It’s hard to look back on the past year and really, truly understand everything that’s happened, and how much has changed. It’s like trying to stare into the sun; it’s painful, overwhelming, and even when we look away the imprint remains seared into our vision. That was 2020.
Maybe the only way to sum it up right now is this: I’m so very tired.
Even without the global pandemic, this would have been an exhausting year. The president got impeached, remember? Yes, that was this year, back in February. There was the endless grind of the 2020 presidential election, too, which filled the calendar from the bungled Iowa caucuses and, at least for some, isn’t over yet. Closer to home in Connecticut we were stuck in a miserable loop fighting about tolls and transportation funding.
But the pandemic did happen. It’s still happening. For some of us that’s meant staying home when we can, going to work when we have to, and taking calculated risks if we must. We got used to wearing masks, staying well apart from others, and living with the constant dread of catching the disease or passing it to a loved one.
For others, the pandemic has been a time to wallow in dangerous conspiracy theories, pretending walking into a Target maskless is the same as being Batman, and making fun of anyone taking COVID-19 seriously. These people, and the amoral, incompetent president they love, are why the death count is so high in this country.
2020 in the United States, then, should be a cautionary tale for what happens when half of the people in a country decide over the course of three decades to live in an alternate reality, and then elect one of their own as president. Of course it ended like this.
The loss from this disaster year is unfathomable. 330,000 have died from this disease as of this writing. Millions fell ill, and some have been left with long-lasting aftereffects even after they recovered. Jobs were lost, businesses shuttered, and lives uprooted. People are losing their homes or being evicted from their apartments. The scar that this year leaves will be deep and lasting.
I’d like to think we as a society are taking away some painful, obvious lessons from everything we’ve gone through, but that might be too much to hope for. I can’t speak for society in any case. Society will speak for itself throughout the next decade.
So, because writing these thoughts down may help me in some way or another, here’s my own personal list of things I’m trying to take away from this burning manure pile of a year.
First, I’m finding it a lot harder to trust people. I wasn’t friends with anyone who completely leapt off reality cliffs and into the slimy waters of anti-masker pond, but there were too many people I know who wrote off the virus as being something we shouldn’t really worry about. Have these people been taking precautions? Did they go out this weekend to a party at someone’s house without a mask? Are they actually obeying social distancing rules? How do I know?
And oh yeah, that’s absolutely paranoia, but it’s not totally unreasonable, either! I’m terrified of bringing this virus home to my wife. I don’t really care if I catch it myself, but if I pass it on…? I’ll never forgive myself.
It’s not a healthy way to live. I need to remember that it’s possible for people to come down with this thing through absolutely no fault of their own. It happens all the time; you can make no mistakes and still fail. But… I’m still having a hard time trusting people.
Second, I’ve discovered that I don’t mind not going out. I think the thing I miss most is going to hockey games, but even losing that is something I can live with. Maybe I knew this about myself already; it’s never been easy for me to be social or be in crowds. So in some ways this has been easier on me than on people who really need to be with others in order to thrive.
Third, I’m lucky and I’m privileged. I knew that already, but this year has driven home the point. I don’t have to go to a job where I’m face-to-face with customers or patients all day, or running around delivering packages and food to shut-ins like me. Health care workers, retail workers, and delivery drivers deserve better pay, more respect, and a social safety net that actually works.
Lastly, despite everything, I still believe that a better future is coming. We have vaccines. We’ll have a new president on January 20th. So maybe, just maybe, 2021 will be the year we start to turn it all around.
Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.
The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.