After 2020, looking ahead to what’s next
The year 2020 left many of us with an uncomfortable sense of living in a world of lingering unknowns. Regardless of how you see 2020, It’s worthwhile to look back, acknowledge and pat ourselves on the back for the adversities we’ve managed to overcome in our country, Australia. It’s also a perfect time to look forward towards 2021.
Reflecting on the new and positive behaviours we’ve come to accept throughout a year that has delivered one hurdle after another on a massive scale is amazing. Now, we need to consider how we can adopt such behaviours moving forward. There is no place for complacency, even with a vaccine on the horizon. First, let’s look at what we are leaving behind in 2020.
2020 — The year of lockdowns, working from home, home-schooling and a glimmer of hope
2020 marked the onset of a rapid worldwide transformation. Life as we had once enjoyed, was flipped upside down and inside out, due to the onset of COVID-19. With little to look forward to, the year rapidly transformed into doom and gloom. Life became like a fear-inducing movie, only we’ve been the stars of the show, sitting front and centre, living the nightmare that has become our way of life. COVID-19, and trying to avoid catching it, has become our life. It’s always in the back of our minds and has changed our behaviours on an immense scale.
As COVID-19 escalated, we had to adapt to a plethora of change. For much of the time we were confined to our homes. I’m sure most people would agree, 2020 was an enormous struggle. 2020 has been a year marked by an ongoing sense of sadness, gloom, disbelief and grief. These feelings and experiences far outweigh any glimmer of joy we may have been lucky enough to experience. The burden is immense, but it doesn’t all need to be hostile or for nothing We’re lucky to have skilled scientists with the ability to create a vaccine in a short amount of time. We’re lucky to live in a world that has united in a time of great danger, showing outstanding commitment to putting every resource and every minute possible into one basket for the greater good of society.
As we reflect, we must avoid the unhelpful blame game. Likewise, we should refrain from beating ourselves up for moments we may have behaved in ways we wouldn’t normally do. Such behaviours are to be expected; we’ve been living in glass bubbles with limited access to see friends or family, even to leave the confines of our own homes. For the most part, the events that changed our world couldn’t be stopped. One morning we woke only to find ourselves living in a very different world—one where any sense of control or safety, became a distant memory.
Looking ahead to 2021 – Take the good with the bad
Now is the prime time to embrace 2021.. We could easily fall back into the negative headspace brought on by the events of 2020, or we can choose to take a more optimistic outlook. 2021 provides an opportunity to reflect on the many lessons we’ve learnt, grab the ones that have served us well and bring them in our box of tools into 2021.
So, you may now be wondering what can we take from 2020 that has been in any way positive? It was a challenge but here are a few pearls of wisdom that have a place in my life moving forward.
- Never take life or the people in it for granted
Unfortunately, the onset of Covid-19 resulted in the necessity of social distancing. We were required to remove ourselves from the presence of some of the most influential people in our lives. We missed the feeling of being connected to others. However, despite much complaining, we persisted. Isolation became the norm and for very good reason.
Families were unable to meet face to face for months on end. Grandparents didn’t have the opportunity to meet new grandchildren until they were well and truly through their first year of life. We stayed away from some of our closest friends and refused to allow our children to see their friends. We complied with these directions for the benefit of ourselves and the wider community. If we failed to follow these new rules, we put ourselves at risk and put everyone else around us at risk.
For myself, this was a no-brainer. Despite the daily struggle of being stuck in the house with the same people every day when all I wanted to do was get out and photograph the world was torturous but my small contribution I did not want to be responsible for infecting another human (I have not yet had COVID-19). In return, I hoped to receive the same consideration from others.
On a personal note, throughout the harshest restrictions, I made it my job to ensure my parents’ physical and emotional well-being. I became their primary caregiver, (not that they’re physically unable to do so for themselves) since they were in the higher age risk zone. Thinking of them navigating the shops was a risk I wasn’t willing to let them take. Others did the same for their parents. We shopped, cooked, provided medication and ensured they had plenty of jigsaw puzzles to keep their minds busy. And for those times when they did leave their home for some much needed fresh air, we ensured they had an abundance of masks and hand sanitiser. In short, my parents became my number one priority. Considering I have young children, this may seem odd! Don’t get me wrong, I continued to take good care and educate my children, but deep down, I knew my mum and dad were in greatest need at that point. Caring for others demonstrates our willingness to stand up and do whatever is needed to be done to get everyone through a difficult time in life.
Most definitely, the experience of being separated from family and friends helped me to appreciate better the people who matter the most. I’m sure we’ve all been guilty of taking people for granted at one time or another. If The events of 2020 helped us to see what’s essential in life; at the tip, it’s not the material stuff! The key message was never to take anyone for granted because you never know what’s waiting around the corner.
