Illustration 2020 looking back
Image Credit: Seyyed Llata / Gulf News

Right now, it seems that all we do is complain about the past year: “The year 2020 should not have been.”

“Must we spend 2021 at home too? I can’t wait to get back to the office/mall/club ...”

“I have to go travelling with my friends or I’ll go crazy: when will the vaccine be here for all of us?”

Those of us who think along these lines may be sighing with relief that 2020 is over and done with. We may even have big plans and a lot of optimism for 2021, because, “Surely, nothing could be worse than the year we have been through …”

When I hear this, I wonder: Have we learnt nothing from the struggles and the challenges of what the world has been through? Can we not look back on 2020 and think of some plus points while mourning the losses and hardships so many have suffered?

For a start, you and I are here. We have survived — and we have hopefully learnt that we should never take good health for granted. This is the year that the adage, Health is wealth, really hit home.

Then, if we belong to a family, if we are more than one person in a living space, we have each other. What a blessing that is, when there are so many who are alone or have lost their companions to the infection or other illnesses.

So, tell me, what were we in our living space quarrelling about before all this started? Do we remember? Was it important — or was it just another trivial matter to which one of us took offence? And should we be fighting over something as inconsequential today, tomorrow and the day after? Or should we instead enjoy every precious moment we spend together?

Hopefully, we learnt that a feeling of emotional fulfilment is about whom we can communicate with, and hopefully we have savoured those moments, even if they are at the other end of a video call. What would we have done if we did not have 21st century technology to bring our friends and families from wherever they are directly into our homes?

As for entertainment, we can virtually share a meal with a friend — or several friends — and now it is less about the menu or the money and more about the people.

For those of us who were addicted to retail therapy, maybe we now appreciate that all those clothes and shoes and make-up kits we acquired are not really needed. Not when we work from home in our pyjamas and slippers. And when we go out, our masks cover the skin mousse, lipstick, and almost everything else we “needed” to make ourselves “perfect”.

If we still have a job, if we still have an income, if we still have something challenging to make our day fulfilling, notch that up too in the plus column. Add all those other benefits we have: a working Wi-Fi, a laptop, a phone, and so on — and give a thought to those who are struggling to get through their daily online lessons without these benefits.

As for the drudgery of the housework that never ends, especially when everyone works from home: we have had our fill of it in the past year. So, surely we can now acknowledge our household helpers among our most valuable assets.

It is likely that even if we think we barely scraped by in 2020, when we start to tote up our blessings like this, we may find that we have much to be grateful for.

We may wish that the last year had never happened, but it did. Let us choose to emerge from it as better, kinder, wiser people — not more sullen or critical or self-obsessed.

— Cheryl Rao is a writer based in India