Cover Image by Jenny Wong
They say hindsight is 20/20, and I can’t think of another year on record that more people wanted to put in their rearview mirror. To say it was rough is not only stupidly obvious, but perhaps the mother of all understatements. So just how bad was this year, and, using the power of hindsight to look back on it, was there any way we could have somehow skipped this whole mess? What lessons can we learn from the hardship of 2020 that can help us set our sights on 2021 and beyond with a sense of hope and hard-earned wisdom? In this article, I’ll share some thoughts on what this year brought, what it meant, and means, for the legions of newly-minted homebodies out there, and how to leverage the experience looking forward as we put 2020 to bed for good.
First, lets take a gulp and bravely recount some of the lowlights and trends from 2020, which of course center around the global COVID-19 pandemic that has run rampant over most of the planet:
- As of December 29, over 81 million people worldwide have contracted the Coronavirus, with around 1.8 million deaths being attributed to the phantom menace.
- In the U.S., almost 20 million cases have been reported, with over 343,000 deaths resulting. Even if one gives credence to those who question the accuracy of these statistics (some claim that the number of deaths has been inflated by those who actually dies from other pre-existing conditions, and Covid-19 was incidental but not causal), USA FACTS projects that the TOTAL deaths in the U.S. for 2020 will be at least 240,000 more will die in 2020 than in 2019. So, no matter how you slice it – it is bad. If you are reading this and have lost someone in 2020, by any cause, our sincere sympathy goes out to you.
- More than ¾ of Americans faced restrictions on their ability to work and move around at will, with “Lockdown” becoming one of the ignominious banner words of 2020. These mandates were part of America’s disjointed efforts to curb the spread of the virus – but it’s unclear how much, if any, effect this had. According to USA Today, “At the height of restrictions in late March and early April, more than 310 million Americans were under directives ranging from “shelter in place” to “stay at home.”” Lower wage earners in the restaurant and hospitality industries were some of the hardest hit by these measures, and Forbes states that it will take years to recover the 22 million jobs lost.
Were there, in hindsight, any signs of what was coming, or any way to prevent it? There is no short answer, but the short answer is no. Despite rumors of a cluster of strange, flu-like cases in Wuhan, China, near the end of 2019, no one could have predicted the extent to which this virus would thrive when it hit its new target host population, humans.
Reducing the impact of the pandemic is a different story. There is proof of a better way to sniff out and snuff out virus outbreaks like this – and preserve a much higher standard of “normal” – in the example of countries like Taiwan, which I’ve already referenced here. Whether these measures could actually have been implemented in a country as large and diverse (and frankly, divided) as the U.S. of A. is a matter for smarter people than me to debate.
As if Americans didn’t have their hands full, 2020 also brought worldwide attention to a longstanding stain on its reputation as a society – systemic racism, specifically the never-ending violent interactions between police and Black Americans across the country. The now infamous video of George Floyd dying at the hands of police sparked the #blacklivesmatter protest movement. It finally became clear to all that a fundamental rethinking of policing in America simply has to happen.
The Cultural Side-Effects
Societal upheaval, almost by definition, results in lasting changes to the way people live and work. In 2020, some of the side-effects may become part of the permanent landscape of American culture going forward. For example, one area that thrived, predictably, from the “HomeBodying” of America, was anything and everything virtual. Ecommerce businesses like Amazon, reached new heights, and technology facilitating virtual gathering, like Zoom, became household names in 2020.
One other potentially positive side-effect is that some were able to figure out how to earn a living from the comfort of home, in the best cases by doing work that aligned with their interests better than the jobs they may have lost. Although 2020 will never be remembered as “the Year of online entrepreneurship”, for some it was a small silver lining in all the cloudy gray skies.
Good Riddance (Day)!
Something I learned in researching this article was that for years, the Times Square NYC official website has been hosting “Good Riddance Day”, where people can write down the things they want to cleanse from their lives forever after this year, and submit them to be ceremonially shred en-masse. There has never been a better year to carry out such a cathartic tradition!
What to Look Forward To
“The sun will come out, tomorrow”, is how the song goes, and one thing all of us can take from a year that has been by almost all accounts an unmitigated disaster, is our knowledge that it is almost, finally, over! 2021 is a new year and brings hope on several fronts:
- Vaccines are coming! It will take time, but surely one of the brightest rays of sunshine towards the end of 2020 has been the amazing and highly cooperative achievement by medical researchers around the world in developing what seems to be a range of safe and effective vaccines that will finally halt the spread of the virus in its tracks. Hang on, help is on the way!
- Hugs! No more needs to be said. We need them. They are coming.
- Jobs coming back – letting people gather at restaurants and bars, just like the old days, will also provide much-needed income and a jumpstart to the economy in 2021.
- Travel! Because let’s face it – you can’t smell virtual places. My son and I can’t wait to return to the homeland and take a deep breath of that fresh Canadian air!
Let’s wrap here for now, as we put this strangest and most horrible of years under wraps! See you in 2021 homebodies, where a new dawn awaits! On behalf of myHomeBody, I extend our heartfelt wishes for a swift return to "normal" homebody life!