It’s New Year’s Eve, 2020, and while I have no plans to celebrate, I find myself ruminating over the last year today, perhaps to an unhealthy degree. So I decided maybe it would help to put some of those thoughts down in writing and release them into the wilds of the internet. It’s funny how pieces of writing that you release into the wild seem to take on a life of their own, sometimes relieving you from the burden of carrying them around.
Editor’s Note – I’m going to make zero effort to obscure my own political leanings throughout this post. Be warned.
Politics in 2020
Politics in 2020 was kind of business as usual for the Trump administration; break, smash, grab. The entire Trump administration has been painful for me, but 2020 seemed worse somehow. I think that the administration’s relentless politicization of the global pandemic has something to do with that. The desperate drive to hide pandemic data from the public, the blatant and outright lies told by the administration concerning the global pandemic, and the further division of the populace as a result of those lies. It has been pervasive.
Normally I don’t find it too difficult to ignore those who have reprehensible political views on a day to day business (this is to some extent a reflection of racial and class privilege), but as the death toll has climbed, it has become impossible for me to ignore. Hundreds of thousands of people are now dead who might not have been dead otherwise, and this is an inconceivable number to me. I’m fortunate enough to have not lost anyone to the virus, but I have friends who have and friends of friends who have, and I ache for these people. So when I encounter COVID denial, COVID conspiracy theories, and anti-mask sentiment, I can’t help but feel anger. And this stuff seems to be everywhere. People accuse liberals of living in an ideological bubble (I have opinions about this, but that’s a different blog post), but even in my hypothetical bubble, there is no escaping it.
Trump’s loss in the presidential election provided me with no joy. Instead I felt a dull yet profound sense of relief. The end is actually kind of more painful than the beginning. I feel as though I’m being forced to understand that these four years have changed the nation, not for the better, and probably permanently.
The COVID-19 Pandemic
I feel like the global pandemic is the defining feature of 2020, and it absolutely should be. Not only are we living through the very present and acute threat of illness and death, but this is only the second new highly infectious disease to crop up in my lifetime (the first was SARS, which never impacted the US measurably). It’s wild to me to think that a disease that didn’t even exist eighteen months ago has paralyzed us. This realization brings with it a feeling of tremendous vulnerability that just wasn’t there before, and I’m not sure that I know how to deal with it.
There’s the deep feeling of isolation that comes with being disconnected from one’s social circle, and this isolation has been so constant and intense that even the hardcore introverts I know are feeling it. I probably don’t need to state how devastating this kind of isolation is for social mammals, and I think our social patterns will change from what they were before as a result. That’s a little frightening to me. I am so lucky to not live alone right now. The scale of change in multiple areas of our lives is frightening to me.
Then there’s the grief and the anger. I am overwhelmed with it sometimes, the grief and the anger. Other times it is like a miasma through which I struggle to accomplish even basic daily tasks. It never leaves me, and I kind of can’t imagine how much worse it would be had I lost someone in my first degree social circle.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a traumatic event to even live through. I think it will change us forever. I know it has changed me forever.
Yet again, the economic changes that we’ve weathered are due mainly to the COVID-19 pandemic. I was required to follow these changes in the spring, as a part of my macroeconomics course. Since then, I’ve largely stopped following the slump, because it was too frightening. It was frightening especially as a student about to embark on a career, and this was a feeling echoed by my peers. Hopes for a rapid recovery have since been dashed. While we’ve seen gains in the stock market, and it’s vital to remember that the stock market is not the economy, as of September 2020, every advanced economy in the world either has been or still is in recession.
The unemployment rate has recovered somewhat but as of the time of this writing has not reached Q4 2019 levels. It remains around 6.7%. The most vital thing to keep in mind about this rate is that it does not include those who are not looking for work, whether because their industry is shut down, or because they’ve lost hope and dropped out of the workforce.
The frustrating thing about all of this is that it all could have been mitigated by a comprehensive plan to deal with the pandemic and a real, effective stimulus plan. A real, effective stimulus plan does not involve giving a billion dollars to large public companies. It involves help for the small businesses that are vital to American communities, and regular cash payments to citizens that will help them afford the expenses of their daily lives and support consumer spending, another aspect of our economy that hasn’t recovered.
The Good Stuff
There are some good things that happened during 2020, and I would be a real Debbie Downer if I let them go unremarked upon.
- Graduation – I graduated for the fourth time, earning my MBA. This is something I’m really proud of, actually, and it kind of feels like a coming of age. I know it’s strange to have a coming of age at 42 years old, but here we are. I feel more confident, more adult, more accomplished. More capable of pursuing my life’s work of repaying my student loans.
- Employment – I got my first full time permanent position in a decade, since the end of the Great Recession. It’s a great job. It uses my degree, allows me to do things I’m both interested in and passionate about, and my team is fantastic. It’s a job with a company that I believe in, and one that I believe has a great deal of opportunity for growth.
- Among Us – This seems like a stupid thing to include on the list, but honestly, Among Us and other social online games have helped to mitigate some of my social isolation. I played games socially before, but I have never relied on this method of socializing so much before.
So here we say goodbye to 2020, the good, the bad, the difficult. I’m not going to say good riddance, because I have seen no indication that things will suddenly get better at midnight tonight. I know there’s lots of trials and work ahead of us in 2021, and I’m honestly not really looking forward to that. But maybe things will reach a nadir in the next year, and they’ll start to trend back upwards.