Can There Really Be Good in the Bad? A Brief Reflection on 2020

In the past, I would forge into the new year by writing a post containing the basic click-worthy heading of “18 Things I Learned in 2018” and the likes. However, I tend to do my most reflective and meaningful work through actually writing – not from hurriedly conjuring up a set number of dot points. Thus, considering the gravity of 2020, I thought it most appropriate to go deeper and truly reflect in a longer form. But, for the sake of the reader, I have given myself a constraint in order to maintain its brevity: a reflection in twenty-one sentences.

(1) Everywhere you look you will find today’s culture at work reducing the complex to the binary: black or white, good or bad, science or opinion — whether it be about sport, politics, global health crises, or life as a whole — and 2020 has only served as a hyperbolic example.

(2) In fact, with all of the unprecedented harshness that 2020 has brought us, you couldn’t blame someone for being hesitant to share any positivity at all for fear of upsetting those who can only see the bad and dark in these challenging times; but no length of time – not even a year – could be devoid of all positivity, goodness and light.

(3) For me, 2020 has found a way to be – in a sense – similar to years past, albeit a polarizing exaggeration: highs and lows that somehow find a way to balance out.

(4) This might seem like an insensitive take – 2020 being “balanced” – but for me, the truth is that this past year has been as ambiguous and complex as any other, if not more so: and to pretend this isn’t the case by defining it as either “good” or “bad” is to rob an entire year of our existence the magnitude of its significance, meanwhile so many others in our world will never get to know a year beyond this one.

(5) As for some of the good, 2020 afforded many of us the opportunity to prioritize what matters most, and for me this is my family and my own well-being.

(6) As a pandemic insidiously wrapped our world, we were inspired (or forced) to reorient our perspective away from the frivolous and material – our money, career trajectories, and plans – and toward what is most irreplaceable and fragilefamily and friends.

(7) I am beyond thankful for the three months that I got to spend back home with my family; no other year would have ever allowed for what 2020 gave me in this regard, and denying this would marginalize just how significant those moments were with my family, and what those memories will ultimately mean to us one day down the road.

(8) Twenty-twenty also proved to bring the kind of personal disruption that my life needed, allowing me the chance to mature further in my mental health – tackling disordered eating and exercise dependence after over a decade of struggle and resignation.

(9) The routines in which I had come to latch myself to for years were ripped from my clutches as so many of us to moved to working from home; and ironically, the unprecedented control of life and routines possessed in those six months of remote working actually created the instability needed to break those dependencies.

(10) For the first time in years I took ‘off days‘ from working out; for the first time in my adult life I enjoyed some pizza (albeit cauliflower… baby sets), ate white rice, and put oil on my food; moreover for the first time in my conscious existence I experienced what it felt like to live without the overwhelming dread of a life that revolves around exercise and restricted eating.

(11) But, for so much good that has happened in 2020, there has been so much bad; hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost, while so many others have struggled alone due to all that comes with a global crisis, as we are all learning for the first time together.

(12) Jobs have been lost, wages have dried up, plans have been put on hold indefinitely – all of which bringing the kind of stress that makes us actually question what might be most important: our physical or mental health?

(13) Twenty twenty has not only been troubling because of what we have lost tangibly, but also for what we have existentially gained – loneliness, distrust, angst, and fear – as the state and relations of our humanity – race, sexual orientation, ideology, religion, and our own being – have been stretched and stressed.

(14) But for some, this year served as an awakening of sorts: it’s been an epiphanic and seminal moment for many, as we are finally seeing just how deep and wide our country’s injustices have been for decades, and we can only hope that the collective of our individual growth will push us into a more just and humane 2021.

(15) On a personal level, I can’t believe just how naive I had been in my own ignorance, and I am thankful for friends and colleagues who are pushing me to grow, and providing us with the resources to do so.

(16) I am not sure that I, myself, could more deeply feel – or share with you – the polarity of this year without noting what the final weeks held for my family and friends.

(17) Recently, our family took the heaviest of blows that the pandemic could muster for the first time: we experienced our first familial loss to the virus – a kind-hearted, strong, hard-working man and father – at just 31 years of age.

(18) Josh, you will be deeply missed.

(19) And yet, only a week or so later, this year brought us something beautiful: a friend – a brother, really – got to solidify his life-long commitment to the woman of his dreams as they begin a life together on the very day that this year-unlike-any-other comes to a close.

(20) In one sentence, the irreconcilable tragedy of a journey ending too soon; yet in the very next, the infinite potential of beginning a journey anew; and, that is just one of the challenges in making sense of 2020, isn’t it?

(21) Taking something as complex as a year in our lives, and finding in it something more than a singular judgement — good or bad; because we can’t forget the bad, nor can we feel guilt in searching for the good (and even savoring it); in a year when so many have lost it all, we must always remember that – as long as we are living – we still get to experience everything life has to offer, the good and the bad.

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