Learning Years: An Optimist’s Reflections on 2020

January 1, 2021

Thoughts on being hopeful in 2021

Thankfully this monster of a year is finally in the rearview mirror. Disruption came in various forms, including a global pandemic, epic political conflict, human rights demonstrations, and natural disasters. While these crises are far from sorted, a fresh start in 2021 feels hopeful.

In what way will our community, family and children grow from this experience? As we continue to stay close to home, there is space to reflect on the challenges, losses, and triumphs of 2020.

Humans are resilient, that’s the thought I consistently return to when taking stock of 2020.

We find a way to move forward and are strengthened from the struggle. While COVID-19 continues to be a challenging problem, hope is on the way. In less than a year, scientists developed an effective vaccine. Science is awesome! From here on out, we will probably think more about hand washing, sneezing into our elbow, and staying home when we are sick. We have learned to not take health for granted.

The environment made her displeasure about our neglect known to all.

Weather emergencies that have increased in frequency emphasize the imperative of climate change policies. This is helpful if it urges us to take action. Like the COVID pandemic, global warming is a worldwide problem that we must all take part in. Science alone will not result in change. We must make a commitment to honor the earth.

The pandemic was a difficult way for us to recognize how adaptable humans are.

We can do without things, slow down, and make do. While some resented public health directives such as mask-wearing and social distancing, most of us did our best despite the difficulties. All of us look forward to returning to restaurants, parties, gyms, and shows. Imagine how much we will enjoy these things when we all feel safe again.

Technology kept us safely connected so we could socialize, learn, and work.

Many of us worked through serious technophobia and are enlightened as a result. Virtual formats may not be ideal for everyone or for all purposes. But they will continue to be an option that facilitates access to medical, educational, and mental health services to a wider sector of the world’s population.

Without the typical distractions, attention to racial injustice was heightened during the pandemic.

The local and global public watched in horror as Black Americans were brutalized by police. Suddenly a broader sector of society was present to the injustice that African Americans experience regularly. The uprising in response to these atrocities fuels hopes that change is possible. But all of us must stay present and focused.

Then there was the presidential election.

Regardless of political orientation, this experience was disheartening, disturbing, and sad. It emphasized how divided we are. All of us must listen without judgment to each other rather than staying in our own bubbles of belief. Finding common ground with each other may be a path to unity. It is heartening that even amid a pandemic, record numbers of people voted. This is a bright spot.

While this piece is more political than most of my articles, I hope readers recognize that it is about hope and optimism. It is also about family. 2020 redefined what family is and how we demonstrate care and concern about each other. Family is not limited to those who live under our roof – it extends to neighbors here and abroad.

One’s family also relates to children everywhere who will carry on with the lessons learned during this challenging but hopeful year.

Happy New Year!

Dr. Pat BlackwellDr. Pat Blackwell is a licensed psychologist who has worked with families for over 30 years. See her website for more information and her blog:

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