It’s cool to hate on this year, but is 2020 the worst year ever? Here’s my annual review of the year that was – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
With a final few weeks to go until the start of a new year (seriously!!), the excitement is palpable. All the memes are out in force to pretend 2020 never existed, to flush it out of our lives, to be the year that never happened. A lot of things went wrong in the world this year, and it’s hard to blame a lot of people for feeling this way. I think that’s why everyone’s singing January, February, Quarantine, December.
If you’re new to the blog, like many people I get super reflective in December about the previous year. Whether it’s the limitations of my humanity in 2016, yearning for days in the sun in 2017, having everything change in 2018, or battling expectations vs. reality last year, there’s always something profound about taking stock on a yearly period.
The year started out with the country of Australia, my home, experiencing a really bad bushfire season. It triggered huge response throughout the country, from overwhelming community support to a heightened presence of protest and climate awareness. Protesters also discovered this year they get more attention (for better or worse) by regularly blocking peak hour traffic, with multiple trips to the office and home severely blocked by groups like Extinction Rebellion. Although the trips to the office stopped for a while there… some small worldwide thing happened around March… more on that later. There were also some big events triggering a resurgence in the Black Lives Matter movement which affected many people in a profound way throughout the year.
There were a whole heap of elections around the world. Our local and state governments got re-elected this year, and something or rather happened in the USA. Or didn’t? Some regions chose to keep things the same, and some decided they wanted change.
There were a lot of really good entertainment options this year, which helped because all of us had a *lot* more time to explore them. I really enjoyed shows like The Mandalorian (awesome) and My Hero Academia (which we only properly discovered this year), as well as an outstanding movie in Tenet. I’m a huge Nolan fan and this movie is a billion dollar movie that won’t make a billion but deserves to make three. Stellar with some of the best action set pieces I’ve ever seen in a movie. Lots of good games as well – this year I had some good fun with Dead Cells, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (which is Symphony of the Night, Dawn of Sorrow, Aria of Sorrow and Order of Ecclessia rolled into one), and most recently the PC port of Horizon: Zero Dawn. Horizon would have to be one of the best looking games ever released and good thing is that it’s a whole lot of fun too.
I picked up a new phone (the Pixel 4a, which is the best phone I’ve ever owned) and upgraded my old Garmin, which have made for some great adventures and bush-jogging fun.
And what else… this is all fairly surfacey introductory stuff so far isn’t it… I seem to recall some sort of horrendous thing occur that really ruined 2020 for most people…
Oh yeah. COVID-19. Novel coronavirus.
I had been aware of COVID since sometime last year. I’m in regular contact with a friend from China who was sending us photos of how the country was being affected at the end of last year. Photos of empty streets, locked down shops and businesses, extended mandatory “holidays” and people walking around with water coolers over their heads as face masks. I thought it was amazing to see such a large country have to resort to such measures to manage a virus.
And then it happened. The dramtic world shift that made 2020 the worst year ever for many people. Almost within the span of the same week, almost every country around the world realised that it had spread within their borders, and within the same week, the world closed down. Social distancing was enforced (I prefer using the approach physical distancing). Companies closed and entire industries were shut down for months – some are still shut. Travel stopped and started and stopped and started and quarantined and did the loop-de-loop and who knows how long current rules will remain. Jobs were scarce and existing employment was cut short.
Where did COVID start? A lab in Wuhan? In a bat in a wet market? In some other place? Was it planned? Is it part of a new world order to give the anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists some liberation for all their constant posting from http://www.totallyrealandreliablenews.biz.xyz.notavirus? I have no idea. I do know that it was terrible for many people, and still is.
Fortunately, the world of technology has made it so that news is instantly available and instantly distributed. It’s probably for this reason that the number of deaths has been kept relatively low, and by relatively low, I mean not Black Death of Spanish Flu of 1918 levels of death low. And fortunately, also lower than the common flu, but you could probably also attribute that to the harsh response and lockdowns.
Out of all the death though that occurred this year with COVID, the thing that died the most uniformly was the hopes and dreams of many people for this year.
