We Needed This Year

Settle down, give me a second to explain. We didn’t need the death and turmoil, that was indubitably tragic. There, happy? So many died, and so much of it avoidable with proper precautions and national guidelines, not to mention people actually taking care of themselves and believing the pandemic to be real. Barring that, we needed this year. It’s a strange thing to say, especially since the general consensus everywhere you look is, “Good riddance, 2020.” 

            It certainly was a bad year, I cannot stress this enough. We did, however, gain something this year that we never would have otherwise: clarity. We had the space to think about ourselves and others, and introspection was all but inevitable. That’s what we needed. Prior to this year, we settled into a strange and detached lifestyle. We weren’t really connected to one another as people, but as online profiles. We talked at each other, only waiting for our turn to speak. We based our self-worth on superficial things like looks, popularity, and worst of all, comparison.

            But 2020 was the great equalizer in many ways. Forced into our homes, we quickly realized what mattered: people. There was no way around being with your family or loved ones or whomever you live with. You had to spend time with them, a lot of it. And in turn, they had to spend time with you. Our every social instinct was taken away. Many of us struggled with the change, being social people by nature, craving attention and an audience. Others among us, myself included, thrived in the isolation. I’m a homebody, and always have been.

            So why did we need this? Our social relationships were broken, our relationship with the planet itself was beyond broken. We had to relearn how to be close with people, how to interact with real human beings. We had to relearn what it means to be a good friend, what it means to care, and how to do so from a distance in many cases. The things we took for granted – gatherings with friends and families, going to the movies, going to concerts and shows – we learned what made them special. Without the ability to go to these places, we realized that yes, the performance was the main attraction, but being with people was the real joy. Communal experience was taken from us, and it needed to happen.

            We had forgotten the only thing in the world that matters: other people. Some among us took it upon themselves to never believe pandemic hype. Some went in the opposite direction of the guidelines – going to bars, restaurants, and making new friends despite how it could possibly affect those at home who also have to deal with the germs brought back by their selfishly rebellious counterparts. We needed that too, we needed to see who everyone was. We needed to know that even under extreme circumstances, you can still count on certain people to be shortsighted and selfish, not only that, but to rationalize their own behavior after the fact. Many felt as though their freedoms were taken away – many don’t understand just how privileged their view of freedom is.

            Civil unrest took hold in 2020 as well. The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless others sparked a new social movement, and the world took notice. But would it have been as big as it was if everyone was busy running themselves into the ground like they were before the pandemic? We were captive, and we saw the video of George Floyd, the officer with his knee on his neck, and we were mortified. People took to the streets in their thousands, wearing masks, and making change happen.

            The planet too needed a break, and it got it. With everybody indoors, there were less cars on the road. Birds came back, animals came out in their numbers. It was a glorious sight to behold, nature wresting back control, asserting its dominance.

            We did need this. As people, we had gotten so far from the shore. We couldn’t have been more self-involved, and the pandemic changed that. It was a great equalizer. Suddenly, everyone was at home in comfortable clothes, watching TV, eating, and drinking. We couldn’t compare ourselves against what others were doing, because everyone was doing the same thing. And when social pressures were taken away, we found out how to be caring, outward-thinking people again. And that is something we cannot forget when this is all over.

Published by Christopher Goodlof

Writer, Visual Artist, Musician

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