Ten Lessons I Learned in 2020

I had such high hopes for 2020. 20/20 – the numbers evoke clear vision. 2020 sucked, and I don’t need to tell you why because you were here for it too.  

I have resolved to learn from 2020 in hopes I can clearly see my way out of it.  These are the lessons I have figured out so far.

They Don’t Mean It. 

We live in a nation of people who say they’ll do ANYTHING for our country. But when asked to do something easy but uncomfortable – like wearing a mask or not eating a homophobic chicken sandwich, THAT’S a bridge too far.  

I appreciate people who under-promise and over-deliver.  Don’t say you’ll do anything to save your country and then refuse to wear a piece of cloth over your face. Don’t call yourself an ally and then slam on the brakes to sneak into the store or restaurant that supports immoral causes. If we can’t trust you with small things, how do we rely on you for the big things?  

Some folks need to be honest. They’ll do anything to help as long as it’s not a bummer on their comfort zone. Don’t count on these people. 

Sometimes the Greater Good Sucks. 

With only a few exceptions, I’ve been alone with my dog since March. Most folks have hunkered down with a few people this year. If COVID suddenly disappeared tonight, I probably wouldn’t run out into the closest busy space and start hugging strangers. But tomorrow, I might meet up with a few folks for coffee. The being alone doesn’t get to me – it’s the not being able to come and go as I please. Those of us who follow the rules don’t have to like following the rules, but we understand that we’re doing it for the greater good – like Whitney once said, “It’s not right, but it’s okay.” 

Taking Time to Heal is Imperative.

The pain will lay in wait. Process it now on your terms, or hide from the pain and let it deal with you on its terms. It’s your choice. Pain compressed by time does not become a diamond. 

2020 has been a painful year. Not only have we been dealing with run-of-the-mill life problems, but 2020 also added endless new problems. We’ve all had unprecedented pandemic stressors. Pretending you’re okay doesn’t make you brave; dealing with your pain does. 

Therapy, prayer, meditation, staring at the stars, quietly putting together a puzzle – make the time now, or it will take your time later.  

You Never Know Who Will See Your Comments on the Internet, and If You Wouldn’t Say It To Their Face, Maybe Reconsider Your Comment. 

It should go without saying, but when you make a comment on social media about how COVID mostly kills elderly or otherwise compromised people, you sound just like Scrooge did when he discussed decreasing the “surplus population.” If that’s something you’d say to someone’s face, you’re a monster. If you’d only say it from behind a keyboard, you’re still a monster. 

That’s somebody’s everything you’re willing to sacrifice. How dare you. 

Even If You Consider Your Workplace a Family, It’s Not.  

Your family is family.  Your friends are friends.  Your work is work.  Can you care about the people you work with? Absolutely. Can you be friends with co-workers? Yes.  If you died, would your friends and family replace you within a month? No. But your work would. Live accordingly. 

Take What You Need, Leave Enough For Others. 

The reason we had a toilet paper shortage was that some people felt the need to stockpile it. There’s still a sign at my grocery store reminding people only to buy the meat they need and leave some for their neighbors. We have a finite supply of stuff, and most of us have way more than we need anyway. Take a breath. Don’t try to control your feelings of panic by redirecting those feelings into meaningless purchases. On a national scale, it’s not a cute look. 

We Need to Do More Than Smile. 

Smiling doesn’t work with a mask. Tell people you value them. Say, “excuse me,” and “thank you.” 

We should’ve been doing this all along.  Let’s keep using our words even when it’s not a pandemic. 

Learning New Skills Is the Antidote to Oatmeal Brain. 

I’m not even necessarily talking about practical skills, although practical skills are good! Baking bread, canning, art, music, classes on the internet, a deep dive into a fandom, anything new is good!  Immersing oneself in a new skill can take you out of the moment, and haven’t we all needed that? Diversifying our knowledge base just makes us better humans. 

Even Easy Things are Difficult in Difficult Times. 

I’ve always relied on my creativity. Suddenly, I had all the time in the world, but the world was a mess. A case of writer’s block used to last me a couple of days. These days, it’s been weeks. If it’s writing or playing your instrument, or even folding that laundry – if you just can’t seem to get it done – don’t pile guilt on top of it. 

Be gentle with yourself. Grant yourself the grace you’d happily give your friends and family. 

It’s Okay to Slow Down. 

In the Before Days, I had To-Do lists and would frequently be the first one in and the last one out at work. I know there were people busier than I was. Kids, overscheduled. Parents, not present. We were forced to slow down this year. Consider how we lived our lives before and how we’re living life now. We can choose how we want to live going forward. Was it necessary to have an office? Is a 40 Hour work week always practical? Were our lifestyles supporting our lives? Were we living to work and go to school? Did we remember to live?

Going forward, give yourself permission to keep what works and chuck what doesn’t. That’s what I’m trying to do. It might be scary, but what’s more frightening than the year we’ve been through? We made it through that; we can do anything.