It was a bad year. I wouldn’t go as far as Time magazine and declare it “the worst year ever”, but it was definitely bad. Many people lost loved ones, many people had their lives rocked to their core. Anxiety and fear dominated. Loneliness and isolation became the new norm.
And yet, here we are, we survived. We get to say ‘good riddance’ to the awful year behind us and welcome in anticipation the new year to come.
2020, however, was not a complete waste. 2020 tested us, 2020 challenged us, 2020 taught us some very valuable lessons to carry with us in the future.
1. Long Term Planning Sucks
Oh, how young and naive we were back then in December 2019. We’ve made new year resolutions. We promised to be better, to travel more, to see our grandparents and parents more often. Where did all that get us?
I, personally, am terrible at long term planning. I use to beat myself up for regularly procrastinating and waiting for the last possible minute.
While it’s definitely good to have some sort of general direction at where you're heading in life; 2020 taught us that our collective lives could completely change in a heartbeat and to an extent no one could have ever imagined.
“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” — John Lennon
2020 taught us that we need to stay flexible. Even if you do need long term plans, make sure to leave enough room for shifts and changes.
2. We are Weaker Than We Hoped
The Israeli historian and author of several bestsellers, Yuval Noah Harari, talks about the fantastic path humanity took to conquer the 3 main problems that threatened it since its creation: Wars, starvation, and plagues.
Humans became arrogant. We thought that a plague could never disrupt our lives the way Covid-19 did. With all the progress that we’ve made in the last 100 years, with our advanced technology and vast knowledge, along came a microscopic virus and dragged us centuries into the past.
For months we fought Covid-19 with methods used by our forefathers in their fight against diseases. Social distancing, masks, isolation, and hand washing. These are all primitive tactics that were researched and developed by men and women who had no computers, no internet, and no Netflix (that might actually explain their time for scientific research).
2020 taught us the importance of humility. We are not as advanced as we hoped, we are not invincible. We know a lot, but we still don’t know everything.
3. We are Stronger Than We Feared
Even in the darkest days of the pandemic, we prevailed. In the midst of fear and hopelessness, millions chose hope. All over the world people went out to balconies and doorsteps, filled the air with chants and claps. We looked despair in the eye and burst into song.
We took on homeschooling and home cooking, we chose life. When we faced challenges, we found innovative ways to overcome them. That’s how a state of the art field hospital was built in 9 days, a top fashion brand became a PPE manufacturer, and artists found themselves performing for millions of fans in virtual concerts.
Scientists and researchers all over the world have studied, discovered new treatments, and were able to develop a variety of working vaccines in less than a year — an unprecedented accomplishment in human history.
2020 taught us that a disease might have brought us down, but that we quickly got back up again.
4. We Depend on Each Other, for Better or Worse
We spent 2020 isolated. Far from our families and friends, unable to shake hands or hug. And yet, we were more connected than ever.
Our connection could be a bad thing. In Australia, a whole region, with almost 2 million residents, went into lockdown just because one person told a lie. Our actions had major consequences on others, and many people had to struggle with mental difficulties in having infected loved ones or having caused others to suffer.
Our connections also played an important role in bringing good to our communities. Millions of people volunteered to help others. Ordinary people were able to touch the hearts of others, raising millions in funds to help those in need. Communities came together, seeing people helping the elderly with grocery shopping, and driving vulnerable neighbors to medical appointments.
2020 taught us that even while being physically apart, we are always dependent on each other.
5. Technology is Our Friend, Sometimes
Never in history had there been a better time to battle a pandemic. Technology had a tremendous part in allowing humanity to lead a sort-of-normal life during 2020.
Zoom burst into our lives, allowing children to study without physically being in school. Covid-19 survivors found comfort and formed support groups using Facebook. Netflix’s “Tiger King” and “Hamilton” on Disney Plusgave millions all over the world a much-needed dose of entertainment. We worked from home using Slack. We shared experiences with loved ones using iMessage and WhatsApp.
Technology was there for us when we needed it most, and yet, it wasn’t all roses. Technology helped spread fake news and disinformation. Social media was also a source of panic and distress. From Anti Vax groups to conspiracy theorists, we had to face an infodemic of confusion and lies bursting through our social media feeds.
2020 taught us that technology should be seen as merely a tool and that we should use it with extreme caution. It could be used to do a lot of good in the world, but also to cause us tremendous harm.