Monday Author: Susanne Skinner
We began 2021 filled with hope and cautious optimism, accepting 2020 as a lost year.
After extraordinary disappointments and loss, we bet heavily on new beginnings in 2021. As we round the corner of the first quarter of the new year it is clear the path to healing will be long and challenging. What progress has been made and what does the remainder of the year look like?
Experts who study human behavior say it is human nature to pin failures on a period of time—like a calendar year—because of our attachment to routine. Being stripped of that routine makes us feel lost and out of control. We focus on the future, with the hope that things will improve.
A Look Back
To understand what we can expect for the rest of this year, we must first look at the year behind us. We have data points to consider with a quarter of the year already in the rear-view mirror.
Employment is rebounding after millions of people were furloughed or lost jobs. The entertainment and hospitality industry has been dark for over a year but is slowing coming back to life. People are getting vaccinated and venturing outside.
We are at 546,000 American Covid 19 deaths and still counting. It is an egregious number, many of whom did not have to die. With an aggressive vaccine rollout, one study found that if just 40 percent of the population is vaccinated, cases will decrease, with hospitalizations and deaths dropping by 60 to 70 percent.
To provide some numerical perspective, the average death toll in 2020 for heart disease was 655,000, and for cancer, 606,520 people. On Sept. 11, 2011, 2,988 people lost their lives the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
On the political front, our democracy endured a contentious and brutal campaign to subvert the presidential election, culminating in a violent assault on the U.S. Capitol. After a politically charged 2020, Americans—at least this one—are eager for a bipartisan path, which requires both sides viewing the other side as having valid points of view. I am not holding my breath.
Doing Things Differently
2020 feels like the day the earth stood still for an entire year. We learned the meaning of uncertainty, loss and disappointment in the harshest ways possible. But in the middle of this incredible heartache, we also discovered that life goes on.
Resilience and necessity made us think and act differently. As a result of sheltering in place, health and family emerged as an important focus in our lives. Self-improvement, time management, and mindfulness became meaningful practices as we navigated isolation and social distancing. Discovering contentment in simple things introduced us to a positive benefit of new normal.
When restrictions prevented indoor dining, restaurants learned to pivot and create dining rooms outdoors. Parking spaces became dining options and sidewalks morphed into sidewalk cafes. Kitchens re-centered themselves with takeout dining and restaurants that might have closed were able to remain open.
Being able to consult a doctor remotely, previously an emerging trend, suddenly became critical to those confined to their homes. The results proved advantageous for patients and doctors, offering an innovative and now commonly accepted option.
E-Commerce in 2021
Consumers (like me) discovered the convenience of e-commerce when it became unsafe to shop in stores. Granted we lived through some serious out-of-stock situations but we learned to make do and explore alternatives. Except for TP—no alternatives there. Please don’t anyone say newspaper.
As businesses re-open they are doing so with a greater investment in health and safety protocols. Corporate employees have been working from home for nearly a year. We know it works, so there is no excuse not to offer this as a permanent option.
Nearly 50 percent of small business owners say at least some of their workforce will continue to work remotely after restrictions are lifted. Before 2020, remote offices were the stuff employee dreams were made of.
Cancellations and Disappointments
My husband and I planned a vacation to Ireland last May, and instead of hoisting pints of Guinness in quant Irish pubs, we hoisted them in our Florida backyard. Not quite the same.
We were disappointed then, and we are disappointed now, finally admitting we will not be going this year. The cancellation of travel is one of our biggest disappointments, but there is always next year.
Not so for those whose cancellations are once-in-a-lifetime events. Senior proms and graduations that did not happen in 2020 will not come again. Weddings and funerals became closed services without the celebrations and in-person tributes.
The cancellation of sports, specifically the Olympic games, robbed participants of years of hard work and training, and many athletes will age out before another opportunity presents itself.
These once-in-a-lifetime rites of passage that mark a beginning or an ending are permanently lost to 2020. We had no choice but to accept it and move on, with the hope that things would slowly but surely improve.
Things Can Only Get Better
Spring is the season of hope. It brings renewed life and the belief that things will get better. We want to believe the worst is behind us as we slowly come back from the darkness of this pandemic called Covid-19.
Ernest Hemingway, writing about spring in his book A Moveable Feast said, “The river will flow again after it was frozen.” A virus froze life as we knew it, but we are moving forward, heading to a place of healing and hope.
Spring shifts the balance from longer nights to longer days, symbolically replacing darkness with light. There is a renewed optimism as we orient ourselves to new and sometimes different or improved routines.
Except for politics. Politics shows no signs of improving.