How 2020 Has Changed Me, You, All of Us
Halfway through this year, I stopped writing on Medium. I’d post poems here and there, but I took a break from inner monologues, movie reviews, and blogging altogether.
Something in me just wasn’t sitting right. I’m not sure if it was the pandemic that made everything feel so damn depressing that I wasn’t in the mood. Or if it was the ‘new normal’ that made quarantine / “working from home” utterly mundane and monotonous.
Regardless, I couldn’t bring myself to write about my personal life or trivial matters especially when so much was going on in the world. From Coronavirus, to Black Lives Matter, to the anxiety-inducing presidential election, there were far more important issues to worry about.
I also didn’t want to distract or take away from the voices that really needed to be heard. I didn’t want to take up space.
I wanted to be a better listener.
As it turns out, listening is hard when you can shut the noise away whenever you want. When you can turn off the TV and forget about the numbers of COVID cases climbing exponentially…or when you can post a black box on Instagram one day, and carry on with your life the very next.
For the longest time, I struggled with navigating allyship and activism, especially on social media. I tried to absorb and share as much information as possible, but I kept going back and forth between “silence is complicit” vs. “posting is performative.”
However, what 2020 showed me — and hopefully many of us — is it’s easy to ignore the inequities and injustices in our country (especially when we’re not directly affected), but it’s impossible to justify that we can’t each make a small difference or contribution. Even an Instagram story counts for something.
I’ve thought a lot about how most of the entries I’ve published on Medium up to this point have been centered on myself. After all, I started blogging in the first place to keep a personal diary of sorts. But sitting here right now, typing away at my computer, I’ve realized 2020 has allowed me to examine more things outside of the context of myself.
While I still plan to write film reviews and share tidbits of my little life, I’d also like to use this platform to speak more on issues I believe in and actions we can all take as individuals.
Starting with my biggest lessons from 2020, below are some of the habits, takeaways, and perspectives I hope to apply next year:
1. Spend less on consumerism, more on small businesses.
For the last nine months, I’ve been rotating between a handful of shirts and leggings. And I fully admit, I LOVE IT. I don’t even remember what it’s like to squeeze into jeans anymore since all Zoom calls are taken from the shoulders up. With ‘work from home’ becoming the status quo/foreseeable future for so many companies, perhaps it’s time to donate those clothes that are starting to collect dust.
I asked my friends about their spending habits during COVID, and a bunch of them said they‘ve been trying to splurge less on material goods, and instead direct their consumption toward small businesses, especially Mom-and-Pop shops and local vendors which have been hurting the most during this time. Even setting COVID aside, it’s much better to abandon our cravings for instant gratification and focus on how our spending choices can affect others.
2. Slow down and reduce unnecessary pressure.
On the other side, one positive aspect of quarantine is people have been able to take a pause from the every day busyness of life.
Being stuck in our houses has made many of us realize that we’ve spent so much time rushing, juggling priorities, jam-packing our schedules, that we haven’t really enjoyed each moment as it is. For example, who knew doing a puzzle could be so satisfying? (My mom has finished dozens of puzzles since April, and she swears they’re therapeutic).
For many of my peers, they’ve acknowledged that work is perhaps not as important as they thought, and some of the career pressure they used to put on themselves can be reapplied to focus on other things, like health and relationships.
It’s also worth mentioning that even being able to slow down is a privilege in itself because not everyone has the luxury of taking this time to recalibrate. For those of us who have extra breathing room right now, it’s all the more valuable to be intentional with our time.
3. Prioritize family and friends.
In the same vein, our intrinsic needs for social interaction and intimacy have also been revealed. When the going gets tough, it’s clear who really shows up for you. Several people told me they’ve come to appreciate the family members and friends who’ve been there for them during this trying time, and that long after COVID dies down, it’s these same folks they want to keep close.
Quarantine has also reinforced the necessity of telling people how you feel about them. With social distancing and stay-at-home orders in place, it is easier than ever to feel isolated from the world. But as the weeks stretch into months, I’ve decided that the only way I’ll be able to keep my spirits up is by telling the people I cherish exactly how I feel about them.
4. Participate in ethical action and the democratic process.
This was by far the most uplifting set of responses: People told me that the global health crisis has shown them just how interconnected we all are, and that they want to keep doing their part even after the pandemic ends. Many have pledged to continue donating to charitable causes, trying harder to reduce their carbon footprint, and engaging in more political activism.
In fact, this year’s election saw a record high of more than 150 million votes, the largest number of votes in a U.S. presidential election in history. Young people (ages 18–29) especially showed up to make their voices heard, with more than 10 million casting their ballots early in person or by mail. The surge in youth voting not only made a decisive difference in this year’s presidential and senate races, but also proves that younger generations are more invested in politics and governance than ever before.
5. Reduce environmental footprint through small lifestyle changes.
Most people don’t know this, but the global livestock industry actually produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all cars, planes, trains and ships combined. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, if the average American cut just a quarter pound of beef a week from their diet (aka about a hamburger), it would be the equivalent of taking 10 million cars off the road for a year.
At first, my motivations for consuming fewer animal products were not so environmentally driven and mostly self-serving. I tried to go vegan/vegetarian a few days of the week in an attempt to lose weight and eat healthier. However, I’ve quickly realized how this small diet tweak can actually lead to many great benefits, both internally and externally:
- Internal: Save money, increase energy, avoid disease, live longer
- External: Curb climate change, protect local water supplies, slow down need for land and deforestation
Looking back at 2020, it feels crazy that so much has happened in the span of a single year. COVID-19, economic recession, racial injustice, national protests, 265,000 Coronavirus deaths and counting. Without a doubt, 2020 will go down in history as one of the most challenging years we’ve faced in U.S. history.
However, with adversity always comes growth. For me personally, I had my share of ups and downs, but I learned so much about society and the world we live in. Although I count myself incredibly lucky for being mostly unaffected, I know my choices, habits, and actions can still have a profound impact on others. That’s something I never truly grasped until this year.
I guess it took being in a bubble to finally burst the one I’ve been living in.