In my relatively short life, I can honestly say 2020 has been the most difficult year for many of us. The more people I talk to, it seems everyone pretty much agrees that 2020 is a dumpster fire. And yet, it is not (by a long shot) the worst year we, as humanity, have ever gone through. At least not according to one medieval scholar who has deemed the year 536 AD as the bona fide worst trip around the sun we’ve ever had.
Imagine waking up one day expecting the sun to rise, only to find total darkness. “Hmm, that’s weird. Did someone set the sundial back and not tell me?” You rub your eyes and light a lamp to see what’s going on, only to find everyone else as puzzled as you are. You think, “Surely, this is some anomaly, and it’ll all go back to normal in the morn.” What follows is 18 months of continuous darkness.
Centuries ago, before you could check Twitter to determine which political party caused such a mess, you had to chalk this up to an angry God and hope you could atone for whatever sins got you there. Unbeknownst to you, a once-in-a-millennia volcanic eruption in Iceland had just formed a massive ash cloud that enveloped the western world. This triggers massive temperature drops, prompting the coldest decade in 2,300 years, according to Science magazine. It decimates crops and results in mass starvation and famine. Shortly after, the bubonic plague takes hold and ravages the Roman Empire, wiping out 50 million lives.
Amidst the mess we find ourselves in 2020, it can be easy to think that this is the worst things could ever be. That’s why it’s important, now more than ever, to keep perspective. Yes, things are bad. For many, it’s really bad. But generations before us have dealt with their fair share of adversity. They made it out. So will you.
But one of the patterns I’ve seen among many is the hunkering down. The sit-and-wait till the storm of 2020 passes. Living life on pause, anxiously waiting for the year to be over, as if 2021 will wipe the slate clean. All the while, constantly refreshing the social media feed, consuming unhealthy doses of fear porn. And the twisted silver lining of 2020 is that it has given everyone a hall pass for not moving forward. We all have the ultimate alibi for stagnation or complacency because when all this is over, if you’re still in the same place than before the pandemic, nobody will blame you. But the question is: Is that what you’re willing to settle for? Are you just going to wait around binging Netflix for God knows how long before you pick back up again?
If you’re like many, you’ve taken some major hits the last couple months, and it’s hard to keep pushing. It’s hard to march on, when just as you’re expecting things to get easier, it gets even harder. And 11 months in, the psycho thriller that is 2020 hasn’t let up. But you can only control what you can control. Sure, you can’t save the economy, but you can save money. Sure, you can’t cure coronavirus, but you can get yourself as fit and healthy as possible. It’s in your slice of the world that you can affect the most change. In hard times, it’s easy to settle, to freeze, and do nothing, but doing so is a missed opportunity to grow. As we get older, we tend to replace courage with compromise. We negotiate on behalf of our lesser selves and lower our expectations to meet our less-than-desirable circumstances. I know I have. It’s in these times, I have to remind myself: Calm seas don’t make skilled captains.
So as we approach the end and hopefully uneventful climax of 2020, resist the urge to stay in your cave. In a year of trials and tribulations, it won’t matter how many fights you won on Twitter; what will matter is how you allowed 2020 to shape you. So get out and get after it.
And if getting in shape is what you need, you know where to find me. spt