As the year 2020 draws to a close, I’ve been reflecting on what a year it has been. It’s definitely been one that most of us won’t forget: isolating, obsessive sanitizing, and constantly worrying were the norms of 2020, at least for many. And though it’s been a very difficult year for everyone, I feel blessed that I am able to see the silver linings of the year that, quite frankly, sucked.
It became “real”(ish) to us in my area in March when the schools closed down for what was to be a temporary period after March break. (I say “realish” because COVID-19 was not in our community for a very long time, which gave many a false sense of security. ) For weeks, fellow educators closely monitored the news for word on what was to come next for us. Would we be teaching online for weeks or would it be months? Would we be going back to school before the summer vacation? What was the expectation for our students? How would our students be feeling about online learning? As a parent of 2 school-aged children, would I be teaching my students from home at the same time that I was supposed to be teaching my own children at home? Though it was chaotic and we were flying by the seat of our pants, I felt fortunate that both my husband and I could work from home. We were still working, still getting paid, and therefore didn’t have to think about how to pay our mortgage and bills, or how to pay for groceries. Many families were not so fortunate.
That temporary closure ended up lasting until the end of the school year, which meant that my son, who was graduating from grade 8, would not have the “normal” graduation ceremony. Sure it’s only grade 8, but in my day this was a rite of passage. You bought a beautiful suit or dress for the occasion, your entire family would be in the gym auditorium watching you receive your diploma, you would be congratulated for your hard work with an award or two, and the valedictorian would recall all of your school experiences up until then that made your elementary school years so memorable. Not so for the grads of 2020, sadly. That said, the staff at our school (my son attends the school where both of his parents teach, which is a 7-12 school) put together a YouTube grad ceremony and a diploma pick-up day for the students, which was lovely. We did the same for the secondary graduates. Though the pomp and circumstance were missing, the fact that there was still an acknowledgement of the students was wonderful and, I have heard, not something that other schools did. I am glad that our school did, because these students should be celebrated! My son was also chosen as 1 of 3 speakers for the grade 8s, which sweetened the moment more for us.
As you can see in the above photo, my son thought it would be appropriate and very fitting to record his speech in a bathrobe because WE WEREN’T LEAVING THE HOUSE! Ha! I think it is a perfect representation of much of the year: sitting at home, well overdue for a haircut, not bothering to throw on anything but pjs and a bathrobe.
Yes, we didn’t leave the house…for months. Correction: I and my kids did not leave the house for months. My husband was the errand-runner and grocery shopper, ensuring that we were well taken care of when the first lockdown was in place. We had A LOT of family time. I remember thinking that though it was unfortunate that we were stuck at home and couldn’t socialize even with my parents, we were so lucky to have each other and to have so much time together. Though we’re not a family that is usually busy with sports and extracurriculars, my husband and I are very busy with work, and I run a nonprofit mental health organization. That meant that any of my free time was spent either working or doing things for my nonprofit, including organizing and attending events, doing presentations, and hosting training sessions. My family time was almost nonexistent. And I was EXHAUSTED. Though all of our in-person events, presentations, training, and meetings for the year were cancelled due to COVID-19 – and that has been difficult especially because we bit the bullet and opened a walk-in/resource centre that has sat empty since March – it has meant that I have had more time to spend with my family and to recharge. We took long walks with the dog, enjoyed some campfires, and had sleepovers in the living room. My daughter and I would watch “90 Day Fiance” every Sunday night, doing each other’s hair and makeup. We painted rocks with positive sayings and dropped them off – quite stealthily – around our town. We did things we never seemed to have time to do before. Connection is incredibly important for our well-being, and so it was wonderful to have more time to connect with the people I love the most in the world.
And speaking of connection, I have spent this time reconnecting with folks I haven’t gotten to see or chat with for too long. I was able to reconnect with one of my best university friends in the spring, reconnected with my best childhood friends just a few days ago, and will be reconnecting with my old colleagues from the radio station tomorrow. It warms my heart to see and chat with these friends, and it reminds me how lucky I am to have such amazing people in my life. If not for this pandemic and having to stay put where we live, these reunions may not have been possible.
I even tried my hand at podcasting in the spring, which didn’t last long but was something I wanted to attempt. It gave me a chance to try something new, and the bonus was that I was able to chat with some folks whose stories and passions I find incredibly interesting. What an awesome opportunity! I need to think of something new I can try during this lockdown if it lasts awhile…
I am also very thankful that we have not caught COVID-19. We had several scares, with my daughter getting sick right off the bat in September, and then my husband’s class being closed due to a COVID case one week, and my son’s class being closed due to a COVID case the next week. We really didn’t need that stress, but who does? It also makes the relief that much bigger when the tests come back negative. Sadly I know several people who did get COVID and are not doing well at all, and I hope and pray that they will recover and heal.
Now, with only a few days left of 2020 and at the beginning of another lockdown, I want to continue to see the silver linings in this. School is out again for a bit, but we all can teach and learn online, and have had experience with it now. We cannot see our family and friends in person, but we can jump on Zoom, Skype, MS Teams, Messenger video, or FaceTime to visit them. We can’t have “traditional ceremonies”, but we can celebrate those who deserve to be celebrated in less traditional – but still meaningful – ways.
To all reading this, my hope is that though you may be first in line to kick 2020 out the door (!), you, too, have had some silver linings in 2020. Here’s to a new year and all the hope that it brings. Cheers to 2021!