2020 has been a year of change where a lot of things that we took for granted suddenly disappeared. Most people associate 2020 with the worst year in their lifetime. I perceive the last year mostly in a positive way and a reminder about the shortness and fragility of life, which is a good thing. Everything slowed down dramatically and we were able to collect our thoughts because there was so little distraction.
Can change happen?
What was long predicted has finally happened. Bill Gates spoke about an upcoming epidemic in a TED Talk back in 2015.
The virus came and spread around the world. Exactly one year ago the company I work for decided to equip all staff with laptops and let people work from home. Months before COVID 19 it was almost impossible to get a laptop and the necessary permissions to access all data from the company while working remotely. It showed me what people/institutions are capable of change when they are under pressure. It also showed me change is something people are generally not welcoming. That is the reason why the financial sector, primarily banking, in Switzerland is lacking behind the trend and still living in the old days (aka pre financial crisis).
Home office = paid vacation?
Home office was (and still is) seen as something where people spend their days pretending to work while doing other things. I have to admit I also had this impression because in a pervious job that was actually what I did. But the reason I was able to do that was because there was just not much to do at work. When home office was rolled out last year people where mostly euphoric. It was spring, one could walk over lunch and enjoy the weather while spending less time in the office.
At the end of summer when the days got shorter and the 2nd wave came, the new way of working had fewer and fewer fans. The majority of people suddenly started missing going to the office and many were tired of only interacting online. In December the mood hit an all time low and home office, a dream that many thought would never happen, was reality and probably here to stay. No one complained about missing commuting. But not having to dress up and get mentally ready for work was losing its appeal fast. Instead, we spent your weeks (and months) in t-shirt and shorts in the same room for almost a year.
This is another great analogy to life, which is always changing and never predictable. We pass from one life stage to another (child, teenager, young adult, adult, married, kids, middle aged etc) often without realising it. As a teenager we hunger to be independent and have our own money. Suddenly we are in our 30is and miss having a carefree life as a teenager, with parents that look out for us.
Boredom has its benefits
The fourth quarter of 2020 was indeed a challenge, mainly because of the same confined routines everybody was living. Combined with the lockdown, time sometimes stood still because every day felt more or less the same. On the other hand, I was able to read a lot more books than I normally do. I was able to explore different interests that I never had time for before. Plus, I was fortunate to spend a lot more time with the kids. In the old world I would have been away 75% more and miss a lot of highlights. The last year was less exciting in many ways but for me that was a welcome break. I complained in recent years that there was always too much going on, it seems that my complaints were heard.
What will the new reality be like?
The main question on everybody’s mind is what will the new reality be like. I am curious how the new normal will look like. On the other hand, I try not to think about it too much. The new way of living will reveal itself when the time is right. Until then I focus on the present and make the best out of the current situation. The current situation offers a lot of opportunities compared to the more distracted world we were used so.
This goes hand in hand with the teenage analogy from above. Focusing on things that we want often lets us neglect the things we already have. Who knows, in 10 years’ time people maybe spend their days again in the office. They will look back with sentimental eyes to 2020 when they were able to enjoy their homes a bit more and not have to commute every day.
Was 2020 the worst year in our lifetime? Lessons learned
As often in Life it all depends on how one is looking at a situation (glass half empty / half full situation). Obviously, a lot of people suffered from a bad economical situation and I don’t want to downplay that. But even with all the restrictions and bad luck (even health issues) you might experience, you should try to see the positive side of things. Looking to find someone to blame doesn’t help you. But reflecting on what is happening, how to cope with it and what that means for you and your family might lead to a positive outcome in the end.
As mentioned above I believe COVID 19 is a reminder of how short and insignificant our time on earth is. It motivates me to think more deeply about my plans and what I intend to do with the given time here. It also puts many things in perspective, that in the old days (pre 2020) seemed so important. Time is the ultimate luxury we have and therefore we should not waste it. I am convinced 2020 was not the worst year in our life time. It was a wake up call for humanity.