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Reflecting on a Difficult Year

2020 is finally over. Officially done. We've said goodbye to this dreadful year and it almost feels surreal that it has actually ended. Of course its not like everything that was terrible about 2020 magically disappeared at midnight, but it does give one a sense of hope that maybe, just maybe things can be good again.

As the clock ticked-down 2020 last night, I remembered how I had felt at the end of 2019. That was such a terrible year for me and my family that I was, naively, very excited to welcome 2020's arrival. Remembering that last night made me laugh a little, how foolish in retrospect. It also made me realize that I have learned to be more cautious. Remember how excited you were for 2020 and how awful it turned out to be? Better be careful now, you never know what is around the corner.

And that is true. We never know what is around any corner, whether it's the turn of the year, the turn of the week, or the turn into your neighborhood after a long day at work. Life is unpredictable.

There is a saying in Russian that translates into: "If you knew where you would fall, you'd lay the hay there ahead of time." We never know where we will fall and it is probably better that way. It is also the reason we, rightly or wrongly, believe optimistically that what is next is bound to be better. After the year that was 2020, how could things be any worse? The truth is that we all know that it could be worse - much worse even - but we can't allow ourselves to think about that because if we do, then all we have is despair. If we lose the hope for a better tomorrow, what else is there?

2020 was a difficult and stressful year for everybody. If I am being honest, though, for me and my family personally, 2019 was worse. Sure, 2020 was full of anxiety and disappointment, but my family stayed healthy and my husband and I were both employed. Even early on in the pandemic, we found that to be our pillar and it quickly became a mantra of sorts: "We're still healthy and employed, we're still healthy and employed…"

In this way it also became our primary goal, the sole metric by which we judged ourselves. As long as we did what we could to stay healthy and kept working, we felt we were fortunate. I have to admit that it was kind of nice to intentionally set a lower bar for once.

It was also nice, at least early in the pandemic, to take a break from the usual busy-ness of life. We spent time at home with our kids and each other, we went on walks, enjoyed the outdoors, found unique ways to celebrate holidays. It was like getting a glimpse of a simpler life. In some ways, I really enjoyed it. In others, I found it painfully boring. What I will take away though is that sometimes you don't even know how much you need the simple and the boring.

So, 2020, you were stressful, unexpected, difficult, but not absolutely atrocious. You taught us to be grateful, to appreciate the simple, and to be resilient in the face of the unknown. If nothing else, you have prepared us to face whatever 2021 may have in store.

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