People believed big things for 2020. After all, the Roaring Twenties are back, baby! Or they were meant to be. People started with wide eyed optimism that quickly turned to chaos and despair.
And yet, as I wrote earlier in the year, there have been quite a few good things to come out of COVID-19, and for me at least, the notion that 2020 is the worst year ever hasn’t quite been true (maybe 2014 or 2016). I can’t change the year for you, but I can share mine, and hopefully it’ll give you some hope for the next chapter of your own life.
At the start of COVID I was working for an education provider in the software space, and if you’re a parent you know what happened – all the kids got sent home for several months. While many other people were losing their job, I was actually working more to try to ensure things were running well. Unfortunately a miscommunication/change in direction resulted in my contract finishing up alongside many others in my field and team much earlier than expected.
And as was the experience for many others, it took me several months to secure my next bout of employment. I believe the stats at one point there was one job per 56 job seekers, and the competition was fierce. The market shifted from an employee’s market to an employer’s market where companies really could pick their absolute ideal hires as the number of options was very high, and some absolutely brilliant people who had never been unemployed before were suddenly up for grabs.
Not that I envy companies or company owners – this sort of environment is hardly conducive to productive or enjoyable work when trying to achieve what little some industries were allowed to under COVID guidelines whilst trying to work out which one of the 400 applicants to select.
It was certainly very humbling for me – I had been headhunted for my last four previous roles, and had great success and extensive experience throughout my career, and so to be back on the other end almost begging for work brought be back down to earth. I think that’s been a good thing for me and I think that’s something that happens fairly regularly throughout life – we all go through experiences that humble us or prune the good and bad things in our lives to ensure we can grow more fully growing forward. Fortunately after some time the job market did recover significantly, almost over the span of a week, and I was able to find a really good job that I’ve been loving.
A mistake I did make this year was that, like most of us, I became too dependent on the media, and probably was seeking too much information or level of comfort from it. The words of the media, whilst informative, are often driven by clicks and controversy (or what my friend Aaron calls “ragebait”), and not good for maintaining one’s peace. It was a reminder that when all else is sinking sand, there is a Rock on which to stand.
And something occurred to me as I was in the middle of unemployment and the turmoil which was common to all of us this year regarding what our governments would and wouldn’t allow us to do – I was actually still fulfilling the goals I had for the year as I continued to sow and invest across my life.
Every day (or most days) of my unemployment I would still wake up at usual time, do my hair, get dressed, and go to my office desk, and either apply for jobs or do professional development until 5pm. And while I was back and forth on 27 interviews that I had, I also learned or refreshed myself on 67 different programming, IT, or project management approaches. I made a list and got a whole lot of experience in. Looking back on all that I learned during that time, I can hardly call it a waste. I also had on my list of goals to potentially obtain a new job, and that’s what happened.
I kept sowing – into the job market, and into myself – and the harvest inevitably came.
It was also a good time for married life. One of my goals this year was to grow more established and confident as a husband, and I think we were able to achieve that even in the midst of the pressures that COVID was throwing our way. The challenges of doing the hard work of setting things in place at the start turns into great joy as marriage continues, and I can say that has been our experience so far as well. So, another goal ticked off the list, from another set of sowing.
We didn’t get to go to Japan this year as planned (which I really enjoyed doing in 2014) but after I found another job we had a really good weekend away at the Gold Coast. That was a very memorable trip, especially because we found a pet friendly hotel! Not AirBnB, not shared home – an actual hotel with the rainfall shower and everything. Our dog Jazzy had just as much fun as we did. She was able to come to everything with us over the whole weekend.
We also had a stellar weekend getaway another weekend in the Mount Tamborine area with our life group from church was refreshing, hilarious, uplifting and a whole lot of good fun. I attribute a lot of success in my life to being a part of a regular faith community and this group has definitely been invaluable to me.
I’ve never been the most fit person ever, but less time commuting has allowed for more focused time to exercise, and I can feel my fitness approaching levels of a few years ago (even if my body doesn’t say that on the outside yet). I also overcame a personal health challenge that meant a big deal to me this year. So, another few goals ticked off as well, from continued sowing.
