I have no idea if anyone even remembers this (after the craziness that was 2020)… but a few years ago, I can remember on twitter and social media, everyone was saying non stop what a crappy year 2016 was, and how ready they were for it to end. I wish so badly, I could go back in time and just laugh at everyone who said that. If only we knew…
I think it’s fair to say 2020 was a year that everyone will remember for the rest of their lives. No one could have ever predicted everything that would happen this year, and just as it seemed life couldn’t get any crazier, it did. I know personally I’ve learned so much this year, and I just wanted to share some of my thoughts and reflections of the past year with everyone. And I hope that even though this year was crazy and for some people, really terrible, we all have learned some things, and our lives will never be exactly the same.
Even though there were so many unprecedented (and probably some precedented - but crazy nonetheless) events this year, the pandemic has definitely taught me so many lessons this year. There are so many things I will take into 2021 with me as a result of this past year. I know this year was full of lots of very important and some awful things - the election, natural disasters, the black lives matter movement, etc. But this post will be a thousand pages long if I get into everything else that happened this year, so I’m just going to keep it to what the pandemic has taught me and my reflections on what has happened this past year.
So let’s get into this… Covid. Never, ever in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that a global pandemic would spread like wildfire, and change my life completely. Even in February, and the beginning of March, when the virus was already running rampant in Asia and Europe, I was still so naive. I was sure that it wouldn’t really affect us here in the US. Even when my workplace closed for two weeks, I was sure I’d be back to work by the end of the month - that it was just a nice two week vacation. I never thought I would be furloughed and filing for unemployment for months of the year while my workplace was closed and there was literally no end in sight.
I never imagined finally being able to go back to work, but having to wear a mask. And of course not only just wearing a mask at work, but wearing a mask any time I go out in public. I never thought that the new normal would be wearing masks and that shopping for a new face mask would be like shopping for a new fashion accessory. I think it’s more than safe to say this year has been completely life changing.
This is probably something that most people don’t know about me, but I actually went to grad school in London. My university was pretty much all foreign students, most of whom came from countries in Asia. I can remember one week when one of my classmates got a cold and came into class one day wearing a face mask. I immediately thought oh no, he’s really sick, because in the US people typically only used to wear face masks when they are sick and can’t fight off any other viruses. So I asked my classmate if he was okay, and he told me he just had a cold, so when I asked him why he had a mask on he replied - well, I don’t want anyone else to catch this cold, I don’t want to get anyone else sick. This was a pretty poignant moment for me, as I am so used to living in a culture where it’s all about me. I have to wear a mask so I don’t get even more sick. Not, I am wearing a mask so I don’t give others my sickness. I’ve come to learn that wearing a facemask (even just for a common cold) is pretty common practice in many Asian countries.
After living through this pandemic, and seeing the fight so many people have put up about wearing a mask, I can’t help but think about all of my old classmates from Asia. They didn’t care that wearing a mask was uncomfortable, they didn’t care it might look silly. Their respect for others (and the health of others) trumped everything else. Making sure they didn’t spread their illness, even if it wasn’t that bad, was always their priority.
I know culturally the US is SO different from Asian countries. Literally night and day. But in the case of this global pandemic, I’ve always thought about my friends living abroad. I know that for them wearing a mask is already a common courtesy. They don’t even give it a second thought. I’ve never thought that I’d have to be the one wearing a face mask every single day. And I can’t even tell you the number of times in the past couple of months I’ve complained about having to wear a mask and how annoying it is. But then I remember it’s not only for my safety but the safety of everyone else I may encounter.
I know that in 2021, and probably many years to come I hope to bring even a percentage of that level of respect for other people with me. I feel like the lesson I’ve learned here is so much bigger than just wearing face masks. Just caring about strangers well being and health in general is such an important trait. Doing something for others even when it doesn’t benefit me in any way - in fact it’s uncomfortable for me is something that I’m definitely not used to doing.
Like I said it’s definitely a cultural difference, but I hope that even with our differences we can learn from each other. And when it matters (like in the case of a global pandemic) we are able to care for complete strangers by doing simple things, like wearing a face mask when we feel sick. I’m not saying this is going to be a super easy change in our way of life, but I think that even if we all just try to be a little tiny bit better and more considerate it will make a big difference. Ultimately I hope that this will be a lesson many people have learned throughout the pandemic. That a little bit of respect for our fellow humans can go such a long way, and that we all need to take care of each other in every way we can.
So I don’t know about you, but hopefully this year you’ve all learned some important lessons that you’ll take into 2021 with you. Whether it’s just something simple like wearing a face mask, or something bigger. Let me know in the comments what’s had the biggest impact on you this past year? #nbholidaycheer