“Wow! 2020 was an awesome year,” said no one ever. Honestly, 2020 was such a crazy and chaotic year on so many fronts!

Almost everyone you’d ask couldn’t wait to get 2020 behind us and usher in a new (and better) year in 2021. And as I write this, just three weeks into the new year, it actually feels like December 52nd, 2020.

So, with all that transpired last year — a global pandemic, unprecedented deaths, historic job loss, social and racial discord, catastrophic wildfires, professional sports with the absence of fans, a highly contested presidential election, and a holiday season without extended family (yes, that all happened in less than a year) — it was challenging….even by the most gracious of definitions. However, as I reflect on such a tumultuous year, I find myself clinging to the silver linings of it all.

Looking for the Positive in 2020

We’ve all heard the saying: “You have to take the good with the bad.” Or, that you can’t appreciate the good times without going through the hard times.

It’s difficult, really difficult, but I, personally, try to view things as positively as I can. I try to focus on the good and place the bad in my rearview mirror. Man, though, that is easier said than done. It’s next to impossible to see things in a positive light 100 percent of the time. Typically, we (feel and) sometimes live in the negativity of the moment…and that’s OK. That’s human. The hard part is not letting that feeling or the negativity consume us.

Those, who know me well, know I’m a big believer in the power of positivity and negativity, as I believe both are highly infectious. If we harbor the negativity, that will not only consume us, but it will infect the people around us. And right now, the people around us are most likely the ones we care about the most. It’s important that we look to our future with positivity, but it’s imperative we also see positivity in the present (as difficult as that may seem in times like these).

Everyone will have similar, but unique, perspectives on what transpired in 2020. Below are just a few examples of how I’ve tried to maintain a positive perspective.

An Opportunity to Reprioritize Day-to-Day Life

I’m an introvert by nature, and time spent alone provides an opportunity to stop and reflect. With social distancing measures limiting our “normal” lives, it provided a good opportunity to think about what really matters. For me, added time with my wife and two boys has been invaluable. Our family feels closer than ever. That personal restructuring allowed me to get healthier, eat better, and have time for more routine physical activity.

Added Focus and Appreciation for Our Essential Workers

Nurses, physicians, social workers, IT workers, supermarket cashiers, shelf-stackers, and delivery drivers are not generally thought of as heroes. But the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the essential roles played by key workers we all depend on. With our two boys going through virtual learning at school, I have a newfound appreciation and respect for our school teachers. And the list goes on.

Many of our essential workers have what may feel like thankless jobs and jobs that most of us take for granted. I don’t view them that way any longer, and because of that my sincerest, THANK YOU!

The Importance of Personal Hygiene

It’s not like I wasn’t aware of it before, but personal hygiene isn’t something that’s at the forefront of my mind. I’m certainly not a germaphobe, but when you stop to think about how many people have potentially touched that grocery keypad/touch screen or how many people have held the gas pump at the gas station, it seems obvious that we should all be washing our hands a little more. And what’s the deal with toilet paper?! Were people not using toilet paper before?

Increased Focus on Generosity and Helping Others

We have this neighborhood app where we can chat with our neighbors and others who live close us. It’s inspiring to see what generosity in action looks like — offering to shop for older neighbors, performing wellness check-ins on loved ones, dropping off care packages and casseroles, and looking out for each other. Maybe this was happening before all of the mess, but I’m noticing it more and more every day and it almost always brings a smile to my face.

A Decrease in Pollution

I’ve never seen this first-hand, but I’ve seen pictures and the Venice canals are really clear. I’ve read that for the first time in decades, the air is so clear the Himalayan mountains are now visible from a distance.

My two boys even said they can see more stars from our backyard than ever before. It’s ironic that as we work tirelessly to protect ourselves, we’re actually protecting the environment too. Let’s keep up the good work!

Technology Available to Help Maintain Our Health and Keep Us Connected

Telehealth (or telemedicine) is kind of the new norm. Telehealth has many advantages, including keeping patients safe from possible exposure to the virus, streamlining access to care, and lowering health care costs.

Beyond that, we now have more ways to stay connected in the office and with our families (my own mother knows how to use Skype now) and can easily order essential goods online. If you really think about it, we’re lucky this pandemic occurred in 2020 and not 1990. Can you even begin to imagine going through this without Wi-Fi, Zoom, Skype, Teams, Amazon, and Netflix?! If you think we’re all going crazy now, just imagine life without technology!

Increased Discussion on Mental Health and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

These have been some of the hottest topics of the past 6-9 months…all of which our society has largely turned a blind eye to prior to 2020.

Whether on a personal level, community level, or at the workplace, these are all getting spotlighted, and we are just beginning to give them the attention they have long deserved. We still have a long way to go to address each of these topics, but I’m encouraged that we are taking steps to positively address these in a bigger way.

I could go on and on with lists like this. These are just a few perspectives that have helped me stay positive and sane during an otherwise insane year.

I know we will eventually get through this, and tomorrow will bring a brighter day. Remember, positivity and negativity are both highly infectious. Which perspective will you be spreading?!