2020 was like nothing we’d ever seen. What was meant to be a fresh start in a new year and decade was quickly derailed by a pandemic, an immense sense of civil unrest, a tanking economy, never-ending lockdowns, and a general sense of uncertainty.
In a year so dramatic, so unpredictable, and really just so draining, we have cause to reflect and ask the question, “How has the last year changed me?”
Answers to this question varied from person to person:
My dad, a 63-year-old carpenter who’s worked hard to build his business, told me, “It taught me the importance of spending time with my family when I can.”
My mom, who’s worked hard to help build my dad’s business, says, “I became much more appreciative of my alone time.”
My buddy Kobe, a 23-year-old who works as a plumber’s assistant chimed in with “My girlfriend and I became stronger as a couple.”
Everyone I’ve spoken to at one point added, “It made me realize how quickly things can change.”
One thing that ties all these answers together is that the past year has taught us to reevaluate what is essential in our lives. In a time where things can change so quickly and suddenly, we’ve had to adapt and figure out what is necessary for us to live a happy and healthy life. For some, this means being in more regular contact with friends and family, working out more, taking time to enjoy solo activities, strengthening romantic relationships, or developing new hobbies.
My dad has had to reevaluate what to do with his downtime. He’s always been used to being busy, and with a slow period of work it’s forced him to spend his time on other things: cleaning his workshop, working out, taking care of his health, doing renovations on the house, and spending more time helping me learn new skills like driving. It’s been a great time for us to reconnect and spend more time as father and son.
My mom has been a relatively solitary person and being forced to spend more time at home has solidified that. With all of us spending more and more time in the house, there have been moments where we’ve gotten a bit too close to each other. It’s taught all of us, especially my mom, just how important alone time is.
I spent some time catching up with Kobe last week, who told me about how he and his girlfriend have had to adapt. They only just moved in together recently, so all the time in each other’s space was a lot to adjust to. Kobe told me that although things can get rocky, by working together they have become stronger as a couple.
The common sentiment that everyone has echoed is that we’ve all had to realize how fast things can change. One day things seem normal, and the next—BOOM—not allowed to leave the house, see friends, travel. This (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime event has shown many that anything can happen at any time, and things might not always get back to normal right away.
I remember speaking to a friend of mine, Logan, about how this year had impacted us. We both realized that before these health orders banned us from seeing friends, neither of us did much socializing anyway. Both of us are reasonably solitary people who could go months without seeing another human being. Part of the reason for this was we both knew that we would be able to see them whenever we wanted, but with that now being essentially outlawed, it’s made us both realize that we need social interaction more than we thought. Sure, a laggy Zoom chat over a few beers is friendly, but it is nothing like catching up in person. This is just one of the many examples of the “You don’t know what you have till it’s gone”-effect that COVID-19 and 2020 has had on people.
As we advance through 2021, I think everyone feels a sense of anxiety and optimism. The “two weeks” we had to flatten the curve have felt like the longest weeks of my life. When I asked my friends and family about what they want to change going forward, the answer was different for each person. “I just want us to treat people with more compassion,” my dad said, frustrated at all the bickering he has seen on the news. “I just want to get back to normal, keep living my life,” my mom, who wants us all to get out of the house more, added. “Get back to living life, finish school, get a job, move on,” Kobe, who’s finishing up a few classes at BCIT, told me. “2020 has tested us, 2021 will push us, but we will find new ways to adapt. One thing is for sure—everyone can’t wait for this to be just a bad memory.”