As hard as it was, 2020 was a year of meaning and perspective

By: Howard Feldman, Head of Marketing & People at Synthesis

The knowledge that this is my last column of 2020 weighs, heavily on me. Truth be told, with having spent most of the year in lockdown, pretty much everything is heavier than it was. Whereas in 2019 I entered 10 km races and even completed some of them, on a good day in 2020 I am happy if I managed to complete 500 steps. Honestly, it’s a testament to science and to the miracle of the human body that I don’t need to lie down after writing each paragraph.

It was indeed a terrible year. If COVID wasn’t a challenge enough, around March I started noticing that all my clothes were steadily shrinking. Even my shoes seemed tighter, something that has not happened before. The alcohol prohibition turned me into a daytime drinker and my nicotine cravings during the tabaco ban were horrendous. This was particularly worrisome as I have never been a smoker.

It’s just been that kind of year.

Socially, the year made me a recluse. As many of us have, I found myself having less person-to-person conversations than ever before. I continued to be active in the media space, but the lack of practice with live humans has taken its toll. The result of all this means that I apparently can no longer be trusted in public. Although I have always had a tendency to embarrass my wife and children, there were times when they could leave me to operate the “heavy machinery”. Now it seems that all my privileges have been revoked and I am only permitted to speak to living people if supervised by an adult. My sixteen-year-old daughter is apparently one of those.

The social dilemma was exacerbated by the fact that I find it extremely difficult to recognize people when they are wearing masks. Add a cap, sunglasses and the fact that their clothes are also shrinking, and it’s a miracle if I even cognate that they are human, let alone that I am friendly with them. On many occasions this year, I found myself messaging people to apologize for my rudeness because I either mistook them for someone I don’t like, or never recognized them as someone I actually do.

Aside from this, it has been a year of loss. On a personal level I mourned the passing of my father who did not die from COVID, but whose death was hastened by it. His decline was tangible from the moment he went into lockdown. Although we took the decision to spend time with him and not keep away because of COVID, his illness picked up pace and there is little doubt that not being able to leave his home or see people other than his family, was a significant factor.

He is not alone. If it has been difficult for us and for our children. It has also been unimaginably challenging for the older members of our community. The fear that the illness is particularly ruthless for the elderly, the information overload and lack of understanding around the behaviour of the virus – particularly earlier in the year – is incredibly anxiety provoking and is taking a terrible toll on the emotional health of this sector.

More troubling is that we are starting the new year in what appears to be a much worse situation. The new strain of COVID is impacting all age groups and spreading faster than the version one. Hospitals are full, people are fatigued and there is less compliance. There is palpable panic amongst the medical personnel and there is desperation in their pleas for people to behave responsibly. There is no concrete information about the vaccine and people are financially strained.

But there is room for some optimism.

We are starting off 2021 with a significant amount of more knowledge than we had a year ago. Our doctors understand the disease better, treatment is largely effective and there are multiple quality vaccines. While we might not be certain on exactly when it will available, we know that it will get here. And when it does, then we can begin to heal.

Until that time, we know what we need to do.

As hard as 2020 was for me, it was a year of meaning, of connection and of perspective. It was a year of family and one that allowed me to be creative and assist others in ways that I didn’t think I could. Whereas I would not have chosen to re-do the year that was, I am grateful for the opportunities it presented.

I am not starting 2021 well rested, but I am doing so with healthy perspective, with focus and with priorities that are unambiguous. I am also starting the year with a cupboard full of clothes that no longer fit.