Thank you, 2020
It may seem unlikely to slap that title on a blog post. However, I am truly grateful for the lessons of 2020, many of which I believe could not have happened in any other year or time in my life.
For posterity's sake and for my own record, I'd like to share how I've been shaped by this unprecedented year.
1. Time and space for greater self-awareness and reflection.
When everything shut down in March, my role as an instructional coach in an elementary school quickly shifted. Suddenly I was home all day every day. Yes, there were online meetings and work to do, but the whole pace and routine that I was used to literally vanished overnight. For someone who thrives on routine, this was unsettling.
I've always dreamed of working completely from home and supporting myself through online work of some sort. I've also always thought I didn't have the self-discipline necessary to actually do this IRL.
I am thankful that 2020's shake-up of my work life allowed me to see that I CAN, in fact, be disciplined enough to create my own schedule and be productive without someone structuring and dictating my work life for me. That has been really reassuring and gratifying to discover.
During these last nine months, I've had the time and space to read a variety of non-fiction books that have challenged my thinking about the world, our country and myself. I am grateful for the lessons of this set-apart time, and eager to see where they will lead in the new year and the years to come.
2. Time for more connection with my teenage sons
Since my own two teenage sons were also displaced from their daily routine of school life, we had a LOT of unexpected time together. Early on, my youngest son and I started a routine of eating lunch together on the couch at a set time every day while watching "our show". "The Office" soon became our "thing" ......... I even gave him Schrute Farms beet socks in his Christmas stocking. ;-)
While I'm very close to each of my sons in different ways, by their very nature, teenagers tend to sequester themselves in their rooms much of the time, only venturing out for food. I know that Sam and I will both look back on those many months of lunches together as a precious gift bestowed upon us in the year 2020.
3. Time and space to connect with others in new ways and to grow new friendships
Another gift of 2020 has been learning how to connect with others in new ways. As nearly all of us have discovered, even apart we can still be together. Early in the pandemic when the weather was just warming where I live, I was able to get out and take almost daily walks with friends. Again, this was an unexpected, but most welcome gift. These walks allowed me time with old friends who I rarely see during "normal times" as well as the exploration and deepening of a friendship with someone who was more of an acquaintance when this all started.
In addition, I initiated an online spiritual book study with a group of friends and acquaintances. This was a really needed chance for me to carve out intentional time to grow spiritually. It was also a good way to connect with others as we all processed our new normal.
4. Newfound appreciation and gratitude for in person gatherings
While I'm not wholly an introvert, I do have strong preferences for being home and prefer to share most of my time with just a select few people. This was definitely true of me pre-pandemic. With that said, I loved going to my coffee shop/bookstore/church on Sunday mornings, meeting friends for lunch, and going out to eat with my man.
I know that others have felt the impact of the loss of in person gatherings more than I have. By nature, I prefer small crowds. However, I have found that I really miss being around others sans masks. So I've found some new love and appreciation for the smiling faces of both friends and strangers, the regular gatherings with others at church, and the freedom to grab lunch with my favorite gals. It's nice to be reminded of the gift of these experiences.
5. Emerging recognition of my white privilege
As mentioned above, 2020's months of isolation allowed me time and space to dig more deeply into reading and learning. Much of the reading I did was around anti-racism. I feel like a complete newbie with this topic, almost embarrassingly so. For that reason, I won't go into a lot of detail right now. My learning needs more time to digest. For today's post, I'll just say that during my time at home, I was very aware of how my privilege allowed me to experience this "burden" in ways that are wholly unavailable to many women in my own community, country and in the global collective. In 2021, I will strive to learn more and do more around this topic.
I'm not anticipating that the start of 2021 will feel much different on a tangible level than the end of 2020. However, in my opinion there is much to be hopeful for in the new year. Personally, I am looking forward to new leadership for our country. I am hoping that the unrest and angst we have experienced in our country have been the necessary birthing pains for something better to come.
Thank you, 2020, for your gifts amidst the hardships. We will never forget you. Let us not forget your lessons, even as we allow ourselves to fully feel and grieve your pains.