Unless something legitimately unbelievable happens in the next few hours, 2020 will finally be over. As I wrote on this year’s Epiphany card, let’s not do that again!
I’m too pragmatic (and a bit too superstitious) to say things like “next year will be better” or “it can’t get any worse.” Of course it could be worse. The world could actually, literally end. But it didn’t this year, and we’re moving on to a new year that we hope will be better.
At the very least, we’ll be more prepared for some of the things we were not prepared for this year. (You may define “we” any way that works for you.)
I would be remiss, however, if I did not swing by my blog to post an update on my experience of life in 2020 during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.
Like most of the country, I did not see this coming. We should have been better prepared. SARS and Ebola both reached the U.S., but they didn’t spread here, so we got complacent. I’ve had an emergency fund since even before I became debt-free, but I never kept emergency supplies until this year.
In early March, as the strange virus sweeping through China was clearly not being contained there, I finally stocked up. I now have a mid-sized first-aid kit, a case of bottled water, and several shelf-stable complete meals. That shopping was prescient because I never ran out of disinfectant cleaning spray or toilet paper, and I brought home some hand sanitizer and cleaning wipes that I hadn’t used in my classroom. Back in “the before times,” as my buddy Steve puts it, I rarely used hand sanitizer or cleaning wipes. I just washed my hands a lot (or rather, what used to be “a lot” but now seems like “not nearly enough”). The only thing I was short on was bread. I love bread, so that was tough. To each, his own.
I could try to describe the emotions I felt during those first few trips to the grocery store in late March. I’ve never gone panic shopping before major weather events, so I’d never personally seen bare shelves before. The experience was unpleasant.
Leaving school on March 13, we all honestly thought we’d be back after just two weeks. We weren’t trying to kid ourselves. We just didn’t know. My school has excellent tech resources, and I’d been almost 100% digital and paperless my entire time teaching there, so my transition honestly wasn’t that difficult. The hardest part for me was dealing with everyone else!
My school did not require me to do instruction over live video chat in the spring, for which I am endlessly grateful. Not needing to be in a building supervising kids for so many hours per day meant that I was able to sleep more, rest in the evenings, and watch so many plays and musicals online that I genuinely lost count. I started feeling like a normal human again (albeit one that almost never leaves her home).
The summer was quiet. I was able to meet up with friends from church a few times. I wore my mask even when others didn’t. I delayed my own return to Mass until a few weeks after parishes reopened. I have never been an early adopter; our pandemic era is not the time to become one.
I missed dance. I still do. Summers in the studio always made me feel less lonely. West Coast swing doesn’t work without a partner.
As fall approached, I worked with my coworkers and school parents on our reopening plan. We were able to bring back all of the students who wished to come to our socially-distanced classrooms. Some families chose to do school remotely, and we are still figuring out how that works. I don’t have a teacher desk anymore, and I now float from room to room for each class. I have figured out how to teach wearing a mask. We went for several weeks before students and adults were exposed to the virus in their communities outside of school. As I understand it, no positive case from someone who attends or works at my school has been traced directly to the school; everyone was exposed somewhere else. We moved the whole school to remote learning just before Thanksgiving, and we hope to return to the building mid-January.
I read a lot of books this year! My best friend Sarah got married, and although the wedding was very small and had no dancing, it was still so full of love and joy. I auditioned for Jeopardy! again (online this time), and I got to see a whole series of Switchfoot concerts streamed live to my living room, and no one I know personally died this year (from the virus or otherwise).
My biggest takeaway from this year is the true importance of planning. Our perspectives have shifted now. Even I, once a major planner and the person who arrived awkwardly early for almost everything, have become much more chill. We must have plans, but we must also be ready to change them dramatically on basically no notice. When the plans don’t work out, we make new plans. And in a time when it seems like everything’s changing, we hold on to what remains.
Happy New Year!