OK, 2020 has been anything but easy. Wracked by the COVID-19 pandemic and forced into quarantine — all while watching natural disasters, from burgeoning bushfires to dumping hurricanes, cause mass destruction and claim lives across all corners of the globe — has been nothing short of a nightmare. Never mind that unemployment reached record highs, small businesses went bankrupt left and right, millions of kids dropped out of the school systems without adequate resources to learn from home, and domestic violence skyrocketed while victims have been forced to stay home with their abusers. Oh, and this all went down while we've been juggling the political unrest.
It's safe to say that 2020 has been a rough year. But, while not always so clear, a lot of good has come out of the year, too. We got to see Jennifer Lopez and Shakira rock the Super Bowl halftime show. And, hey, we got not only our first woman (and a woman of color, no less) as our Vice President, but also a bunch of other big wins for women, including the first transgender state senator, Sarah McBride. Woo! Not to mention that the Pentagon released some pretty wild UFO videos. (Though, you know it's bad when no one even seemed phased by the prospect of an alien invasion during what already feels like an apocalypse...)
I'm not going to sit here and say to look on the bright side, because even the bright side is pretty dim right now. But if you can answer "yes" to these five questions, maybe 2020 hasn't been all that bad:
1. Did I learn something new about my character this year?
Self-development is one surefire way to do better and be better in all aspects of our lives — from our relationships to our careers. Learning something about yourself, whether good or bad, is a huge win. You now have the knowledge to hone in on what makes you great or work on something you can improve about yourself.
2. Did I get more in touch with my goals or priorities this year?
With isolation offers a lot more time to reflect on what's important to us. If you've been able to pinpoint, clarify, or even work toward some goals or priorities this year, it means that you're moving forward. Just identifying what you want, even if you haven't yet had the chance to get after it, is a huge first step in the right direction.
3. Did I have a support system to lean on this year?
We're all only human. We need support — from family, friends, partners, teams, managers, etc. But, unfortunately, not everyone has access to the same support systems. If you've had cheerleaders on the sidelines of your year, you're in a pretty good position, comparatively. Maybe it feels like you're drowning at times, but at least you're not alone!
4. Did I find an activity or routine that brings me joy this year?
Sure, 2020 saw a lot of job loss, but it also saw a lot more time for hobbies. You know — those guilty pleasures and fun things we do when we don't have to, well, work. (Or maybe you have a hobby that's become an income-provider. Win-win!) If you've found an activity or a routine that brought you joy in 2020, it wasn't all so bad, was it? In the wise words of Sheryl Crow: "If it makes you happy, it can't be that ba-a-a-a-ad. If it makes you happy, then why the hell are you so sad?"
5. Did I help someone this year?
Maybe you answered yes to question no. 3, but not everyone can. If you were that supporter for someone else this year, you helped them answer the question positively. Even if you couldn't give a resounding yes to that question, helping others is a nice way to live — and, often, we learn a lot for and about ourselves by helping others. We're all in this together, and doing your part in making the world a better place is a beautiful thing.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at HerReport.org by night.