one another. For this, I’m grateful.
As I enter into a new year and then another, and another, one day in the far future, 2020, the year of the pandemic, will become a distant memory. And like all lessons in life, I tend to forget and resume my old ways over time.
This is why I wrote down my thoughts. I hope that I will remember to remember all the lessons that 2020 has taught me and all the blessings it has given.
It is always in the hardest moments that I learn and change the most. Thus, 2020 stands out as being one of the greatest years of learning and blessing.
Happy new year to all!
Written by: Dr. Gloria Lee
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