Do you want 2021 to be the best year possible? I sure do. That’s why I’ve been pondering 2020 like crazy, to understand what lessons it taught me.
This year brought me, you, and practically every human on the planet the COVID-19 pandemic.
I bet you a million dollars -no, make that 5 million- you didn’t have a favorite mask before 2020. Am I right?
And that’s the least of the effects of this bug of course. Many have seen it cause death, disease and economic ruin to family and friends.
On a personal level, I learned what a root canal was all about in 2020. I hope to never again have to sit for over an hour with a dental dam in my open mouth while the dentist pokes, drills and carves out my tooth.
But COVID and my root canal -unexpected, tragic and dramatic as they were- did not change me much.
The seven discoveries that follow did. Though they happened mostly in that wrinkled mass inside my skull, they will affect my life and outlook in 2021 and beyond.
Life lesson #1: I won’t worry about getting fired.
For starters, the job market for special education teachers is tight, due to the pandemic and all. Then there’s the fact that I’m tenured, which means I’d have to do something mighty egregious to get fired.
Most importantly, I’ve decided I can ALWAYS be professional while NEVER compromising my conscience and ethics. I confess I’ve occasionally risked the latter two so as not to rock the boat. I pledge to never do so again.
Any ethical pledges on your end?
Life lesson #2: The difference between“knowing” and “seeing”.
Seeing is when it hits you: “How in the world could I have been so selfish, stupid, delusional, in denial, evil, careless, carefree, naive, oblivious — or whatever — about this?”
We can’t blame people for knowing something and doing nothing about it. But we might blame those who do see but decide to do nothing at all.
The next two items are situations I’ve come to see in 2020.
Life lesson #3: I’ll never buy gold or diamond jewelry, not even if I won the lottery.
Though it has been going on for a long time, 2020 is the year I’ve come to see the destruction of the Venezuelan Amazon as a result of mining.
Now I can’t behold a piece of gold or diamond jewelry without instantly feeling the hurt of knowing what human vanity, cruelty, senselessness and stupidity — mine included first and foremost! — do to other humans (in this case indigenous Amazonians) and the environment.
Life lesson #4: We’re committing collective self-harm.
Definitely the most obvious discovery of 2020 for me. We’re destroying that which supports us: the natural world. We’re doing it directly through deforestation, habitat destruction, and, indirectly, by changing the climate.
With few exceptions, we’re all complicit. I definitely have been. (Am still!)
Is there anything you “knew” but only “saw” this year?
Life lesson #5: I’m addicted to writing!
The year 2020 will go down as the year I became addicted to writing.
It’s not about the money, followers, or influence you may have on 23 or 237,360 people — though it all counts.
It’s mainly about the part of the brain that you work, hard, every day. Once it begins to demand that you activate it regularly, there’s no going back.
You’ve acquired a writing habit, in the addictive sense of the word habit.
It’s not a matter of preferring to write instead of any number of things I also love or need to do. I actually need to get my writing fix. Which is why you’ll be reading more of my posts. (Thanks in advance for reading!)
It’s a time consuming, effortful habit if there ever was one!
Did you get hooked on anything good or bad this year?
Life lesson #6: I’m not ready to go gray.
I made this discovery during the spring lockdown when I seriously considered this decision as if it would change the course of world history.
I ran the idea by family and friends and realized that there’s more to coloring one’s hair than looking good and that, fundamentally, I’m too vain and proud (and Venezuelan!) to go gray at this point. Maybe in 2030.
Are frivolity and pride the worst sins?
Lesson #7: I want to be a participant in social media.
I “discovered” social media this past year. I had Instagram and Facebook accounts but had almost never used them.
I derive huge satisfaction from contributing, in my own small way, to the conversation. I see it as a privilege even.
Yes, social media is addictive, especially for younger people who’ve grown up with it. The polarization, misinformation and junk it produces is also a dangerous reality. Just watch The Social Dilemma!
It’s vital to make a conscious decision on one’s use of social media. Otherwise, it will use you.
I’ve decided to use it to spread my ideas (hopefully helping, inspiring or entertaining) and support what I want to see more of in this crazy world.
What role does social media play in your life?
What’s in store for 2021?
I have more dental work, mask-wearing, and remote teaching to look forward to in 2021.
My root canal story didn’t end well. The tooth couldn’t be saved so it had to be extracted and the gum cavity filled with bovine bone flakes. The gum should be ready for an implant early next year.
The end of the pandemic, though closer, is still many months away.
But I have no idea what life-changing discoveries 2021 will bring. That’s kind of exciting, don’t you think?
Anyway, the end of the year brings to mind this quote from Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave:
“He most lives who thinks the most, feels the noblest, acts the best.”
You can live the most on any year, at any age and under all circumstances. Which means we can all live the most in 2021.