2020 is finally ending and it’s time to list what I learned like I do every year. As I started writing, I realized that much of what I learned was because of the covid-19 chaos, so I created two separate lists this year. In this, all the things the coronavirus pandemic taught me this year:
Adaptability is the most valuable skill
I already knew that from my experience starting over in Canada, but the rollercoaster of changes in 2020 made the crucial importance of adaptability even more clear. It doesn’t matter how good we are in anything else, if we’re not adaptable we just won’t make it in a world that is changing faster and more drastically all the time.
Small rituals help maintain a sense of normalcy in chaos
At the height of covid-panic in BC, in March, I went on maternity leave, Thiago started working from home, and our toddler stopped going to daycare. I was eight months pregnant, with crippling back pain and throwing up all the time; and Eli was a ball of energy who wouldn’t stop running, breaking things, and screaming at the top of his lungs while dad was in calls. Doing these two things every day kept our sanity:
- Buying coffee at the closest Starbucks drive-through in the morning. The 10-minute car ride was a way to see people and listen to music while Eli watched the trucks. It gave us courage to start the day.
- Going to a park after work. We just sat there enjoying the spring air while our human and canine children ran around burning some of their endless energy. It was a safe way to unwind, and we felt so much better.
Staying home with your family is wonderful when it’s optional
I love my home and I’m one of those people who rejoice in cancelled plans and watching Netflix with my boys. But this year I learned that I love doing that when I choose to, not because I have to. I felt suffocated and anxious when everything closed and I couldn’t interact in person with anyone other than my husband and sons — my loves whom I, honestly, couldn’t wait to engage with less during that time.
Always have a Plan B
We had it all planned for Kyle’s birth: my parents would come a week before the due date to stay with Eli while Thiago and I were at the hospital and help in the postpartum weeks. We’d hire a cleaner to keep things tidy at home, everything would go smoothly. Then the pandemic happened. My parents couldn’t enter Canada, we couldn’t hire a cleaner, Eli wasn’t allowed to go to the hospital with us, and we had to get our friends to care for him. It was stressful, but we figured everything out, and I learned to always have a Plan B for when things don’t go as planned.
I’m not made to be a stay-at-home mom
All hail to the moms who take care of their kids 24/7! I don’t feel guilty at all to admit that I need a break from my kids on weekdays — well, on weekends would be nice too, but I don’t have family nearby so…
I can’t, for the life of me, entertain my kids every day all the time. I love missing them and meeting Eli when I pick him up at daycare. It’s a win-win situation: he loves it there and has lots of fun with his buddies while I have time to work and create stuff. After all the isolation days, I admire and respect stay-at-home moms even more.
Nothing is so bad that can’t get worse
It was bad enough to be stranded at home with a little baby and nowhere to go, but at least Eli was back at daycare and Thiago had some peace to work. Then, in September, the smoke from the forest fires in the USA blanketed BC for days. The sky was dark grey; it was hard to breathe, and our throat and eyes hurt. Awful! But it got worse when the New Westminster pier was destroyed by a fire that lasted two weeks.
The pier was full of creosote, a substance that releases toxic smoke when burning. The air then was not only smoky but also smelled like burnt plastic. Air purifiers sold out everywhere. It felt like inhaling poison at every breath, even with all the windows closed. Terrible! Then it got worse:
Eli got sick with a fever, cough, and red eyes. It was probably the smoke, but he couldn’t go to daycare for days and ended up having to get tested for covid. Thiago and I were so tired and stressed out we were arguing all the time and I was feeling super down. But it wasn’t as bad as the next day, when I got a stomach bug and was miserable, so sick I couldn’t get out of bad. And then one of my best friends died, and then…
Well, you get the sense. September taught me to be more appreciative of what I have, even when it all feels horrible —because it could always be worse.
Our mental health is so fragile
So many people — myself included! — had a hard time managing their emotions and anxieties in 2020. It showed that no one is as strong as they may seem, and we can’t imagine the hardships and fears everyone is facing. Realizing that gave me a new perspective of my own feelings and how I interact with others, and now, more than ever, I believe in the importance of empathy, forgiving, and helping others and ourselves.
The pandemic brought up the human side and the vulnerabilities in all of us, which may be the start of a more just and down-to-Earth society. Well, a girl can hope, right?
People show their true colours in a crisis
At the same time there were assholes hoarding food and refusing to wear masks in 2020 — showing they don’t care about anyone but themselves — there were many more good people doing wonderful things to help others. I saw that in my community: in every New West online group people were offering to deliver groceries to those who couldn’t go out, sharing food and products, donating money to families in need, and even just offering to listen to those who felt lonely and needed to vent their fears.
I was so touched; it helped me keep my belief that most people are inherently good and will help in challenging situations. And it wasn’t only in my city! Google’s Year in Search 2020 revealed that one of the most popular searches this year was “how to help.” How to help in the Australia fires, how to help during coronavirus, how to help Black Lives Matter, and so on.
Nature is more important than ever
It doesn’t matter how technologically advanced society is, 2020 showed that we need nature to stay sane. When all the stores were closed, when everyone was freaking out and sick of Zoom meetings, when the kids stuck at home were breaking everything with their endless energy, when we couldn’t take it anymore, we turned to nature to cope. Moving regular activities outside, walking in the forest, or even just caring for house plants, we understood the degree to which we need nature, and I hope we’ll take better care of green spaces around the world.
The world will change forever… again
Like travelling changed after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, covid-19 will forever change our hygiene (washing hands much more often, alcohol gel everywhere) and probably the way we interact with each other, changing habits such as shaking hands, standing close together, wearing masks when someone is sick (like people in Asia have done since SARS), and so on.
Children in the future will be surprised when they hear how things used to be before covid, just as we are now when we hear one could board a plane carrying a knife before 2001.
I don’t want to live in a big city anymore
For years I’ve wanted to move to the interior to live in a house with a big yard where the kids could play, my partner and I could have home offices, and I could plant my edible garden and have chickens. But this was just a vague dream until the pandemic hit and we started working remotely and spending a lot more time at home.
I had already stopped caring about what cities offer after I had kids, like cool restaurants and going to the movies, and was never into shopping centres and crowded places. Now that working, studying, and socializing online became more popular and available, living close to urban centres for professional reasons stopped making sense too. So why stay in metro Vancouver? Now I’m working on convincing my partner of that and hope to turn the dream in reality some time soon. The ultimate goal is to live on Kauai, Hawaii, but while we can’t do that, the Okanagan or somewhere on Vancouver Island will do.
It is what it is
We can make plans, get mad about things and refuse to believe reality, but in the end, it is what is. I too, like everyone else, had many plans for 2020, until the pandemic hit and stopped the world on its tracks. Plans had to be postponed or abandoned, a horrifying number of people died, and our entire way of life suddenly changed. Bad things — in this case, super messed up things — happen sometimes and there’s nothing we can do about them, just understand and accept they happened and do our best to adapt and change what we can.
There are always reasons to be thankful
It doesn’t matter how awful things are, there are always reasons to be thankful — remembering that guides me through hard times. I wrote about everything I’m thankful for in 2020 in another post, and from what I learned earlier this year, we can always at least be thankful that things aren’t as bad as they might be, such as having clean air to breathe in a pandemic instead of toxic creosote smoke. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
And here are the 20 non-pandemic things I learned in 2020.