This article was originally published on December 30, 2020 as part of my regular column on Inman News under, “It’s been an insane year — but we can still be thankful” Links may send you to articles behind Inman’s paywall.
For the budding copyright attorney, relax. My agreement with Inman allows me to republish.
Let’s recap 2020:
Jan. 1, 2020: Australia is on fire.
Jan. 3, 2020: Iranian general Qasem Soleimani is killed in a U.S. airstrike. There’s talk of World War III.
Jan. 8, 2020: The Iranians mistakenly shoot down Ukrainian civil airliner Flight 752, killing 176 people. Talk of World War III escalates.
Jan. 15, 2020: The president of the United States is impeached.
We’re two weeks in, how could the year get any worse?
Jan. 20, 2020: The first case of a new coronavirus is reported in the U.S. Up until then, no one but an epidemiologist had ever heard the word “coronavirus.” Heck, few even knew what an “epidemiologist” even was. Now, it feels like half of the people on Facebook are epidemiologists with degrees in infectious disease.
Jan. 26, 2020: Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others die in a helicopter crash.
Jan. 30, 2020: The World Health Organization (WHO) declares the coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency.
January sucked. Let’s fast-forward a bit.
March 9, 2020: The Dow Jones stock market index plunges more than 2,000 points.
In other March news, every major professional sport and the Summer Olympics go on hold. Tom Hanks and the British prime minister have COVID. Tom Hanks.
April 2020: 3 million people in the world have COVID. A million of them are in the U.S.
May 2020: George Floyd is killed by police. Protests erupt all over the world. There’s talk of a civil war.
June and July 2020: The protests are still happening. Millions are infected with COVID. The race for U.S. president is like a carnival sideshow. People are beating other people for wearing a mask or not wearing a mask.
August 2020: Most of Australia is no longer on fire. California is. A woman of color is named as a candidate for vice president by a major party. Another Black man is killed by police. More protests erupt.
September 2020: Now, the West Coast is on fire. No charges are filed against the police in the killing of a Black woman. More protests. More COVID-19 infections. More deaths. Both presidential candidates act like 9-year-olds in the first presidential debate.
October 2020: Baseball and basketball crown champions. No one was in the stands to see it. The president of the United States gets COVID-19.
November 2020: Election Day, enough said. Alex Trebek dies. Alex Trebek. A huge hurricane devastates Nicaragua. No one seems to notice. Less than two weeks later, another huge hurricane makes landfall just 14 miles away from the first one. No one seems to notice. They killed 200 people and caused more than 9 billion dollars in damage. No one seems to notice. Hey, it’s 2020.
December 2020: COVID vaccines are being administered worldwide. Some say the election still hasn’t been resolved, and people fight over it. The death toll for COVID-19 passes 1.7 million people across the planet. People are still fighting over masks.
Anyone ready for 2020 to finally end? Wondering what 2021 will bring?
Somehow, we have survived this disaster of a year. “Zoom” has become a verb. Fist bumps have replaced handshakes. In-person conferences are being scheduled. More people got on an airplane in the U.S. this month than any time since March. People are still dying of COVID-19; record numbers are being hospitalized.
Yet, there is hope. COVID-19 vaccines have tested well and are being distributed. Resistance to getting the vaccine is easing. Houses are still being bought and sold daily. Babies are being born now that were conceived during the pandemic. The sun still rises and sets, sometimes spectacularly, every day.
Yes, we are tired, we are weary, we are angry and sad. We want life to return to normal — whatever normal may be. It may be difficult to find much to be thankful for in 2020, but if we look deep, it is there.
Ever heard of “post-traumatic growth (PTG)”? It’s a real thing. PTG refers to any beneficial change resulting from a major life crisis or traumatic event. People most commonly experience a positive shift by having a renewed appreciation for life, adopting a new world view with new possibilities for themselves and others, and feeling more personal strength.
I know PTG exists, because I have personally experienced it. Back in 2012, I suffered a heart attack that, according to multiple cardiologists, should have killed me. Everything about that day sucked. The excruciating pain, the overwhelming fear of doom, the look on my wife and children’s faces when they wheeled me away for heart surgery.
It took a long time. It took therapy. But about a year after the heart attack, I had an epiphany of sorts. I realized having that heart attack was the best thing that ever happened to me — that there are benefits from having a heart attack.
Yes, benefits from almost dying. Believe me, I don’t ever want to go though that ordeal again. I wouldn’t wish it on my ex-wife. But the personal growth that happened after that traumatic experience has led my head to a far better place. I’ve gained a new appreciation for life, for my friends and for my family.
By all accounts, 2020 was a shitty year. But there have been worse years. I doubt anyone reading this was around during the 1918 pandemic that came on the heels of World War I. Or the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor, World War II, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Some of us will remember the civil rights movement, the riots, and assassinations of the 1960s. Vietnam. The country and the world survived those years, and the country and world will survive all 2020 brought us — and whatever 2021 holds.
The German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, is attributed with saying, “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” Sadly, many have died in this last year, and more will die in 2021. As tragic and horrific as that is, some good can come out of it. We do have things to be thankful for. We can learn and grow and become stronger from all this adversity.
Take a moment to reflect on 2020. Find one good thing that happened for you. It’s out there. You may need to look deep to find it, but it’s there. Embrace that. Build on it. Learn and grow.
I wish you all a good year in 2021. Hopefully it’s full of grace, love, peace, happiness, growth, prosperity and health — for you, your family and your friends.
Happy New Year!