- Somewhat restored my faith in humanity
At the beginning of the pandemic, images of people fighting over toilet paper in the supermarkets was a shameful vision to witness. I can only conclude that some people act incredibly irrational during times of extreme crisis. However, we witnessed individuals stepping up and doing good deeds for mere strangers for the most part. I have witnessed it myself; people dropping off essentials to others (family or otherwise) who could not leave their homes due to being in a higher risk group—lending a hand to families who had lost their source of income. The goodness of humanity shone brightly.
At Easter time, our family put two big bags of Easter eggs and chalk (which was in shortage!) together and left them on the front doorstep of a neighbour who has children. It was the very least we could do to brighten their Easter. But the most rewarding part of this (for me anyway) was my children and seeing the real sense of joy and satisfaction they felt from helping other people. A quality that I continue to see shine through as it strengthens within their young hearts—what a proud moment as a parent.
We enjoyed viewing the homes of strangers who welcomed children to decorate their fences and front yards with wooden spoons creatively made to look like little people. They’ve come to be known as Spoonville villages, and they were popping up everywhere. Such a pure delight to pass by, particularly for children. Likewise, the emergence of rainbows and teddy bears in the homes’ front windows was a heart-warming gesture. It took away a small sense of the scary place our world has become. Such acts might seem small but brought an immense sense of joy to my children and many others.
Finally, most of us chose to do the right thing, despite not wanting to do so. This demonstrates the goodness that lies deep within the human spirit during a time of turmoil. Well done to us.
- A newfound appreciation for technology
I’m not a huge fan of Zoom or Skype meetings, but I have come to acknowledge the critical role technology has played in keeping us connected socially, professionally and in terms of our health care. Thanks to technology, many people have retained employment, continued to see health care providers online, and our children have maintained some level of education and connection to their school friends. What technology did for us throughout 2020 is incredible. For many people, the ability to work from home was a welcome change, particularly when significant travel was involved.
Pleasingly, in many instances, employers are acknowledging the benefits of working more with more flexibility; this includes working from home. It may also mean splitting time more equally between home and office, a much needed and positive step forward for families’ home and work-life balance. So, as we move forward, I suspect that many workplaces will continue down the path of flexibility by allowing staff who can to work from home for part or the majority of their working hours. Surely, this is a good thing.
Technology has also kept us entertained with many tourist facilities offering online experiences for us to enjoy from the comfort of our own homes (sitting around the dinner table watching the penguins comes to mind). Galleries, tourist attractions, theatres and even some of our natural attractions have jumped on board the new technology train and ran with it. On a more local scale, groups have continued with weekly meetings via Zoom, whether for book club, wine club or sporting groups. Technology has aided in keeping these groups connected.
As we reintegrate back into society, new developments such as check-in facilities have been made available at most stores and restaurants. Such technology has enabled us to feel a sense of comfort as we re-enter our communities. For the conspiracists out there, no, I don’t believe assertions that our government is spying on us, they’re merely keeping us safe from a virus that lurks and destroys. With technology, we can rest assured that we will be identified, contacted, and promptly cared for, if in contact with the virus.
Being more socially aware as a community
I can’t speak for other countries or even the other states within Australia. As a resident living in Victoria, however, we experienced some of the harshest stay at home orders. Despite the initial bumps, we rose to the challenge and came out on top. Prior to our second wave, there was a general sense of reluctance and not taking such threats to humanity seriously.
Many of us complained about having to stay in our homes, cooped up with our children every day. We complained about wearing a mask and using hand sanitiser because it dried our hands out! Then, the infamous virtual ‘ring on steel’ was created by our government, to separate regional Victoria from our neighbours in suburban Melbourne. Not popular for some, yet, here we are today, united as a state. It served its purpose and when no longer needed, was dismantled to allow us to reunite.
Overall, I feel that we are unified as a society, unlike earlier in 2020, when we were looking out for ourselves with little or no regard for anyone else. Our resilience has shone through, our appreciation for human life has become more apparent, and our willingness to do the hard yards to stop this vicious virus has grown stronger. Our current situation with NSW is a prime example. With a few cases emerging, we’ve taken a step back and are required to wear our masks whenever indoors (except in our own homes), to cut the numbers we allow in our home and act with great caution again. Impressively, we’ve done so with little push back or refusal—well done Victoria, our hard work and persistence will pay off.
I’ve said it in a previous blog, and I’ll say it again. A sense of interconnectedness as a whole country will ultimately pull us through the terrors of this current challenge. Disconnection has reduced our country to states acting out against each other. Working against each other is counter-productive. 2021 is the time for the states within Australia to collaborate and work as a whole institution; this is the only way we can emerge victorious. May I say, if the outcome is anything like emerging from an eating disorder, the effort will be worth it.