Reconciling 2020 and 2021: Reflections on This Year and the One to Come

Photograph by Cameron Pien ('23)

If I had to describe 2020 in one word, I would say “change.”

This year has felt like a lifetime’s worth of significant events, with a new eye-catching headline each month. In the last twelve months, we’ve experienced a global pandemic, record-setting natural disasters, protests for racial justice, and a divisive presidential election. Actions and institutions we once took for granted have evolved to fit social distancing and hygiene requirements. As 2021 approaches, it’s easy to feel like a weary runner staggering towards the finish line. But it’s worth looking back on how far we’ve come in that race, the obstacles we’ve hurdled and the times we’ve stumbled in the dust, and also to look forward to what waits past that finish line. I wanted to share a few lessons I’ve learned this year. I know these may not apply to everyone, but I hope it inspires the reader to reflect on their own life. 

2020 has been an opportunity for me to get to know myself. During quarantine, with social interaction drastically decreased, I spent time with my thoughts and explored new interests. The highs and lows throughout the year helped me assess how I handle my emotions and deal with challenges and setbacks. I’ve learned more about who I am, apart from what I do. Often, people define themselves by their job, extracurriculars, or status of their relationships with other people. Those influences aren’t at all detrimental things to value, but I’ve had to ask myself who I am apart from being a student, a dancer, or a friend when all these roles have transformed and mutated into drastically different forms. I’ve learned that it’s important to think about my identity apart from external influences. 

I also discovered the power of art to cultivate empathy. I’ve always been an avid reader, but during quarantine, I resolved to read books with characters of different ages, cultures, and backgrounds. In a time where I was required to take shelter, I escaped my house through the pages of a book. Although it may sound cliché, there is true value in walking in someone else’s shoes. I realized that there are so many people in the world who deal with problems, joys, and setbacks that I may never encounter. While the Black Lives Matter movement was surging across the country, I read books that discussed racial injustice and police brutality in an attempt to better educate myself. I became less ignorant and more enlightened by intentionally seeking out books with protagonists completely different from me. Empathy can be found not just through literature, but other forms of art, such as music, visual art, and movies. I’ve always viewed every single piece of art I come across as a story. The artist had a purpose in creating it. They were inspired by an emotion, experience, or belief, and I always try to look for that motivation.  

In a time when conflicting opinions and facts flooded the media, I realized the value of being persistent in seeking truth. Many people will attempt to foist their opinion on others, but it’s important to ask questions and discover why someone believes or promotes a certain ideal. It’s easy to get swept away by passion and emotion, but it’s vital to seek the reason and logic behind the fervor. With many news reports of varying reliability flooding the Internet, panic and anxiety can take over when I see something that bothers me. I learned that I have to take a deep breath, calm down, and ask, “Why are they saying this? Has it been corroborated by other credible sources?” Ultimately, I had to remind myself that God and His Word are sources of truth that will never change, and I have to remember to look at the world through the lens of the Bible. My morals and beliefs need to align with biblical truth, and no matter what is happening in the world, God is in control and has a plan. 

On the topic of resolutions for 2021, my experiences in 2020 have inspired me to make goals that focus on being grateful for the blessings I’ve been given. In the continued uncertainty of the future, my ability to accomplish some objectives is impaired, so I find myself focusing on emotional and relational aspirations instead. For example, in another year, I may have wanted to get on the competition team for dance or travel to somewhere on my bucket list. This year, competition might not happen, and travel regulations are constantly changing. So for 2021, some of my goals are to improve communication in my relationships and keep my perfectionism in check.

I’d say 2020 has been an eventful time for most of us, no matter who you are or where you live. As the world changes, people change too. We speak, create, and emote in response to the conditions around us, and we often learn valuable truths in the process. Looking to the future, it’s important to remember that the past can help us, but it doesn’t define us. Just because 2020 might have been challenging doesn’t mean that we can’t have hope for 2021. I think the best thing to do is to carry the lessons we’ve learned from the past year into the next one, while embracing the possibilities of the future. 

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