With the Benefit of Hindsight

Tuesday, December 31, 2019. I remember anxiously awaiting the new year with friends at a sleepover. There was so much buzz surrounding the fabled “2020,” the beginning of not only a new year but a new decade. People spent months reflecting on all of the music, movies, and experiences that defined the last 10 years. Many people my age realized that in the next 10 years they would likely find their soulmate, start a family, and truly transition into adulthood. As the clock struck midnight, I doubt anyone was expecting what would happen in the next few months. Of course, we were aware of COVID at the time, but nobody ever expects the bad things to happen to them. At that point it felt more like ebola, some crazy disease ravaging another continent. But, it would never reach us, right? 

Fast forward to March 2020. I’m on a call with the same friends I spent celebrating New Year’s Eve with as we all settle in for a long spring break. We received news of a two-week shutdown. A pleasant surprise at the time, but little did we know it would eventually end up lasting for the rest of the school year and eventually the rest of 2020. Hindsight has given me such a foreboding perspective on those weeks and months leading up to the inevitable. In one bizarre instance, I remember something that was at the time mundane but would end up being a cruel case of foreshadowing perhaps granted by the universe itself. The weekend before lockdown, I remember working on a project with spray paint in my garage. To avoid inhaling the fumes, I looked around in our storage cabinet for something to protect my nose and mouth. I eventually stumbled across a box of surgical masks and decided to use those for the rest of my project, completely unaware that in a few days I’d never leave the house without one again. Isn’t that weird? If that were in a TV show I’d imagine critics scolding the director for “heavy-handed foreshadowing” or something along those lines. It’s like a sick joke played on me by some omnipotent being. 

I’ve heard the month of January described as the “Monday of the year.” Despite the obvious parallel of January and Monday both being at the beginning of the year and work week respectively. They also tend to feel like they drag on forever and are often painfully uneventful. If January is the “Monday of the year” then 2020 was definitely the “weekend of the decade.” Just think about it, 2019 was our “Friday” of the 2010s and then we had a whole year of this strange limbo where time almost seemed to be on pause. World events still happened, but always outside your window. At least for me, it never actually felt like I was “participating” in reality. 

Many have said that 2020 is a year to go down in the history books. But that description carries a bit more weight to me than others may attribute it to. It almost feels like I’m witnessing the world as an outsider. Like I’m reading the current events of the world from the pages of a textbook. It’s hard to describe, but I feel this weird detachment from events that I’m very much living through as we speak. In previous years, there have always been global events happening far outside my little bubble of reality, but I always felt more present. I could remember where and when I was when those events took place. What I was doing that week, what experiences I held on to. But now, when I look back I can only say, “oh, I was sitting in my bedroom doing nothing for the 200th day in a row.” 

Many will remember 2020 as a year of suffering and hardship, but personally, I think the thing that will stick with me the most is the distinct lack of things in 2020. I’ve got some pretty big years ahead of me that will hopefully relegate 2020 to just a bad memory, but it will definitely stay with me as an impactful one nevertheless.