If you had told me one year ago today that in the next 12 months there would be a devastating global pandemic, abhorrent racial killings leading to civil unrest in every major American city, and an armed insurrection in the U.S. Capitol threatening our democracy, I would have asked, “what sci fi book are you reading?” But this is no fiction. The country is facing challenges against the things we take for granted and even cherish: the capacity of our healthcare institutions, a Constitutional Democracy where all people are created equal, and a way of life that enables us to live each day with great personal freedom. As Americans, we have been used to coming and going as we please, spending time with friends and family, pursuing businesses and careers, attending schools, going to movies and restaurants, and doing pretty much anything we choose…that is until 2020.
In 2020, the foundation of the world as we know it was challenged. We lost many of our personal freedoms, albeit it temporarily. Yet, the year also taught me some interesting lessons. Despite quarantining, I experienced a sense of humanity and global interconnectedness. What seemed far away in time and distance was now at my doorstep, both figuratively and literally. It began with a strange disease in a faraway place called Wuhan.
Through the ups and downs of the past year, l pondered the human experience. I spent some time in Northern Vermont to escape proximity to a rapidly spreading virus and wondered what it must it have been like for those who hid from the Nazis? I read with interest how other people and nations were handling Covid. I pondered previous pandemics like the Spanish Flu or worse, the Black Death when there was no vaccine to come to the rescue. How did people get through it?
This past year racial tensions became front and center. I watched the George Floyd videos and could only try to imagine what it must have been like to be in his shoes or that of countless others. And, as millions of Americans lost their jobs, I thought about life during the great depression. I watched the long food lines on television and considered the inherent challenges faced by families experiencing daily food scarcity.
Pandemic times also taught me how to be more self-sufficient. I cooked my own dinners, cut my own hair, and took long walks instead of going to the gym. I felt akin to my colonial ancestors…the women portrayed in movies sporting simple hair and dress with their daily rituals of cooking, cleaning, tending to animals, and other manual tasks. 2020 was a journey through time and space that made me grounded in the fact that despite the pandemic, I am fortunate.
As I look to the future, help in the form of a vaccine is on the way. While some lament that they have to wait a few months to receive the injection, I rejoice that there is a vaccine, something that was not guaranteed six short months ago.
The things I took for granted, I now view as privileges. These include health, friends and family, food on the table, and a good life in a country I love. While 2021 ushered in with all its uncertainty, isolation, and inconvenience, we should take solace in the fact that there is hope on the horizon. 2020 was not without lessons learned. For me, it has been a reminder that nothing stays the same, we live in an interconnected world, and through our common humanity we can build a more optimistic future.