What 2020 Taught Me

Today is the beginning of Writerly and the beginning of daily blogging, and I am shaking off the rust that’s settled into my writerly hinges, hoping that the mechanization built in my decades of writing practice will remember its structure and return to fluidity and motion with a little push. The last time I blogged was last NYE, when I wrote a piece that had started as a spark several days prior to that year’s end and that I finished via frenetic scribbling in a notebook later transcribed into a blog post. It’s a piece about goodbyes and their artifacts and how goodbyes can be revelatory of significance. As 2020 ends and 2021 begins, I need a bit of that belief and power to catapult me into this writing effort. It’s over now, our 2020, and now we might decide what it means.

In search of that, I have been asked to try on the idea of 2020 as a teacher, and I want to do so unironically–i.e. I don’t want to play with the notion that 2020 was a BAD teacher that revealed vis-à-vis terribleness something contrastingly great about me. Because to be perfectly honest with you, I don’t think I was anything special in 2020. I don’t think I rose up like any kind of phoenix from the ash of burned down standard life. I don’t think I ever saved the day. I’m not trying to be humble but, rather, fair: I didn’t do anything more this past year than was asked of any other. Doing my part was not an act of heroism, but of basic decency. It makes me absolutely ordinary, and thank goodness for it, to be ordinary in calamity.

So perhaps that’s a revelation of 2020, the nugget of teacherly wisdom: that, in the face of a common enemy, the changed self is not an isolating act, but a necessary one to maintain pace with what it means to be human. We didn’t change into aloneness and difference: instead, we spun around in the centrifuge of 2020’s needs and, as the dizziness faded, realized we’re closer and more similar than ever before.

Today’s prompt: When we think about “what 2020 was” the word “teacher” probably doesn’t come to mind—but let’s try that idea on for a minute and see what it reveals. What do you know to be true now that you didn’t a year ago? What did 2020 teach you or reveal to you? 

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