Hindsight is 2020
Written by Courtney Byrnes
A look back on the past year and what we can learn
The year 2020 is one that will not soon be forgotten for the historical and challenging events that characterized its 12 months. As strong as the urge may be to think “the past is in the past” and “new year, new me,” reflection on the past year is necessary in order to learn from its events.
Coincidentally, last year was off to a similar beginning to the new year with an impeachment trial of the 45th president, Donald Trump.
2020 brought many prominent issues to the forefront starting with climate change as devastating fires raged across Australia in January, and in later months, across the west coast of the United States.
The pandemic served as a catalyst for many other growing topics such as health — both physical and mental — and the economy. The coronavirus caused a global health crisis that raised concerns over rates of infection,death and hospital capacity. As a result, the world entered lockdown.
As businesses shut down for the foreseeable future and consumers spent more time at home, the economy took a sharp downturn. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment rates reached a historic peak in April 2020 at 14.7% with 23.1 million people out of work.
Mental health concerns grew as the pandemic left many in prolonged physical isolation, and stress levels rose around health and economic situations. In response to the spike in reports of mental strain, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention created a page for mental health resources during COVID-19.
The summer months were characterized by over 7,750 Black Lives Matter demonstrations across the country following the death of George Floyd, according to The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project. The protests brought attention to police brutality and systemic racism in the country while calling for justice for Floyd and other victims, such as Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Elijah McClain and others.
All of these events converged for the highly anticipated November election, as the pandemic, economy insecurity and racial tensions loomed. Election Day seemed to turn into election month, as the last state, Georgia, was not called until more than two weeks later.
With Georgia’s electoral votes going to Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate had a decisive win with 306 votes to Trump’s 232, according to NPR. Even so, the election did not appear so set in stone to many as lawsuits, recounts and claims of election fraud followed in the months to come.
The year was not full of solely bad news as rays of hope shone through many of the darker events. The end of the year came with breakthroughs in coronavirus vaccine developments and plans to begin vaccination.
The November election was marked by many historic moments with record turnout — 103 million early votes cast, and winner Joe Biden receiving more than 75 million votes — and Kamala Harris becoming the first Black person, woman and person of South Asian descent elected to the vice presidency, according to The Associated Press.
For many, 2020 proved to be an eye-opening year, whether they learned something new about themselves during isolation or gained a new perspective on the world. In an online survey, respondents were asked to reflect on the past year and share personal lessons they had learned.
The first question asked what event(s) of 2020 had the greatest impact on them and gave examples of the pandemic, shutdown, economic downturn, BLM protests and presidential election.
While a couple responded that all or a combination of these events greatly impacted them, most responses related to the pandemic, whether referencing the shutdown, isolation or adapting to the new normal.
Other questions asked respondents to share personal takeaway lessons from the events and from isolation-induced self-reflection.
From the responses, 2020 seemed to be a time for education, soul searching, re-evaluating relationships and reflecting on what is important in life. For many, it was also the time for finding a balance of social media and mental health.
“With social media such as Instagram or Twitter, it’s easy to want to put up a specific profile of yourself that’s inaccurate and your idea of ‘perfect,’” wrote Logan Katoch, a student at Lake Erie College. “In reality, it’s much more important to be transparent and yourself.”
CSU student Samra Karamustafic also shared her experience with social media as she found herself “doom-scrolling” and advised to unplug for a few moments every day. “I realized that taking a break from social media and the constant notifications to do something that I enjoyed doing (reading, going to the park, etc.) did wonders for my mental health,” she wrote.
2020 put things in perspective and showed us what really matters.
“It is important to celebrate the small things and focus on your mental health,” Sam, an engineering student at CSU, wrote. “Don’t take the small things for granted like something as simple as going out with friends.”
Times are unpredictable, so you might as well seize the day!
“Take every opportunity that comes your way, no matter how low your mood or how high the perceived risk,” wrote CSU student Jeremy Biello.
As important as keeping up with our friends is, we also must cherish our family, both near and far.
“Although I can be a homebody, and I love to spend time alone, I learned that it is important to talk to people and how much I need others,” wrote Jacquelyn Wilson, a student at CSU. “I appreciate my family more now; my immediate family because I am stuck with them, but also my extended family because I have not seen them in so long.”
And lastly, surrounded by many historical moments has us wondering what our legacy will be.
“This is a time that will live on in history forever. Our decisions now will impact generations to come,” CSU student Megann Rosecrans wrote. “It’s important to make sure you’re on the right side of history so you don’t embarrass yourself when you’re sharing stories of these times with your grandkids!”