If 2020 was bad, 2021 should be better…right?

I keep hearing how horrible 2020 was from people and even more so from the media (surprise). I’m really tired of the Match.com commercial where a woman who represents 2020 and Satan start dating. I get it: they are a match made in hell. It’s not funny. Now where is the remote? I can switch to Netflix without commercials.

Was 2020 bad?

Of course 2020 was bad if you lost a relative or a friend. We all suffered in one way or another. We are all at risk of catching this virus and the kicker is that we don’t know how high our risk level is until we get the virus.  You don’t know your risk and I don’t know my risk so it’s probably best if we just stay away from each other. That’s basically been the approach for the better part of 2020 and that does sound like a bad way to spend a year.

Millions of people lost their jobs in 2020 because businesses were shut down. But I sense that most of the people telling us that 2020 was so bad, aren’t really hurting all that much. This seems to be a narrative of people who didn’t really suffer much other than the uncertainty of having an adequate supply of  toilet paper. OK also people didn’t know if they were going to get sick and die through no fault of their own. But I digress.

For some reason the message seems to be that 2020 was so bad that “let’s just get this horrible year over with so that we can all restart the party that we were having before COVID-19 in 2021″.

Maybe we should do something about it

…An interesting sentiment. What is going to make 2021 so much better? Because there is a vaccine for COVID-19? The Dow Jones is going to hit 50,000!? According to my friend working in the industry, my age bracket will not receive the vaccine until November of 2021.

Yes there is a deadly virus lurking amongst us and we should all be responsible and try to limit the spread of the virus. In the meantime, could we actively make the world better in the future rather than lament about the incompetencies of our government?

Are we helping ourselves?

If we simply wait for a vaccine (a lot of eggs in that basket, but I digress again), and go back to “normal”, did we actually learn anything? Are we going to make society better after a near-miss with a plague? Or are we going to go back to our “normal” lives and hope that this never happens again. And even if it does happen again, we will probably just wait for a vaccine to get us back to normal again. Apparently there is a new strain spreading in Europe. Shall we shelter in place for another year? Maybe this is the mother of all superbugs that scientists have been warning us about for the past decade.

There is opportunity

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

Sir Winston Churchill

The main point I want to make about 2020 is that it doesn’t seem like we learned much from COVID-19. I suppose that time will tell what we learn.

Assuming you and your loved ones had the fortune of good health, 2020 was an ideal time to pick up a new hobby, reconsider careers, get in better shape, and just have some introspection. Some people took advantage of this opportunity, but for most it was the status quo; or perhaps a “modified” status quo (an oxymoron indeed). For example, many folks got to keep their job but continue to work full-time from home. That’s not a bad thing. I can’t help but feel uneasy about some people keeping their jobs and getting to work in their pajamas when some people are forced out onto the street after losing their jobs.

At “the beginning” of the pandemic, I thought it would be a great opportunity to explore outside. Rather than sheltering in place, spending time in vast spaces outside sounded like a safe bet for avoiding viruses. I think that viruses spread more easily indoors. Additionally, getting natural sunlight helps your overall health by producing vitamins that you won’t produce staying inside. Unless you are taking vitamins, staying inside is most likely worse for your health.

When the state of Maryland closed businesses back in the Spring, my first thought was “I could use this time to go on a multi-day trip somewhere, maybe a bike tour.”  But alas, the uncertainty of the pandemic made a lot of us unsure if doing anything was a good idea, especially something new.

“Was it safe to go outside? Other people might be on the trail. Will I get too close to them? Can I catch the virus on the trail? How far can the virus travel through the air?” Nobody seemed to have any answers.

The first time I went hiking during this pandemic, I remember many of the other hikers that I saw had masks on. I didn’t know if that was necessary or not. “Should I be wearing a mask outside while I am hiking?” I can keep my distance by much more than 6 feet on the trail.

At the beginning of the pandemic, people seemed to be nicer to one another too. “We are all in this together” I kept hearing. Sure, but that didn’t prevent many of us from selfishly hoarding toilet paper and N95 masks. That sentiment also didn’t seem to last long as the population consented on turning it into a political game again. OK I digress again.

2021 can be great, if you make it that way

This time of year (around the holidays), I always feel like “giving” more. People give gifts at Christmas and it makes us feel good. And I like the feeling of giving a gift (assuming the person likes what you got them). And even then, it’s the thought that counts right?

Giving a gift is an act of kindness. And it would be nice if in 2021 we could all be more kind to one another. May I suggest we move away from social media? If this sounds crazy to you, at least watch “The Social Dilemma” to see how you are being manipulated. All right I digress for the last time.

People actually are suffering, in the US and around the world. So many people are in need right now (pandemic related and otherwise). One thing our recent isolation has done is made a lot of us feel disconnected. Your neighbor could be suffering right now, and you might not even know it.

Most of us are more frustrated to say the least. We are being restricted and we don’t like it. This makes the whole kindness idea all the more tricky.

Make 2021 (and every year better)

Here is my idea of how to make 2021 better (other than it being a year that is not 2020):

Help your neighbors. People near you are the easiest to address. Think about it: if everyone helps their neighbors and people in need that are close to them, then we would all improve right? I understand that is an oversimplified view and that there are some places where nobody is doing well and therefore nobody that can help.

To go along with the idea of this website, maybe you can invite some couch potatoes that you know to join you on a hike. Or just get them outside. As I stated last year, there are so many benefits to going outside during the Winter. A lot of us are already feeling anxious, depressed, or irritable due to COVID-19 and the shut-downs. On top of that, there is the usual seasonal depression. Sunlight and some moderate activity could really help the collective mood of the country.

Although I don’t really pay attention to twitter: I believe there is a hashtag for “random acts of kindness”. I think there is a website too to get some ideas. I remember learning this as a small child: a small gesture can go a long way. It could have a chain reaction too.

An easier (and less involved) act of kindness is to give to charity. “Let someone else handle the dirty work of helping people, here’s my money”. I’m not knocking charity or people who give to charity; I’ve given to charity and raised money for charity. It still feels good, but you don’t get that personal touch that comes with helping people directly. Plus there is always an overhead cost.

At any rate, hopefully we will learn something from 2020 and make a collective New Years resolution that we don’t give up on.

My two cents.

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