I can not remember the last time I wrote a new year’s resolution but I know it is something people generally look forward to at the beginning of each year. I’d like to think that for most people, the idea is to pin down particular projects for a year (which is awesome by the way), and for some, it might be to improve on the previous year. Whichever the case might be, if it lacks the element of discipline and patience, then I believe modifying one’s content into the phrase, ‘to practice discipline and patience’, might not be too far from ideal. 2020 wasn’t simply a year- it was a lesson.
In 2020, the world had an opportunity to collectively halt the spread of a disease within months, and if I may dare say, weeks. If you’ve ever lived in a country where you have to face seasonal outbreaks from time to time, you know that the early days are most paramount. On the other hand, if you’ve never had to worry about certain infectious diseases because of the protection you’ve had in the past due to others being infected or vaccinated, you see life differently. In 2020, the world had an opportunity to halt for ‘a minute’ and then resume activities but we chose otherwise and now, COVID-19 stays among us and MIGHT actually become endemic.
It is hard to blame anyone feeling fatigued from the numerous lockdown measures and mandates. Imagine running a 100m dash and just at 99m, you were told that you had to add another 10m, and then another 10m when you had 1m left? Also, imagine another person being told that his lap was 120m. Who is likely to quit? For the first person, the question is, who is adding that time and why is that time being added?
It can not be stressed enough how the source of one’s information should be sought, even before reading an article. It can also not be stressed enough that one source is usually not enough, especially if it has a political backbone. I am disappointed, but not surprised that we are in the situation we are right now. The enticement of short- term reliefs, impractical messages of ‘hope’ from multiple media outlets and simply the spread of information from junk science with just one ‘click’ seemed quite ubiquitous throughout 2020.
If we have learned anything from last year, it is that human behavior is complex and while COVID-19 might not be a hot topic at the end of 2021, it is not COVID-19 I currently worry about. It is how the world will COLLECTIVELY manage the next virulent and contagious pathogen. In a small world, which is ever growing smaller by the minute thanks to technological advancement, and now ‘thanks’ to the rise of anti-Vaxxers, the next pathogen only needs one host to create the next commotion. 2020 showed a glimpse of the difficulty public health practice might be within the next decade.
Insults and Riots
Insults and riots NEVER solve a problem. While you might have the ears of those who would otherwise refuse to hear you, what you have not reached is their hearts. In fact, what you have sown is a seed of contempt and anger, growing till it finds its place in power. It is only a cycle and a matter of time. The quietest person in a room (and you probably have a mental picture of someone), is not quiet because he lacks a vocal cord. He waits till he has the appropriate platform to be heard; no matter what that might look like. The question is, will you genuinely accord him that respect? Did we really hear the voices of the marginalized in 2020? did we really provide safety for the marginalized? and who is really marginalized?
I have never liked politics and I do not like to think about politics. If you know me, you know that I generally do not like to talk about things I do not have control over. There was no escaping it in 2020. The topic came to me and there was nothing amusing about it. It is one thing to be involved in a conversation and another to be in a debate. I do not like debates. I’m not concerned about proving my point. I am concerned about finding the truth. Hence, to encounter people, some who perceive themselves as ‘open-minded’, to be blindly devoted to everything coming from only one source, is truly frustrating. I’d like to think that being open-minded means that no matter how angry and frustrated you are about a situation, you are willing to listen to that ‘what-if’ and not attack the person saying the ‘what-if’ but discuss the reasoning behind it. I’d like to think that being open-minded means that even after the media outlet has made its OWN conclusion on a particular topic, you wouldn’t accept it simply because of its status, but because you have checked other media outlets that are particularly claiming the opposite. I’d like to think that being open-minded means that you do not brand a person into one category based on his religion, ethnicity, political preference or simply where he/she grew up. But no, 2020 was truly disappointing. 2020 was shutdown. However, 2020 has been the loudest year I’ve ever witnessed; a plethora of complaints with few notetakers.
Interestingly, it is easier for all of us to see the fault in others. You would think that social media would bridge the gap between the heard and the unheard. You’d think that in-person etiquette would reflect online, but no. Are people generally abusive with words, whether spoken or written? Or are people more likely to be abusive with their words online because it is easy to just silence others with a delete, unfriend or unfollow button? I do not know about you but that seems like a slap to me. Do not get me wrong, I am not saying you HAVE to keep following someone you are not learning from, or someone who’s messages generally make you unhappy or disturb your mental state- I am actually a proponent of being intentional about who you follow because the things you see and hear affect you. And quite frankly, a person’s follow or interaction with you online is probably not a direct reflection of what their relationship with you is or will be like like in person; years of social media teaches you a thing or two. However, what I am saying is, as long as your comment boxes are enabled, someone might post a disagreement, which might be interpreted as an insult and sometimes glaringly so. How you respond to that comment, is more a reflection of you than the person. Are you saving your mental health or rather triggered because you think the answer should be somewhat obvious? If it is the former, YES PLEASE. If it is the latter, then the bearer of the question might actually be innocent. How willing are you to find out? 2020 revealed what I will call, ‘shallow relationships’.
Turning into what you hate
It was such an irony. Truly an irony, as I watched people do exactly what they complained about. So when does wrong become right? and what is right? what is the standard? was there ever a standard? so why criticize the previous wrong if it could have been previously right? does what is ‘right’ depend on the year you were born or an era? shall people in the future see the acts of 2020 as wrong or right? and which group in particular will make that conclusion? Was it just hypocrisy or people turning a blind eye or is society giving up on what is right and experimenting with the lukewarm/grey areas? and what does this mean for the future? 2020 was an eye-opener.
2020 was the best time for self-improvement
While this all seems gloomy holistically, it wouldn’t be a full reflection if I left out my personal journey. I despised the lockdown, not because I am much of an outdoor person; being told to sit at one place for an hour makes you want to get up the next minute. However, I loved that I didn’t have to quickly escape from a meeting to be by myself; I’m still working on this by the way. In 2019, I failed at the art of making sourdough bread. 2020 was the year of redemption. And like most art work, once you do one thing, you learn a myriad ways to modify it, especially if you get bored easily. For the first year in my life, I ate out no more than 7 days! I learned to play tennis, improved on my swimming skills, took dancing a little more seriously, started writing blog posts and I did something I never thought I would do; I started podcasting, and I would like to say that it was my number one hobby/source of entertainment for the last quarter of 2020.
2020 was a year of lessons and growth and there is a lot to be thankful for.