Well, here we are again. At the end of another year. Normally I’d be writing about yearly accomplishments and setting goals for the new year. But 2020 has been as far from a normal year as you can get. So, there will be no ‘normal’ year end post. Instead, I would like to share a few lessons I believe are a gift from 2020.
- LIVING TO WORK IS WRONG. So many of us, particularly here in the United States, have made work the number one priority in our lives. Sure, we talk a good game about work-life balance, but that’s really all it is for most of us. Talk. Our society has skewed the institution of work to the point where our careers have become our identity and our priority. We put it first and struggle to fit our lives around it. Which is why we’ve become a pretty unhappy bunch overall. As Covid-19 brings home just how precious our lives and loved ones are, perhaps we can start to shift things back to recognizing that work is simply a means to live and as such we can set boundaries and say no. We can work toward making sweeping changes in not only how much we work, but how that work is done and compensated.
- MAKING YOURSELF A PRIORITY IS NOT SELFISH. We have also been fed the idea that to put ourselves, be that our comfort, health, or happiness, first is selfish. We drive ourselves to put in long hours, work through lunches and skip vacations. We put our own health, both physical and mental, on the back burner. Take it from someone who spent Thanksgiving 2020 in the hospital emergency department, this has to stop. We must stop feeling guilty for making our own well-being important. The time you take for your health is more valuable that billable hours. After all, when you find yourself with a major health issue as I did last month, you will realize that prioritizing it before it becomes a problem is just common sense. And much easier to deal with.
- WE CAN DO HARD THINGS. I am taking this phrase from Glennon Doyle Melton who has sparked a movement with her book ‘Untamed’. If 2020 has taught the world anything, it is that we can do hard things. We can change the way we do things. We can adjust to a new normal. We can work and learn remotely. We can do meetings and family functions over Zoom. We can make sacrifices to keep others safe. We can open our own businesses when the jobs we have had for years close due to a pandemic. We can even mail in ballots to make sure our votes count in a critical election. We humans, we can adapt and change as we need to. It may not be easy, but we can do it.
- WE MUST HAVE EMPATHY FOR OTHERS. As this pandemic has stretched on, the thing I’ve been struck by the most is just how many of our fellow humans seem to have lost their ability to empathize. Although I do not believe they are the majority, I have still been disheartened by the loudness of the voices crying that wearing a simple mask for the safety of others infringes on their rights. By the voices inaccurately claiming that a global pandemic is no worse than the flu. By the anger and disrespect shown by those who choose to close their eyes to the truth as well as the plight of their fellow humans in this battle. It is important that we reconnect with empathy and begin to care what happens to our neighbors, both near and far. We must understand that just because something does not have an adverse effect on us, it may just be life altering for our neighbor. We need to all understand that things like healthcare and a living wage are basic human rights, not a privilege. We have to make a stand to be sure no one is treated differently simply because of the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, their socioeconomic status or their gender.
As this horrible year ends, it needs to be a time to reflect on the lessons it has taught us. And then, in 2021, we need to do the hard work of bringing forth change. Every great historical event has brought about change. Good or bad. Let’s make sure that the lessons 2020 has gifted us with become known as the catalyst that brought about the best changes. And that we worked together to make it happen.