Year 2020 is difficult: COVID-19 has disrupted people's daily life, locking them down at home most of the time. But in hardship, people have enjoyed the unexpected and are fostering hope.
The saddest thing for Vincent Johnson in 2020 is his father passing away. To his comfort, the 47-year-old photographer in Chicago was able to visit his father for a week before he died in San Antonio, Texas.
"I and my sons had already recovered from COVID-19. I was able to take both of my sons to visit with him as well," Johnson told Xinhua. "My sister was going to visit him the following week, but she was too late."
"In a general way, the saddest thing is not just that over 300,000 people have died from COVID-19 this year, but most of them were completely alone and without their loved ones," 41-year-old Sarah Steiner, a speech pathologist in the U.S. state of Illinois, told Xinhua.
Steiner still remembers her children's response to the pandemic back in the spring. They "were feeling like there is no hope and the world was ending. My youngest, Ethan, would cry himself to sleep every night."
Mistie Lucht, a personal trainer and division manager in a health club in Illinois, echoed Steiner's feeling. "Learning about how many died alone when the virus was misunderstood at the beginning was heartbreaking."
Anne Contant saw 2020 as "a year defined by significant change, and unexpected challenges." She and her family had fixed to adopt a five-year-old girl from China in the fall of 2019, and planned to bring the girl home in late February 2020. But the pandemic disrupted the plan. "Our kids ask about her daily and express how excited they are to meet their new sister. It will be a wonderful day when travel resumes and we can bring her home.
Before then, Contant had already adopted three children from China, eight-year-old Maeve, six-year-old Mairead and five-year-old Liam. She used to be a teacher, but is now a full-time mother taking care of her children.
Political divide is another word people mentioned most for 2020. "COVID-19 has acted like a pressure cooker on underlying issues in America and brought them to the surface and the best and worst of America was shown," said Steiner.
"2020 was a political sphere so up front and everything is affected by it," 33-year-old Laura Wood, a nurse practitioner in the Midwest state of Iowa, told Xinhua. After seeing so many people lost income and small business and income disparity has become more apparent because of the politics and pandemic, "I feel that the country and I had a political awaking and I see how important local government is to everyone's life."
Ellie Nottelli, a 44-year-old event planner and stylist in Illinois, said the saddest thing she has witnessed in 2020 "is the division of friends, family and neighbors."
"Political divide has never been more intense, and I have witnessed lifelong friends wipe out relationships based on where they marked on the ballot. Everything seems black and white, extreme ... there is no grey area anymore," she said.
People also cited a few silver linings they experienced in 2020. "I hate the fact that my kids are doing learning at home, but I know that I'm going to miss spending that extra time with them when they go back to school in person. This year has been difficult, but there have been nuggets of joy caused by the situation," said Johnson.
Seeing the look of awe on her children's faces at the Grand Canyon is the happiest thing Steiner has ever experienced during the pandemic.
"While the year presented challenges for sure, it actually handed me many opportunities I did not expect. Time with my kiddos, slowing down, getting creative again, starting a business, getting a newer, better job and actually, late this fall, starting a serious relationship after being divorced for 3 years," Lucht said. "For me, 2020 was not a bad year, it was one of learning, growing and adapting."
Contant learnt to make more Chinese dishes during the pandemic. "The girls were thrilled about this and so proud to learn more about their culture."
As an event planner, Nottelli has her industry crushed with the lockdowns and restrictions. "Challenges bring growth and evolution. I have made shifts in my business practice and family life that may not have occurred unless I was forced to think/act differently."
Everyone wished for a return to normalcy in 2021. "We are hopeful that 2021 will bring about a sense of normalcy again. We are thankful a vaccine is almost ready to be distributed and we hope that it will help to end COVID-19," Contant said.
"I am hopeful that things will level out, and some bit of normalcy will return," said Nottelli. Nottelli hopes her own small business will thrive based on community support and the strong need for people to socialize.
Steiner is certain that 2021 will be a better year than 2020. "It won't be perfect. It will be preparation for a really good 2022."
Lucht cannot wait to be reconnected with friends and have a normal social life. But she admits that plans will change and "we all need to adapt, learn and grow."
"Instead of getting down about what you may have lost this year, look at the positive and understand what you have gained. I think many people came around to that positive feeling and embraced change, creativity and stillness," she added. Enditem