Early on in the year 2020 when the pandemic began silently taking its toll on the world, I started making a list of things that we lost either temporarily or permanently. Even though we all hoped and expected that things would get back to normal much more quickly, it was still clear by spring that this would be a year like no other. As I look back at 2020 I’m amazed at all the changes that happened in our world.
A Year of Losses
One of the early expressions of outrage in America that I remember was that high school and college graduation ceremonies were going to be canceled. How could these teenagers and young adults survive without this rite of passage? How could we deprive them of this once in a lifetime event? Soon we learned that this was just the tip of the iceberg and we would come to realize that a graduation ceremony was the least of our problems.
A Look Back at 2020’s New Vocabulary
As the weeks went on we learned new words and met new people who came to the forefront during this tumultuous year. I began writing down those things that we were being introduced to as well. I don’t personally have any grandchildren to pass this down to, but I encouraged teens and young adults that I knew to keep a journal during this crazy time. These are the days that your descendants will want to know about and with so much going on, it’s easy to forget all the changes that happened as the months unfolded in 2020.
My Personal Perspective
Early in the year, I was shocked at the range of opinions and beliefs that were being spoken by our leaders and repeated in the media, social media, and even in personal conversations about the changes going on around us. This isn’t meant to be a political statement and I’m sure that many will disagree with my perceptions and opinions. Your perspective may be different and I’m not here to argue about it.
I’ve intentionally left out some of the more controversial terms and topics in an effort to avoid stoking the fires of division. I’ll admit that there will still be some people who find certain phrases to be objectionable, but I’m sharing my reality and perspective from where I sit.
My view is focused on what I’ve seen in my own country, the United States. Other countries have been different, so I’m only focusing on America.
A Look Back at 2020 Losses
Clearly, this is only a partial list of what came to mind for me. There are over 100 items in alphabetical order. Feel free to share your ideas in the comments. Some of these were lost temporarily and others were lost forever. Some had a huge economic impact and others were just a blip on the proverbial screen. Many of these losses will leave deep life-long scars and others were minor inconveniences, but each one was a loss to someone or many someones. It’s also interesting to note that some of these losses may actually end up bringing positive change.
No wonder so many people are grieving this year and looking forward to 2020 being over.
What We Lost in 2020 in the U.S.
More than 343,000 precious human lives from COVID-19
3 million deaths in the country overall (the most ever)
Auto racing audiences
Ballet — live
Bars and alcohol
Business meetings — in person
Church services — in person
College campus activities
College entrance exams (SAT/ACT)
Commutes to work
Elective medical procedures
Graduation celebrations & ceremonies
Hall of Fame Induction celebrations
High school Senior shenanigans
Indy 500 audience
Jobs by the millions
Kentucky Derby parties and attendees
Kids’ city sports
Memorial services — in person
Life expectancy (decreased)
Personal Space at Home
PGA & LPGA Golf Spectators
Pick-up basketball games
Pop Warner Football
Pro sports draft events
Quality of Life
Recovery programs — in person
Red Carpet Premiers
Ruth Bader Ginsberg
TV Show Live Audiences
Working at the office
What Moved to the Forefront in 2020
As the year ends and I look back at 2020 I see all the new terminology I learned, the new faces I met through the news, the organizations and causes that were on the fringes that I became aware of, and I realize what a growing year it was. Sometimes growth is painful and I wouldn’t wish a repeat of 2020 on anyone, but I’m thankful for the chance to look at the world through new eyes. I hope you’ve had a chance to learn something new too in this crazy year.
As with the other list, everything here isn’t brand new and some things were only temporary, but each item was in focus at one time or another when I look back at 2020. Everything wasn’t related to the pandemic or politics either. We had record-setting years for hurricanes and wildfires on top of everything else. Imagine having to live in an emergency shelter during this time?
We Found the Good As Well
And let’s not forget that there were amazing accounts of people caring for others despite the horrific circumstances. Front line workers fought and died for those who contracted the dreadful disease. Essential workers gathered, prepared, transported, stocked, served, and delivered our food. Teachers, firefighters, police, EMTs, city service workers, public transportation operators, and delivery drivers risked their lives to keep us as safe and connected as possible.
Yo-Yo Ma’s “Songs of Comfort” Project brought solace and peace into our living rooms. John Krasinski brought us “Some Good News”. Neighbors encouraged, supported, and serenaded their neighbors. Healthcare workers were applauded from the streets. Family members visited their elders even when a window had to separate them. The oldest and youngest among us learned new skills like video chatting and wearing a mask. Folks even found ways to pay it forward while waiting in line by paying for the purchase of the person behind them.
Some developments may be viewed as negative and others positive, depending on your perspective. The truth is, they are what they are and our country and the world have changed because of them. How does this list make you feel? Depressed, hopeful, frustrated, exhausted, victorious? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Here’s my next list with well over 100 phrases from 2020.
A Look Back at 2020 — What Came Into Focus
19.8 Million+ COVID-19 Cases
Alcohol consumption limits
AstraZeneca COVID Vaccine
Biden as President-elect
Black Lives Matter
Cardboard stadium fans
Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
Cocktails to Go
Confederate names removed
Dirt cheap airfares
Enhanced cleaning ratings for lodging
Emergency Use Authorization
Election Conspiracy Theories
First Black & Asian American Vice President
Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
Georgia recount and runoffs
Hurricanes — record-breaking season
Jose Andres feeds America
Lawsuits by the President
Mask debates and divisions
Moderna COVID Vaccine
National Institute of Health (NIH)
New Virus Variants
Outdoor Dining Bubbles
Operation Warp Speed
Pfizer COVID Vaccine
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
President Trump gets COVID
Rapid Response Testing
Refrigerated morgue trailers
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome — Coronavirus 2
Six feet apart
Some Good News — John Krasinski
Stadium crowd-noise soundtracks
Supporting local businesses
Supporting minority-owned businesses
Symptoms — loss of taste and smell
Travel Bans & Restrictions
United States unraveling
USNS Comfort and Mercy Ships
Wash your hands
World Health Organization (WHO)
Working from home
Yoga at home
Where Do We Go From Here?
Now what? What will you do with all of this change? Sadly things aren’t going to magically change back to the way it was in 2019 on New Years Day. In fact, all indications are that it will get much worse before it gets better.
Are you someone who will embrace change and make the best of it or will you fight tooth and nail to resist and get back to “normal” and the way it was without sacrificing for others? Did you feel like you were deprived of your freedoms or did you willingly embrace the restrictions in light of the common good?
Did We Pass The Test?
I believe that this year was a huge test for our country and I’m not sure we got a passing grade. We have so much room for improvement. I plan to take some time to examine what I can do to make the world and myself better in 2021. My desire is to be more unselfish, more philanthropic, and less judgmental as a start, but there’s so much more to look at.
I hope to make each day count and I hope you do as well. It’s clear that generations to come are counting on us to do all we can to get it right. I don’t believe in resolutions, but I’d love to hear your goals for the new year, whether big or small. Thanks for taking a look back at 2020 with me. It may have been dark and ugly at times but here’s hoping that 2021 will be brighter.
Originally published at https://travelingwithpurpose.com on December 30, 2020.