A true testament to its truly unpredictable and enigmatic reign of terror, 2020’s lasting effect on me is one of both deep confusion and newfound clarity. Whilst this may initially sound like a massive contradiction, I think the way I’m feeling actually makes a lot of sense, considering how hard the past year has been for everyone to navigate. Like all experiences that life has to offer, and although I’d never want to relieve it for a moment, 2020 taught me a lot about myself and those around me.
Perhaps the most glaringly obvious lesson I learned last year was that everybody suffers. As our generation continues to pay much-needed attention to mental wellbeing, it’s important to constantly remind ourselves of why. I am certain that every person I know is struggling internally in one way or another, and it’s important that we appreciate that. We all have a struggle, and ultimately our individual struggles can only be overcome by ourselves.
However, it’s also important that, where we can, we not only appreciate others’ struggles but reflect on what we can do to relieve their pain. This was the lesson that the Black Lives Matter protests taught me. I realised the only way forward is for those not directly affected by a struggle to question whether they are contributing to it, and subsequently make amends and adjustments accordingly.
The spike in proactive conversations being had by white people of our age about racism is a promising development that will hopefully contribute towards a better and equal future
However, the death of George Floyd was a not only a painful catalyst for the biggest unification against racism in recent history, it was also a long overdue wake up call for many. The spike in proactive conversations being had by white people of our age about racism is a promising development that will hopefully contribute towards a better and equal future. It may also change the way that race is approached by those unable to empathise with the experience of being a minority.
Perhaps it was the protests that also taught me another major lesson: nobody is perfect. We all make mistakes, we all do things to hurt each other, and we all have things we still need to learn. The only way we can ever get close to near perfection, is by listening to others and making sure that, above all, we always do the right thing. A bit clichéd? Probably. However, I truly do believe that if we all started to prioritise doing the right thing, the world would be in a much better state than it currently is.
Doing the right thing neatly brings me onto another major lesson. 2020 taught me the importance of friendship, and the importance of letting people go when needs be. We all needed our friends during the lockdowns, and I am grateful to mine for being there for me, and I hope I was of some comfort to them too. However, sometimes friendships run their natural course and it’s okay to let them go. Holding onto something that’s beyond repair, or only brings you grief, will likely only lead to more pain and I think we’d all agree that 2021 doesn’t need any more of that.
A year like no other before it, 2020 has left me feeling, on one hand, confused, and on the other clear-headed
The final and most important lesson that 2020 taught me is that life is short. Between a staggering death toll and months on end in lockdown, it didn’t take much for me to realise that I had been taking my freedom and my very existence for granted. I think it’s important that we each find something to do in life that we will be proud of once we’re gone. Personally, at 80 years old I want to be able to look back on my choices and confidently say that I have no regrets but, then again, doesn’t everybody?
A year like no other before it, 2020 has left me feeling, on one hand, confused, and on the other, clear-headed. The truth of the matter is last year was hard for all of us to navigate. I imagine that I’m not the only one having trouble deciphering what I can truly take away from individual experience. As self-indulgent as it is may sound, I cannot ignore the fact I really have learnt a lot of lessons since last March and the first lockdown. As 2021 progresses and we experience our third lockdown, growing chaos in America, and living in a seemingly perpetual state of uncertainty, I have no doubt that there are more lessons in store for us all.