2020 – So Much We Can’t Do, But Maybe So Much We Can

The list of things we once took for granted but now can’t do is lengthy.

We can’t see groups of people. We can’t socialise as we once did. Many of us can’t leave our immediate areas.

We can’t travel abroad easily, we can’t plan, we can’t spend money as our incomes are so reduced.

We can’t see the end of it, we can’t be blissfully unaware of our surroundings as we must always ensure we’re two metres from the nearest other person.

It would be easy to continue. Anyone suggesting that 2020 has been awful won’t typically meet much argument.

However, there is also so much we can still do and maybe focussing on that for a minute or two might be helpful.

Does it replace what is lost – temporarily or otherwise? No – but there are still opportunities to exploit and enjoyment to be had.

We have many advantages that would have seemed incredible to generations past.

We can watch, listen to or read anything ever made

The entirety of culture is a click or two away. There is no film we cannot see (mostly in glorious HD too), no song we cannot instantly stream, no book we cannot order or download.

We could, should we so wish, watch the 20 best films ever made inside a couple of weeks, or read the greatest masterpieces. We can also stream every 1990s shoegazing indie hit if that’s our thing. (I watched successive videos by the Seahorses, Cast and Ocean Colour Scene prior to writing this. Maybe not the best use of time.)

The huge, must-see events of past may not exist, that sense that if you miss a film at the cinema you won’t then have a chance to see it for years. The benefit is that the fear of missing out, at least in terms of pop culture, is barely a consideration.

Anything we want to learn is on tap

Any skill can be learnt from scratch or further developed, and often for free.

It could be for a potential career switch or just for fun, it could be a skill you believe has some value, or one that simply helps you to relax.

YouTube is awash with tutorials on every topic, so whether you want to get great at Photoshop or create your own blacksmith forge it’s all there.

For those who dont mind spending a few quid, sites such as Udemy and Skillshare have more structured courses – and Udemy has a sale about every third day so courses of university quality go for under £20.

Perhaps the one problem is they can become a bit addictive, I have several unstarted Udemy courses on everything from creative writing to percussive fingerstyle for acoustic guitar.

One day, when we’re allowed people round campfires again, I’ll be that annoying git with a guitar and four tunes.

Stay in contact

Physical contact may be difficult but at least we live in a time when we can speak to anyone, anywhere in the world, and in video too.

There are many people we will have seen less, but perhaps others we have actually contacted more. How many people you play in Zoom quizzes or have WhatsApp chats with would you have met up with in 2020?

It is easy to check in with people just for a chat and to see if they’re OK. We can also share images and videos across family and friend chats to share moments.

If there is one problem it is that it is easy to reply to the wrong thread when using the Whataspp desktop app as a previously dormant conversation suddenly kicks into life.

Still, it all helps to keep 2020 interesting. Sorry Mum, that wasn’t meant for you…

The Great Outdoors still exists – and it may be closer than you thought

WIth options diminished, we may actually come to appreciate what is on our doorstep that bit more.

I live in Trafford, it’s not the most beautiful of areas – there is the Trafford Centre, a big motorway or two and a few small satellite towns.

During lockdown, I also discovered Urmston Meadows and a nearby wildlife reserve – admittedly they should probably use inverted commas with that phrase.

In these areas, there are woods, paths, quiet fields and rivers. It’s not Borneo, it’s not the Lake District, but it’s enough. You can get out, walk for an hour, clear your head and breathe in some fresh air.

I appreciate that if you live in a city centre, green space might be lacking, but there is always something of interest within a few miles, even if it’s an area you previously gave no thought to.

Maybe we were guilty of taking a lot for granted.

There’s still optimism and humour

We don’t have to be down. 2020 might be a demonstrably awful year but we are not obliged to feel like that the whole time.

I should know, I’ve suffered depression all my life, 2020 should have been unbearable. However, in some ways, it almost feels as if the pressure is off.

It’s possible to have a joke – when Manchester entered tier 3 I had a conversation with a mate pencilling our next pint – sometime next April.

We can’t take Covid lightly, but we can look for levity within our family, or with friends, we can look to lighten the mood. I walked the dog earlier and mentioned to a fellow dog walker that I was gutted to realise I didn’t have any bacon left, having been sure I had enough for one more sandwich.

‘That’s a new low even for 2020,’ he replied.

Not the greatest joke ever, but enough to get a good laugh from me.

We’re British, we’re meant to have a sense of humour.

At times it won’t be possible to laugh, many have faced tragedy this year, but when we’re feeling OK we should embrace that and think ‘you know what, I feel OK – Covid doesn’t have to dominate.’

Heroes will lift our spirits

Marcus Rashford!

OK, it’s not great that we have a government that would willingly allow some kids to go hungry in order to save an utterly inconsequential amount of money, but at least someone is standing up.

We are seeing a birth, or rebirth of direct action and this for positive campaigns.

Personally, I think social media and the reach that popular individuals now have is key – social media has many problems, but it also allows someone like Rashford to put direct pressure on the Government and quickly draw together mass approval.

Maybe we are seeing the birth of an era where people with influence really start to use it for positive causes. It could be climate change, it could be poverty, it could be all forms of equality.

We are seeing that the established source of power will struggle to contain a popular campaign that has the virtue of being demonstrably the right thing to do.

Perhaps 2020 will also be remembered as the start of this shift in power.

We move forward with hope

There is more too – the re-establishing of respect for health workers and teachers, both had been allowed to slip for too long.

Many have engaged in a sense of community, shopping for neighbours, carrying out small tasks, volunteering

We are all more invested in doing the right thing – we act a certain way because it stops the spread of the virus, we protect everyone.

2020 may have been awful, but there is also happiness to be had in the moment and hope to be looked for in the future.

To quote.

After the darkest night comes the dawn.

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