As we enter 2021, I can’t help but reflect on this time last year. 2020 marked the start of a new decade, fizzing with the optimism of a fresh start. Entering the 20s represented a new era for which we naturally held high hopes.
As it turns out, the events of 2020 were something none of us could have predicted. 2020 tested our resolve, challenged our physical and mental health, destabilised financial security and created unwelcome distance between our loved ones. We grieved personal losses as well as global ones, watching on without being able to intervene as the world seemingly unravelled.
After 2020, What Next?
Now that 2020 has come to a close, how do we move into 2021 with the hope and positivity that usually accompanies the start of a new year? Is it even right to expect hope and positivity, when we have been plunged into yet another national lockdown?
I spent some time reflecting on the lessons learnt over the last year to see what aspects of 2020 we can carry forward into 2021. It wasn’t difficult to compile this list, because these traits showed themselves so plainly amongst the devastation of the virus. This in itself is a comforting reminder that positive growth can arise from destruction, on both a personal and global level.
It’s ironic that in a year of physical separation and social distancing, a sense of community has prevailed. We clapped for key workers every Thursday evening for months, coming together to bang saucepan lids and celebrate those working on the frontline. We checked on our neighbours, bringing supplies to the vulnerable and those forced to isolate.
Lockdown itself is a communal effort to halt the virus in its tracks. Despite being contained in our individual households and support bubbles, we all worked together in a collective effort to protect each other, going beyond the normal outreach to our immediate friends and family.
The hope this offers for 2021 is vast. If we can come closer together in a year of enforced separation, the year ahead holds so much potential to draw us even closer. Our methods of supporting each other from afar will become more sophisticated as technology continues to adapt. And, of course, the new vaccines bring the promise of actually being able to be together again.
Covid-19 has triggered self-reflection on a national scale, an identification of what really matters. Although the outcome of this reflection may differ from person to person (and from organisation to organisation), it seems to be that we’re making more decisions based on our experience of living through the pandemic.
During the lockdown, pollution fell in the cities. We could hear birdsong, we could see the stars, and a herd of wild goats rewilded the empty streets of Wales. The disruption to daily life had positive consequences for the environment – as well as for us. We learnt how to be outside again, making the most of precious daily exercise, socialising outside in the deep midwinter, togged up in thermals, hats and gloves.
The lessons learnt from 2020 can help us incorporate some of these new practices into 2021, building healthier habits that will boost our wellbeing and protect the environment.
Resilience is the clear winner for 2020. The disruption to our daily lives has been so complete that many of us are living in a way that is unrecognisable from life in 2019. Whether you are working remotely, out of work completely, or working round the clock to accommodate an increased workload, Covid-19 has significantly transformed the structure of day to day living.
In many cases, we are operating without the usual social support we depend on. We replaced meeting face to face with meeting virtually. We use verbal or virtual gestures to replace hugging and physical touch. But it isn’t the same as the real thing.
Throughout 2020, we have demonstrated a collective show of resilience in the face of real adversity. We haven’t given up on each other. Although the virus may have decimated businesses and the normal work-life balance, we’re still going.
Hope on the Horizon
The UK has now approved three Covid-19 vaccines in an effort to protect the nation. The Pfizer/BioNTech, Oxford University/AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines allow us a glimmer of hope for 2021. It won’t be smooth sailing, but we can now begin to push back against the virus.
A national lockdown has been enforced for the first few months of 2021, but a return to normality is in sight. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we should be prepared for the twists and turns of living life through a global pandemic. But, as this post has hopefully demonstrated, there are positives to living through such turbulence which we can carry over into the New Year: better times are coming.
Onwards to 2021!
To answer my earlier question: Is it right to expect hope and positivity, when the world has been so disrupted? And what happens if you can’t feel any of these things?
My conclusion is that we need to be gentle with ourselves. It’s perfectly normal not to feel upbeat about the future in the midst of Covid-19. We will feel the effects of the pandemic for years to come; we need to be mindful of this and look after our mental and physical health as best as we can. However, the aftermath of global disturbance usually brings a period of regrowth and reflection. We rise collectively from the disaster with a new and improved way of operating in the world.
If we can get through 2020 – a year of such unrest – we can get through anything!