As I sit here in my new house, surrounded by my family with the sounds of two slumbering dogs and Hozier playing on the speakers, I am of two minds about 2020. On the one hand, there is no doubt it was an unusual and sometimes difficult year. On the other hand, there were good things about it that make me grateful. I don’t want to forget 2020 because it will be a story to tell to future generations. Of course, my generation also gets to share living through the Challenger tragedy, 9/11, two Iraq wars, a war with Afghanistan, the first Black president, and the worst president in the history of the United States.
You see, if 2020 had been a “normal” year when I lost my job in March, I would have immediately looked for something new. After all, the old way of thinking was that you had to work to be a productive adult. However, because of the March lockdown and ongoing pandemic, I was able to sit back and reflect on exactly what I wanted to do. I now know that I do not and will not go back into the work environment at the same managerial level I was. Instead, I am looking for a part-time individual contributor role that allows me to sit and enter data for a few hours every day and go home. No stress, no responsibility for crucial business-impacting decisions. It is what excites me, and I haven’t felt excited about work in at least a decade.
Plus, I got a brand-new house! True, I gave up the backyard with its wildlife and the stunning view of the woods, but I gained a house where the floors don’t creak with cabinets and trim that fit us, and someone else to take care of the lawn and snow removal. Building the house was stressful but in a good way. Even though we moved into the house a month later than we hoped, it was worth it. Two months after moving, both Jim and I can honestly say we have no regrets and do not miss our former house in the slightest.
I also learned that I was made for pandemic life. I don’t have any friends IRL, so I’m not missing coffee dates or other social events. Being home allowed me to cook a lot without the stress of rushing through evening chores and bedtime routines. I finished cross-stitch projects. I went on a lot of walks with the dogs. Hell, I packed up an entire household and cleaned one house from top to bottom every day for a month straight, and I enjoyed every minute of it. I read and daydreamed and relaxed. More importantly, I healed and feel like myself for the first time in a very long time.
Granted, Jim and Holly would look at 2020 very differently. For Holly, 2020 meant no dance competitions in the spring and finding ways to attend dance classes at home – which she detests. It also meant virtual classes – which she also hates, isolation from her friends, no prom, no homecoming, no poms, no sports or activities. She is surviving, but I would be hard-pressed to say she is thriving. Her laidback personality allows her to adapt fairly well, but she needs her friends, she needs that in-room class environment, and she needs that chance to dance on a stage.
Jim, too, struggled this year. While he enjoyed working from home and foregoing his 90-mile one-way commute, he is the extrovert in the family. He thrives being around his team, working together. Zoom meetings didn’t quite fill that need for him. He was much happier and more successful in his job when he started going back into the office twice a week this summer, but alas, 2020 was not done with him. He found out in early October that his boss was eliminating his job, and he was officially done with work on November 6th. Since then, he has made it to the selection process for two different jobs only to find out that the hiring managers were “going in a different direction” for both positions. So he too ends the year without a job. The good news is that he faces another final interview next week, so we are trying to remain hopeful that this third job will be the right fit.
As for the rest of the year, I can’t say it was horrible. Sure, we couldn’t go on vacation or attend football games or go to concerts as we planned. We miss eating in restaurants, although we took advantage of outdoor dining as much as possible this summer. Still, the three of us remain healthy. Our parents are also healthy. Of our brothers and sisters, only my brother contracted COVID, and he recovered with no lasting effects. While we know people who lost a loved one to the disease, we have not any relatives or friends to it. In many, many ways, we end 2020 luckier than most.
Because of that, it is difficult for me to condemn the year outright. Sure, the country became a shitshow with all of the political fighting and idiocy of the GOP, but it also became the year I found my voice and finally spoke out against injustice and racism and watched Holly do the same. I saw Jim go from someone who didn’t understand the Black Lives Matter statement to someone who finally understands that sensitivity means empathy and who actually practices it (more often than not). Also, we voted 45 out of office. That is a HUGE win, even though I know we will be dealing with the impact of his policies and behaviors for years to come. There are two COVID-19 vaccines out there, which provides hope that we might be able to emerge from our houses and socialize again sooner rather than later.
2020 was not an easy year, but it wasn’t without its good points. For that, I cannot condemn it outright but rather choose to reflect on those good parts and end the year with a feeling of hope – hope that the fight for social and racial justice will continue to thrive, hope that the vaccines will work and end the pandemic, hope that the new president and his administration will bring about much-needed changes in DC, hope that Jim will find a good job that makes him happy, hope that Holly will have a normal senior year, hope that I will find a good balance between working and staying home without sacrificing my improved mental health.
So, goodbye to 2020. It was a challenging year, but I think we proved we could handle those challenges. Hello, 2021. I look forward to seeing what you bring!