OK, 2020. You’ve got some explainin’ to do. Entering this year, I assumed it would be a great one, simply because the number 2020 had a numerical symmetry that connoted terrific things. And yes, most of my decisions are based on logic like that (but don’t act like you didn’t think the same thing).
Instead, for me 2020 turned out to be the Year of the House. I went out for takeout food on March 17, and I’m not sure I’ve left my house since, with the exception of walking up to my mailbox. Obviously that’s a bit of an exaggeration—after all, who gets mail anymore?
Each January, my wife and I create a photo book to memorialize the previous year. These photo books are normally filled with pictures of various trips, concerts, hikes, great dinners out, gatherings of family and friends, and all of the enjoyable things that fill our lives. It’s now looking like our 2020 photo book will be about two pages long, and most of our “memories” from this year will be pictures of our dog, Trolley.
Although I basically never changed out of my “2020 Happy New Year” sweatshirt, I nevertheless learned a number of important things this year, despite the lack of photographic evidence to document it.
•Healthcare workers truly are wondrous individuals. Most every healthcare worker—regardless of his or her role—has raised the bar in response to the pandemic. In 2020, healthcare workers have been much like firefighters who fearlessly rush into burning buildings, with one important difference: for healthcare workers, bravely venturing into perilous circumstances has been a daily event this year. They have been truly heroic on a regular and repeating basis.
•Human interaction shouldn’t be taken for granted, even between total strangers. Once all of this has passed—and it will pass—I’m going to take a different view of the people who serve in restaurants, provide customer service in stores and assist me with my healthcare needs, among many others. I actually miss these complete strangers, and once I’m back in a crowded restaurant and the waitperson comes to our table, I sense our relationship will feel different. I’ll likely even want to give them an unprovoked hug, although that’s probably illegal in most states. Perhaps just a knowing nod will be more appropriate. And a sizable tip.
•My mother was right after all: Wash your hands.
•Don’t take the truly important things for granted. That’s a lesson we’re often given the opportunity to learn, and it usually doesn’t stick. But if any year has provided us with an extended period of time to step back and appreciate the things we have—and that we perhaps take for granted—it was this one. And by “truly important things,” I mean things like people, not toilet paper.
•At the same time, I also learned not to underestimate the value of having an ample supply of toilet paper.
So bring on 2021. I like that number! I like its sequential nature. I’ve got a good feeling about next year. I feel optimistic.