The best gifts of 2020
Remember 2012? There was a whole bit about how 2012 would be the end of the world because of the Mayan calendar, and I knew at least a few people who believed that those ancient Mayans were onto something and we’d be in some real trouble at the end of 2012.
Ultimately, 2012 came and went fairly normally for most people, and the worries about the year faded away. As I’ve been reflecting on this year, a line from Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich’s iconic graduation speech column has readily popped into my mind.
“Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday,” she wrote.
Schmich wrote that column in 1997 and bits of it continue to float around in my brain, thanks in part to the fact that Baz Luhrmann turned it into a song a few years later.
In many ways I feel like 2020 has been a year that collectively blindsided us all at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday. A pandemic, elections, a national reckoning with systemic racism, wildfires and murder hornets have all piled into our collective worry buckets this year, and I will fully acknowledge that it’s not been a great one overall.
Still, as I’ve reflected on the past year amid this Christmas season, I’ve also been reminded about some of the gifts that I’ve been given in 2020.
The gift of people
Working in news, I think I get a unique insight into people. Just a reminder, but if people were terrible all the time, then people acting terrible wouldn’t be that newsworthy because it would be the norm. One of the reasons we write about “bad news” is because it’s unusual, i.e., newsworthy.
Also, contrary to what many think, we do write a fair bit of good news, as well, so I get the opportunity to learn about people being extra, abnormally, awesome. Especially this year, where an exceptional amount of local need has been matched and exceeded by the generosity of our locals, visitors and government.
Every time I see someone wearing a mask when I’m out, I try to remember that the person wearing their mask isn’t doing so just to keep themselves from getting sick but also to try to prevent me from getting sick.
This year, it’s been encouraging to see how many people are willing to inconvenience themselves for the sake of others.
The gift of family and fatherhood
My kid was born at the end of 2018, which means that this year I’ve been able to watch her progress from barely toddling around the house to climbing basically any surface she can get a grip on.
While working at home with a human-mountain goat hybrid does have it’s challenges, it also means that I’m able to take time out of my evenings and tuck my child in almost every night of the week.
Being prevented from in-person socializing also prompted us to get out into the forests and explore a little more this year. Sunday picnics in the summertime might not have happened this year without feeling a bit of late-spring cabin fever, and they’ve given me some of my favorite family memories of the year.
Additionally, I’ve been given the opportunity to spend more time with my wife and have been delighted to find that, after seven years of marriage, we still like being around each other, even after being a lot more cooped up together.
This year also has provided new opportunities to connect with my friends and family who live outside the home, and I’m grateful for the kindness, care and advice that I’ve found from my parents, sibling, friends and in-laws as we’ve found new ways to connect, or re-connect in some cases.
The gift of home
It’s a long story, but this year, my wife, kid and I found ourselves homeless for a few months after a home purchase fell through and we were unable to extend our rental lease.
We were able to take advantage of the kindness of a few people we’d never met, and we stayed in their RV until we could close on our new house. While I’m not looking to repeat our time in an RV, it was another reminder of the fact that you can make a home in the most extraordinary places.
It also gave me a newfound appreciation for carpeting, and a water heater that allowed me to take a warm shower for longer than three minutes!
Ultimately, I will probably not look back on 2020 as being a year worth repeating, but I’m still thankful for the gifts it has given me.
Steven Josephson is the arts and entertainment editor for the Summit Daily News.
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