I also had a lot more opportunities ironically to use more of my gifts and talents in my church and volunteer opportunities. I love developing leaders and investing into people, and this year has provided a number of increased opportunities to do just that. In fact, our church group went online during peak COVID and was instrumental in keeping us sane, happy, healthy, and loving life. Fortunately our church was one of the few to also open up when our government allowed us to back in July, meaning in person support was back in our lives and absolutely wonderful, albeit pretty distanced physically for a while. We all need a winning community and a strong team around us beyond our immediates, and this was so good.
I also received news of another additional opportunity starting next year that I’m looking forward to writing more about in the new year, so watch this space.
Continual investment eventually has a return.
Walking The Shoreline continues to do very well, in fact having its best year this year also. I updated a few different pages and things around the place and continued with a lot of writing I’ve really enjoyed sharing and exploring this year, and the site saw an increase from about 400 readers a day on average to about 600 readers a day, all without any advertising. Thank you for continued support and I hope to continue producing engaging content going forward – there are no plans to stop any time soon. If you need some reading around the holidays, have a look around the site for some of the new stuff!
I think this year one of the really deep and personal posts I did which I was really happy to share was 6 Things That Helped Me Get Through Depression And Anxiety, a very honest look at one of my struggles from a few years ago. But you can also have a look at a full list of the posts on the site for something you’re interested in, or one of the Featured Posts!
I usually try to find a few words to summarise the year in a short sentence or phrase, and this year (as you would have seen repeated a few times and in the title of this post) was Sowing In Famine. Our financial planner actually poignantly observed this in the story of Isaac in the Old Testament, who continued to plant in famine and saw a hundred fold return, and he gave me this encouragement at the height of my frustration with my job search. A very wise and godly man indeed.
When I look at the year, I see that it’s been a year of continual sowing. There have been a lot of reasons not to, a lot of reasons to get discouraged, a lot more reasons to stay discouraged, but in continually sowing, I have been very blessed to be able to say I have indeed reaped a harvest in famine, in multiple areas of my life.
And I think 2020 is a year that has represented the extreme of a phenomenon that can happen to all of us in any year of our lives – tragedy strikes, life changes, and all of a sudden the way we thought things were going to be isn’t how they are.
We can give up. We can stop. We can go backwards. We can stop growing. We can abandon our hopes and dreams. We can pull back on friendships and ministries and moments. We can destroy relationships and stay bitter for the rest of our lives.
At a level unlike any other year, all of us are now faced with a confronting question – how long will COVID be my excuse?
Or one step further – how much longer will I wait for the world to change before I do something?
Don’t get me wrong – a lot happened this year that we can’t control or change. A lot of us lost people and relationships and finances and opportunities and moments. Many people reading this will no doubt have experienced worse than what I did.
But all of us are now answering the question of “What’s next?” with our actions.
Here’s the thing about life. If you stay faithful, you will see the reward. You can’t exercise every day without improving your health. You can’t save or invest regularly financially and not eventually expect a healthy bank account. You can’t continually grow in knowledge and experience without more and increasing opportunities becoming available. If you keep doing the right thing, the only thing that can happen is that you eventually see and enjoy the result of it.
God is faithful. I don’t know why things have happened or been allowed to happen this year, but what I do know is that if we stay in faith, if we stay the course, if we continue to grow and improve and invest, we will see a harvest in season and out of season.
So, with 2021 staring you and I in the face, we must ask ourselves what we’re going to do now.
Yes, it’s true to call 2020 the worst year ever for many people. But the darkest storm yields the most beautiful sunrise. The death of something gives way to the life of something else. The destruction of ruins makes way for a new and glorious opportunity.
2020 may have been your worst year ever, but it’s definitely not the end, and there is so much more ahead for you my friend.
I pray that as you look at your year, and even your life, as 2020 closes, that you would see the great opportunities staring you in the face every day, that you would be empowered to change the things you know hold you back, that you would find the freedom and support of faith and community, and that you would live to see every dream in your heart fulfilled.
How about you? Was 2020 the worst year ever for you, or the best year ever?