We all experienced downfalls last year; whether it was economically, socially, mentally, emotionally, or a combination of all.
These circumstances have shaken us to our core. The losses humanity experienced have created global shifts. Millions of people died, and our health, our greatest asset, was deeply compromised. Through the actions of a virus, our entire global system collapsed. How can we prepare ourselves for the future?
We must re-evaluate our lifestyle and its sustainability; can we continue to survive the way we are now, and if not, how can this be changed? Though 2020 was a year we may want to forget, how can we move forward when our lives have been permanently altered?
Being able to socialise, speak to neighbours and friends, travel and engage in wider communities, were all sorely missed in 2020. Alternative methods of communication were rapidly adopted, and we experienced the pros and cons of that. Many continued socialising online, through hosting Netflix or Zoom parties with friends. It allowed us to value the time we have with others, and reminded us to check-in with others who weren’t coping well. Meanwhile, the disparities of technological access were also highlighted. Insufficient internet disconnected some from replacing physical interaction with the online world.
"Take 2020 as a testament to your tenacity. You don’t need to have ‘thrived,’ it is more than enough to have just survived."
The Global Impact of 2020
It’s important to acknowledge the global impacts of 2020 along with the ways many of us were experienced personally. We’ve all been impacted, in some way, by COVID-19. However, some have been affected more than most: the people who face economical and social disadvantages, women, and the elderly. The true scope of the hardships experienced by these groups has been largely overlooked amid COVID-19 rhetoric. Low-income industries such as cleaning, nursing, teaching, and hospitality services became vital to our society, while commercial fields, typically with higher pay, took a back seat in the face of the crisis. COVID-19 does not affect everyone equally.
People with the lowest incomes also have higher pre-existing chronic medical conditions, and less access to healthcare. An onerous burden undoubtedly fell on women, as they make 70% of global health and social care workers.1 Moreover, people of color constitute a disproportionate fraction of the dead. It isn’t a coincidence that countries with underdeveloped health and education systems endured a much greater challenge than others. Wealthier countries enjoy a range of advantages that lead to healthier citizens: better working conditions, access to housing, access to nutritious food, limited exposure to dangerous environments and accessible healthcare services. According to statistics, an additional 88 million people lived in extreme poverty in 2020. Sadly, that number could rise to 115 million in the post-pandemic era.2
So much emphasis was put on being productive in quarantine and having a lockdown glow-up. However, the realities of the global situation paint a vividly different picture. Many of us in Australia are lucky enough to look back on 2020 and remember a year we spent reevaluating our priorities, finding gratitude for the small things in life and learning the value of self-care. Right now, many around the world are still facing the grim realities of the pandemic and it’s important to acknowledge this.
As the early days of 2021 pass by, the realisation of just how lucky we are to have made it to this point, grows.
While the experiences of last year felt equivalent to a decade, we are still the product of our experiences. Take 2020 as a testament to your tenacity. You don’t need to have thrived, it is more than enough to have just survived.