By all accounts, 2020 could justifiably be called a bad year, even the worst year. With all the tragedies major and minor, public and private, it would be gauche to say otherwise. But in all honesty, I cannot look at it either as an unmitigated disaster. For one thing, you’re still reading these words, relayed via broadband Internet, written from the comfort of my home in what has become my new office corner. I’m alive, I still have the will and the capacity to write, I have the technological means to communicate remotely.
There were various private losses, of course. I’ve lost a few friends to the virus, one being my grade school teacher and the other a baker; and several more not because of Covid, but perhaps an indirect result, the health care system being so precarious these days. Work also took a big hit, all the well-laid plans and painstakingly developed relationships come tumbling down.
Maybe it’s the promise of the new year — that maybe, just maybe, things will be better — but it’s hard to ignore the many things to be thankful for. My nuclear family and my extended family is still complete and relatively healthy, so far no more than the usual ailments that come with old age, none serious enough to dullen the spunk and spark. I’m healthy, perhaps healthier than I’ve ever been in any year previous — no colds and no flu the entire year, thanks to rigorous mask discipline and extreme hygiene.
There are other things, too, new things. Fatherhood, for one. I’m now a dad to a two-year-old! It’s hard because, things the way they are, we can’t get the expected outside help, so my wife and I have to be deeply involved in raising our daughter, juggling this with the continued demands of work. (Thank goodness for the occasional visits to grandma’s house so we can get her off our hands for the day, or even just a few hours.)
And precisely why I look back upon the past year as good. The virus forced us all into semi-seclusion, so our daughter is growing up with my wife and I being her primary influences and adapting our habits. Her language skills are developing amazingly fast (we can hold conversations with her, some of which I will transcribe in the future), she can count to twenty (she might still skip 17 and 18), and she helps with my gardening. And I have someone to play with my Hot Wheels!
The thing with having a child, they become the focal point of the day. “Do you know what she did today?” “Do you know what new word she learned today?” Everything old becomes new again, every word, made new coming from their lips, becomes suffused with meaning; every chore, done awkwardly for the first time again, becomes a major achievement.
It’s through this lens of newness, intensified by greater intimacy, that makes it hard to look so harshly on life. To be sure, my heart still goes out to all the suffering; to be sure, we still have to navigate through the uncertainty of the coming year (or years); yet all the same, now we can look at what is to come with greater optimism.