Well, that certainly was a year. I’m actually not entirely sure what to say about 2020 at this point. It’s been a painful, frustrating, and devastating year for so many people. Jobs have been lost, entire industries have been shuttered, livelihoods have been gutted. And millions of people around the world have lost loved ones at a time when it isn’t possible to get together and simply grieve. 2020 has been a painful year for so many people, myself included. That’s why I felt more than a little trepidation when it came time to write my annual yearly review. What can I possibly say about 2020 that hasn’t already been said? What are the highlights of a year that’s been filled with so much heartbreak? But there have been highlights, despite the circumstances. They’re not about tour guiding though, so like everything else this year, 2020’s yearly review is going to be a bit different.
First and foremost, this was the year that I learned to never take social interaction for granted ever again. This was the year that friendships and relationships were strengthened, reaffirmed, and in some cases rekindled. Yes, Zoom fatigue is a thing, but it is also extraordinary that in a time of extreme isolation, I can still see and talk to my friends and family as if we are all in the same room together. Because we really are meant to be together. Humans are designed to be social creatures. And while I wish it hadn’t taken a worldwide pandemic to do so, I hope that the events of this year will encourage even more personal connections going forward.
This was also the year that reaffirmed the importance of arts and culture in our lives. When the world shut down last spring, the amount of content that suddenly became available online was extraordinary. I gorged myself on theatre, dance, music, and opera. I caught up on TV shows, read dozens of books, and discovered new films. And when the lockdown lifted and I could finally leave my home without a government mandated permission slip, I couldn’t wait to visit the museums of Paris once more. Arts and culture saved my sanity this year. I know it was the same for countless others, so I can only hope that we never doubt the importance of art ever again.
But my biggest hope as we prepare to say goodbye to this year, is that history will remember 2020 as the beginning of something new. If this pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that the way the world used to function wasn’t working. This virus has exposed the cracks in our systems in ways that no amount of activism, lobbying, or Last Week Tonight features could have ever done. And when the dusts finally settles, I hope that we will heed that lesson, because it’s been a costly one. I hope that the price we all paid will not have been in vain.
As I look back on the past 12 months, there’s a lot to still process and grieve. But there is one memory that will never cease to put a smile on my face – the nightly applause for the healthcare workers that happened during the first lockdown. Every night at 8PM, my neighbours and I would come to our windows and applaud for the people who were, and still are, on the frontlines of this pandemic. We would clap, cheer, and shout our thanks. I would then take the time to mentally thank all the people I know personally who work in healthcare. What began as a spontaneous moment of gratitude in Spain and Italy quickly spread across the world. It also quickly became my favourite part of the day.
COVID-19 has cut a grim path across the world. It’s exposed our flaws, humbled us before nature, and as always happens in times of emergencies, it’s brought out the best and the worst in people. Personally, I’m going to focus on the best as we count down to the end of this horrible, no good, very bad year. I’m going to remember everything that this pandemic has taught us, and I will do my best to carry those lessons forward. And I’m going to remember that at a time when societies so often put the wrong people on pedestals, the world collectively came together, every evening, to applaud the real heroes.
Laura Moore is a professional storyteller who loves history and the many stories that make Paris one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Join one of her signature tours to learn the story of a city.