2020 Was the Year

It’s December 31. We have about 3.5 hours left in 2020 as I type this. As is often the case on New Year’s Eve, I’m in a reflective frame of mind. Aside from going to the occasional minor league hockey game, which is a Dec. 31 tradition in the Tri-Cities, I’ve never been much for the end-of-year party scene. Heck, most years my wife is asleep by 9-10 pm so I’d be going out by myself! But I do like to write, so here’s how I’ll remember the strange year that’s about to end.

2020 was the year that I learned to live with my family in a constant state of close proximity. Now I hear you already thinking, WTF does he mean by THAT? I’ll explain. I’m an introvert to the core. I’ve always needed “me time.” I’ve always needed space and to be away from people, including my family. When working from home, it was always nice during the school year when everyone would be out of the house by 8:30 am and I’d have the place to myself until the kids got home from school in the afternoon.

That went out the window with the pandemic. At first, it was just like summer vacation. I enjoyed having everyone around for a few weeks … then I started getting itchy for “me time,” for having the house to myself. But that itchiness went away after a couple weeks. The four of us are basically home 24/7, and it doesn’t bother me in the least. In fact, I welcome and value having everyone here at home. Safe. Together.

2020 was the year that I learned to love grocery delivery services. As I wrote a couple months ago, there’s a good chance we keep doing grocery delivery even after things return to “normal.” I think I’m all in. The convenience is unbeatable, even if it costs a bit more.

2020 was the year that I learned the names of my biological parents. To be fair, I knew my biological mom’s name several years ago. It was printed on some adoption paperwork that my dad sent me before he died in 2015. But I stashed those papers away in a non-obvious spot and didn’t rediscover them until this spring. That started a more serious effort to identify my bio-fam (as I like to call them). In a matter of a couple weeks, we identified my biological dad’s name, too. It was an amazing moment. Chills.

I’ve tried to contact both of them, but no luck so far. The most likely reason is that the contact info I found for them is several years old, but I’ve accepted the possibility that they read my emails and chose not to reply. That makes me a bit sad, but I understand why they’d do that. Perhaps I’ll try again in the new year. Perhaps with better luck.

2020 was the year that I said goodbye to @U2. I’m not sad that it’s gone. The site had a great run of 25 years, but all great things eventually come to an end. I’m fine with it being over. I’m only sad about how it ended — with a lot of stress and frustration that made life even more difficult than it needed to be for too many people.

2020 was the year that reminded me that social media isn’t a good idea. Social media was a battleground this year. I didn’t participate, but I saw far too many wars of words on both sides of my own family. I hope and I want to believe that those fights didn’t cause any lasting scars, but I’m not sure they didn’t.

2020 was the year that I watched more TV than ever. Just me? Probably not. And I discovered a lot of great shows, especially on Apple TV+. None were better than Ted Lasso, something I never saw coming. It’s not only the best show of 2020 for me, but it’s also one of the best shows I’ve ever watched. I can’t wait for seasons two and three, and hopefully many more beyond that. I liked it so much that I dressed up for Halloween for the first time in about 40 years.

2020 was the year that I learned this country … the whole world, for that matter … is seriously lacking in critical thinking skills. For the past several months, I’ve seen social media arguments from people who oppose mask-wearing and oppose closing restaurants and churches because “we tried it the other way and that didn’t work, so we may as well go back to normal.” Nine months into the pandemic, they say things like “If grocery stores can stay open, restaurants should be able to!” They question how the medical experts could have gotten it “wrong” on certain aspects of the virus and changed their recommendations … ignoring the fact that this virus didn’t exist until one year ago and they’re figuring things out the same way we all are.

Where did our critical thinking ability go? How is it that educated adults don’t understand the difference between essential and non-essential businesses? I love eating out as much as anyone, but my favorite restaurant is a luxury, not a requirement.

2020 was the year that reminded me of the value of empathy and sympathy. As I type all this now, and as I’ve been thinking on this during the year, I’m doing my best to remember that my views and opinions are shaped by the position of privilege and blessing that our family finds itself in.

We’re extremely blessed that Cari’s real estate business was only shut down for about 3-4 days in March. She’s had to work with a variety of rules and restrictions in place, but she’s had a successful year. Likewise, the company I work for (not a local company) remained open and I didn’t miss a paycheck.

So while I sit here and express my dismay over how others are responding to the pandemic, I also wonder how I’d respond if Cari or I were in different lines of business. What if, like those restaurant or salon owners, the state’s rules left us unable to pay our mortgage? What if we were going 5-figures or 6-figures in debt just to keep our business open and have a home to live in? I very well might be reacting the same way they are. I think it’s important to be sympathetic toward the situation those folks are in, even if I don’t like how they’re responding to it.

2020 was the year that my daughter began her college education at Western Washington University … from her bedroom. I can’t imagine what that must feel like, especially for a young adult who had been looking to get away from home for so long. We were able to visit the campus (pictured above) for a couple days in September, but those few hours were her only direct time on campus grounds. I should mention, too, that this was the year my son continued his Columbia Basin College education from his bedroom. And my wife did most of her real estate work from the office in her/our bedroom.

2020 was the year that we, like millions of others, truly realized the importance of home. This year our homes became classrooms, offices, family entertainment centers, and so much more. If and when we move and buy a new home, this experience will have a huge impact on what we want.

2020 was the year that I discovered foods like purple cauliflower, Dot’s pretzels (so good), and Caramel Macchiato cereal (pretty good). I’m sure there’s a lot more than that, but those are the ones that come to mind at this hour.

2020 was the year that we had about three weeks of round-the-clock orange skies because of forest fires all around us.

2020 was the year that I had a 3-week friendship with a praying mantis. We hung out together night after night out on the back patio. I’d sit in my favorite chair reading, relaxing, listening to music, and playing iPad games, while she’d sit on the chair across from me or maybe the sofa in between. I swear sometimes she was dancing to the song that was on. She loved to pose for pictures, too.

I know it sounds strange … hanging out and making friends with a praying mantis.

Hey. This was 2020. Strange was normal.

Here’s hoping for a wonderful … and slightly less strange … 2021. Happy new year to you!

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