The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
-Kahlil Gibran “On Joy and Sorrow”
If there is one thing that nearly everyone agrees on, one thing in the whole world, it’s that 2020 has been a tough year. Almost everyone will be glad to pull the 2020 calendar off the wall and consign it to history. I’ve heard some people say they want to erase 2020 as if it never happened.
But I don’t go quite that far. I’ll hold onto it. I don’t have any years to spare. Beyond that, I believe we will come in time to cherish this year, not because it thrashed us mercilessly and put us through the grinder, as it did. But because it forced us through the kinds of trials that reveal to us the secrets of our souls and give us insight into life and what is really important.
This year has confirmed to me a principle that has helped me recover from every blow I’ve ever taken. It’s that every negative experience brings the seeds of something positive. Every bad thing that happens will bring something good that would not have happened if not for the bad event.
I never seem to remember this principle in the heat of battle. But later, when things have calmed down, it comes back to me, and I realize that the principle is as reliable as the Law of Gravity.
A year this difficult will take a while to sort through. And we are still in the midst of it, too close to see it clearly. But I have no doubt that this year will bring some profoundly positive changes. In future years it may be hard to recall what happened in 2018 or 2019. But 2020 will not be forgotten. It will remain vivid in memory.
Body builders say, “No pain, no gain” and it’s as true for the soul as for the body. You cannot gain wisdom without pain. That’s the price. The greater the lesson, unfortunately the greater the pain.
The Greek playwright Aeschylus expressed it eloquently: “He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.”
World at War
We can all give ourselves a pat on the back for making it through this year. It has been no small thing. We’ve paid some dues.
Because the attacker is invisible, it’s hard to comprehend that we’ve been under attack, and the losses are as real as in war time. Some people have been affected more than others, as in all wars, but this will go down as one of the most difficult years in our history.
What we gain from it will be in proportion to the seriousness of the crisis. We will look back on this year as a momentous one. It will be “the year I started my business,” or changed careers, or started a garden… or any number of changes that this year has produced. And though we can’t yet see them clearly, we know that sweeping changes are taking place out of view in response to the conditions forced on us by the pandemic.
We will always be able to say we survived 2020, a time when the front lines of battle came right to the doorstep of people across the country. Once we get through this, we’ll be able to call ourselves veterans of 2020.
Stop and Take Inventory
So, what will be gained? Each of us had our own personal struggle, walked our own road. But for everyone the disruption forced us to make significant changes in our individual lives. And some of the changes will be worth keeping.
- We were forced to be adaptable, resourceful, to find new ways of providing for our needs. We kept our creative faculties fresh by exercising.
- It caused us as human beings to reassess our relationship to nature. COVID was a natural phenomenon that humbled us, showed us how dependent we are on natural processes we don’t fully understand, and inspired a new appreciation of nature.
- Going through this problem has helped to make people appreciate all the things they do have, their lives, their health, their families, their country, and the natural beauty that is our endowment for merely being born on this planet.
- It caused many companies to discover that at-home employees can be productive.
- Many people suddenly had time on their hands and used it to start projects or to realize a lifetime dream they had been cherishing, but had never had time for before. We’ll see many of those projects come to fruition.
- I saw the COVID crisis bring out kindness and compassion in people. I saw it bring out the best in people more often than the worst.
From the experience of traveling all over the world, I have come to believe that human beings are essentially creative forces, and will take whatever they are presented with and create something out of it – often something very beautiful. This has already begun to happen with the COVID pandemic.
Once we have survived this crisis and can look back on it from a safe place, we’ll be able to see the roots of many changes in the horrific events of 2020. I was inspired to learn that William Shakespeare, in his isolation during and after the world’s worst outbreaks of Bubonic Plague in the late16th and early 17th centuries, wrote King Lear, Macbeth and Antony & Cleopatra.
Now we’ve had millions holed up for much of the year. Who knows how many masterpieces will have been produced? I’ve seen many good things already that were undertaken because of time freed up by the pandemic.
A New Dawn
For lovers of travel, and for the worldwide industry that supports them, 2020 was devastating. Nothing has ever stymied travel as completely as COVID has.
But in the same sense of the pairing of opposites as described by Kahlil Gibran at the top of this page, there will be a bounce back that will boost travel as much as the pandemic crushed it. It will send true lovers of travel soaring joyfully back out into the world, appreciating their freedom to explore more than ever before.
And the pandemic has in a strange way united people around the world. COVID affected nearly everyone around the world. Even as it imprisoned us in our own safe havens, it also united us in this global disaster. And that bond of shared experience on a global scale will be part of what we share with others around the world in our future travels.
When we are able to travel freely again – and that time is now on the horizon – we will find a higher level of connection with people from all over the world than anything we’ve known before. I’m looking forward to that with great hope and anticipation. There is light at the end of this tunnel. It is coming into view now. We shall be released.
We don’t know how much the next normal will resemble the previous normal. But this has been too powerful a disruption to pass unnoticed and leave the world as it was before. People have changed, and in many ways for the better. We’ll leave behind the tragedy and keep the changes that are positive. We’ll see how the changes manifest in coming months and years. I am optimistic.
Best wishes for a healthy and productive New Year, full of magical surprises!
Your Humble Reporter,
A. Colin Treadwell