It was rather impossible to predict all the events of 2020 that unfolded. The last pandemic was in 1918, the last major civil rights movement was in 1968, and the 2020 presidential election set the record for voter turnout with over 161 million people voting! 2020 has been remarkable and sobering, unforgettable and incomprehensible, quiet and turbulent, and beautiful while tragic. 2020 added more heartaches as well as incredible opportunities. Through all of it, this year has provided lessons to reflect on, remember, and incorporate into our lives for the years ahead.
First Lesson: Each year brings new growth.
Despite what this year brought to each of us, it is important to take time to reflect on where we have been, what we have overcome, how we have grown, and what we want in the years to come. There “will never be another year like 2020” some say, but this can be said for every year of our lives. No matter what this year may have looked like and opportunities it provided or took, it is important to acknowledge the meaning of our individual and collective experiences.
Time for reflection must be taken. The end of the year can be a busy time with obligations and holidays, but taking time to reflect on the past year’s opportunities, accomplishments, disappointments, and challenges can help prepare us for the year to come and the goals we make for 2021. One way to reflect is to ask deliberate questions, write down responses, and consider the meaning of the answers. People may prefer a time of quiet to do this or the atmosphere of motivational music. Here are some questions to help with the reflection process.
Questions to reflect on as we say goodbye to 2020:
Second Lesson: Each year brings perspective.
We are better together. When the pandemic began, families came together, communities supported local restaurants, restaurants supported local families, friends, neighbors, and families celebrated birthdays and graduations with home-grown parades, people emerged from their homes on daily bike rides or walks, and our medical personnel and first responders were celebrated as heros. It was quiet. It was beautiful. It was hard.
Recent research from the Institute for Family Studies and the Wheatley Institute found that teenagers’ mental health became stable or improved during quarantine. According to this research, increased family time and sleep were important factors for stability. However, another challenging transition occurred. The summer went on and school resumed. Quality sleep and family time may have become less consistent. In these ever-changing circumstances, we must prioritize sleep and time with family as well as loved ones. Doing so may be stabilizing factors in what feels like an unstable time. We prioritize what we schedule. Scheduling sleep as well as quality time with family and loved ones can reap many benefits. It may feel silly to schedule priorities that should come naturally, but there is nothing natural about time management. It has to be intentionally pursued.
Third Lesson: Each year brings both “good” and “bad.”
There is an old story of unknown origin that tells of a farmer who used an old horse in his fields. One day the horse escaped into the hills. When the farmer’s neighbors sympathized with the old man over his bad fortune, the farmer replied, “Good or bad? Who knows?” The horse returned a week later with a herd of wild horses from the hills. His neighbors congratulated the farmer on his good fortune. He replied, “Good or Bad? Who knows?” When the farmer’s son was attempting to tame one of the wild horses, he fell off its back and broke his leg. Everyone again sympathized with the farmer over his bad fortune. But the farmer’s reaction was, “Good or Bad? Who knows?” Some weeks later, the army marched into the village and drafted every able-bodied youth they found. When they saw the farmer’s son with his broken leg, they let him stay. So, Good or Bad fortune? Who knows?
2020 came with many surprises. Was 2020 “good” or “bad?” The answer is different for everyone and perhaps impossible to answer as the story illustrates. The reality is we can never know the full impact of everything that happened. It may seem “bad” now but could turn out “good” in the future. It is important to take time to process the challenges, grieve the losses, and reflect on the blessings. It is necessary to remember that what feels impossible and “bad” now may get better and that what appears “good” now may lead to challenges. Life is fluid and comes with ups and downs, but it is how we approach the journey that can make the greatest impact.
Fourth Lesson: Each year brings another year.
Each year brings another year, but the events of the previous year will not exist in the past. Each year’s events come with us into the next and are a part of shaping the next year as well as who we become. Often we see people talk about “leaving a year behind” and “starting over” in the next. That may sound nice but is not reality. It is worthwhile to look forward with optimism. If we neglect to acknowledge what happened to us and how it may impact us moving forward, then we will be quickly disappointed in 2021. Use the questions mentioned earlier to help reflect on what may be impacting you from this year into the next, and how you can use that impact for your personal growth.
Additional questions to consider as we forge into 2021 with hope for better days:
The year 2020 was certainly unique. Each year holds possibilities for growth, a need to take care of ourselves and spend time with loved ones, both “good” and “bad” circumstances, and an occasion for reflection. Take time to reflect over the coming months about what has been and all that is yet.
Goodbye 2020 and hello 2021!