2020 was a rough year… I don’t think anyone can or would argue that… I don’t think anyone is left who HASN’T heard that yet. In some ways it was a blessing that so many people struggled last year as people are more willing to make exceptions to rules and adapt when everyone is suffering at the same time, but hard times are STILL “hard times”.
But there are benefits to hard years. Things you can only see once you go through them. Changes you are forced to make after experiencing them. Parts of yourself and the world around you you are forced to see when being dragged along them.
In a lot of ways 2020 was indeed 2020 vision. Just, being able to see clearly, and liking what you are seeing aren’t always the same thing.
I was once told that we don’t feel sick when we are GETTING sick. We feel sick once our bodies start to fight back. In the same way we aren’t overwhelmed by the world falling apart, we feel overwhelmed when we decide we want to piece it together again.
And there were catalysts for sure. Crisis, people, laws, reactions, media, what not. There were indeed many catalysts that made things seem very worse, but did the world suddenly get worse in 2020? Or did we simply begin to see where we already were headed?
There are benefits to hard times, but we can often try to push these benefits away. This is of course not to belittle the struggle of hard times, nor to say that it’s wrong to complain or want them to be over… but several years ago when I was trying to get used to my life falling apart, my social network crumbling, my career collapsing, and my health breaking, I was completely focused on “enduring” on “Getting this part of life over with so I could get back to living again.” I had to “Improve my health, get a job, get self sufficient as quickly as possible. My life was on hold until I could and I was wasting years away on this.” But then, God put something on my heart.
“You’re alive NOW… so LIVE!”
See, I had been so focused on the journey of life I had been told. The one where you are a kid, then a teen, then college, then independent, then start a family, then retire, then die… that I felt that any minute you weren’t pursuing that cycle was a waste of your life. In viewing my life being sick as a waste, I was essentially… wasting it… By viewing these years as a bad memory I just had to endure, I was essentially making them nothing but a bad memory…
But I am alive now… There are things I can do now… This is my one talent of silver… do I really want to bury it under the ground and wait for the master to return so I can get back to normal business? Or do I want to see what I can do with what I have now, even though it’s nothing compared to what I think I need?
I think the desire to “endure” bad times until “Things get back to normal” is a completely reasonable response, but not helpful for two main reasons.
1. It Means This Has Been a Total Waste of Time.
The hard times are unpleasant, but you got through them. If you let them teach you you can learn from them, they teach us lessons. Make us more aware of our real personalities. Make us more aware of what is wrong and what we are uncomfortable with. But when we toss away the hardships as just “distractions from life that held me back.” they become nothing but that. Nothing but a rough time we endured and gained nothing valuable from.
Have you honestly learned nothing? The value of friends and family? The ingenuity of desperation? How far technology has come? How people can accomplish something if we work together towards a common goal? How to entertain yourself and manage yourself when not being told what to do? How to improve your mind? Nothing at all??
2. Life NEVER Returns to “Normal”
We often claim we want things to “Return to Normal”, but things never will return to “Normal” because our lives were never staying the same way to begin with.
Have you ever reunited with an old friend? Have you ever seen them come back after years of being apart and thought “Man. They have changed so much!”
The truth is, that it’s not ENTIRELY about THEIR change, but because YOU have changed as well. Like two parallel lines that suddenly diverge, you left each others’ influences and began changing apart from each other. You learned things through your experiences and life lessons and they did the same. When you reunited the gap between yourselves seemed far greater than either had ACTUALLY changed, because the truth is you BOTH changed.
The truth is we are always changing. And that is not a bad thing. Change is how we grow, how we learn, how we create and adapt.
When we claim we want things “To go back to normal” what we usually are ACTUALLY arguing is that things have changed too quickly for us to be comfortable, so we wish to return close enough to what resembles when we last felt in control, so we can continue changing at a pace we feel comfortable with.
But again, to return to exactly where you left off means to throw away all the hard learned lessons you just faced. It is like becoming a couch potato after a year of strenuous boot camp to get in shape. Or eating nothing but snacks and unhealthy foods in large quantities after dieting for a year. Why throw away the benefits of your hard work?
This of course doesn’t mean you continue the hardships you went through if you have the choice. If it was a struggle you barely scraped through on, there is no shame for searching for a more bearable pace, but don’t just try to return to the life you had before when you are not the YOU you had before.
I feel like troubles can come in like a wave.
There are those who try to endure it, positioning their ship in the way that takes the least damage, patching up leaks with what they have lying around, each and every moment hoping and praying that this storm will end before they break completely.
There are those who try to punch through it. This wave isn’t the waters they like sailing on, therefore it is their enemy they must destroy it! They go full force at ramming speed, covering their ears and preparing to hit with full impact. In the end they may get through life a few times like this, but will one day be capsized by it, or at least irreparably damaged
But there is a third method. A far harder, and more difficult method, though one I feel like has some benefits to it…
There are those who try to ride the wave. They realize this may take them slightly off course. They realize they won’t always succeed and may end up falling numerous times before they get it right. But they try to take this wave and ride it. See where the current takes them, and some even get good enough at it to use it to add speed to their journey.
In the same way in life, when we face hardships, we can try to endure them hoping we will hold out until they pass us over (and I think ANYONE faced with hardships unless they are very used to them will spend at LEAST the first 6 months living this way as it is a very fair and natural response)
We can fight against them claiming them to be against our rights and unfair and needs to be overthrown but… life ISN’T fair… and we will one day face an ‘enemy’ that is too powerful for us to defeat on our own no matter how much righteous fury and justification we have. In turn, more often than not we will often end up attacking the wall holding the disaster back claiming it to be the disaster we face itself only to be drowned out should we succeed.
Finally you can try, and pray, and struggle through, to find ways to use the hardship to your advantage. To grow from it. To ride that wave. To maybe even end up stronger than you went in.
2020 was a difficult year… but I’ve also seen a lot of changes that weren’t so bad come from it. I’ve seen a lot of improvements that had been held back on simply because people liked things the way they were made. I’ve seen a lot of people who usually didn’t interact reach out to each other in encouragement and aid. I’ve seen levels of generosity and empathy that before was impossible in our “EVERY MAN FOR YOURSELF! PROTECT WHAT’S YOURS OR SOMEONE WILL CHEAT YOU!” society. A lot of things I knew were coming but expected to take the next 30-50 years to happen got sped up. Some things I expected to happen quickly got delayed.
2020 was a difficult year, but there was growth that happened from it. The question is will we accept it?