How I Survived 2020

Even though 2020 will forever be connected to the COVID-19 pandemic and remembered as one of the worst years in the history of the country, perhaps even the world, those of us who were fortunate enough to survive, indubitably have stories to tell.

Like many, or maybe even most, my life was disrupted in ways I could never have imagined pre-pandemic. As a professor, my teaching practice abruptly shifted from in-person instruction to remote teaching in a matter of two weeks. It was the Wednesday before spring break that I learned the campus where I’ve been working for the last 6 years would be indefinitely shut down. Students, staff, and faculty were told to pack up and leave campus by the end of the day on Friday. Faculty got some Zoom training during spring break and our classes resumed remotely the week after spring break. I’ve now be teaching all my courses on Zoom for the last 30 weeks. Distance learning has become the norm and will continue to be the norm for me for the foreseeable future as all of my classes for the spring semester 2021 will be on-line again, and I will not, in fact, cannot, return to the campus until the virus is no longer a threat.

How have I adapted to working from home? For starters, I get up much earlier than before. In fact, most of my classes are in the morning. I have even been teaching a course that starts at 6:00 am for international students who live in different time zones; in some cases, there is as much as a 13 hour time difference. On most days, I’m done teaching by 10:00 am. Rather than go back to sleep, I lesson plan, grade papers, attend meetings, and then, weather permitting, I go for a walk to clear my head. In the spring and early autumn, I also went fishing nearly every day at a local pond. I eat all my meals at home and occasionally pick up some take out. Since I am up so early, I eat lunch late morning and dinner in the late afternoon. I may watch a little TV, mostly news programs or car shows, read some, write a little, and then hit the hay by 9:00 pm. It has been a somewhat boring routine, especially during the winter months when it’s more difficult to get out.

And while being holed up in the house for large stretches of time has been frustrating, I have used the time to explore new interests, which have included following a vegan diet, learning to play the guitar (still just playing chords and scales), putting together jigsaw puzzles, podcasting, and writing haiku. Except for veganism and fishing, I doubt that I would have pursued these interests if it had not been for the pandemic, so there’s a silver lining there. And speaking of silver linings, here’s one I just now wrote in the form of a haiku:

armed with a vaccine

the virus will run its course

by the new year’s end

2020 The Year in Review

Stata Center, MIT

It was one of the worst years of my life – tragic, violent, full of injustice, incompetence and sheer insanity. And though I’d like to forget, turn over a new leaf and welcome a new year, 2020 will forever be remembered as the year of the pandemic, a year in which nearly 2 million worldwide died from COVID-19, close to 350,000 in the U.S. alone. And it didn’t have to be this bad.

It was the year Trump’s incompetence became deadly, a president who knew of the dangers of the virus and downplayed it, telling the states to figure it out on their own while encouraging them to open up and stay open, apparently, as evidence shows, in favor of a herd immunity theory that if it had not been exposed and debunked upwards of a million Americans could have died. Trump himself never wore a mask or promoted social distancing at any of his meetings or rallies. It wasn’t until he literally came down with the virus that he finally wore a mask and then when released from the hospital, made a public display of ripping it off his face after climbing the White House steps, noticeably gasping for air.

It was the year in which many whites acknowledged their own white privilege and began to understand that racism is not just the action of a few bad actors but that it is institutionalized, and part of the fabric of the country from its beginnings. Tragically, it was another year in which police unnecessarily used deadly force against black men and women. George Floyd, Breona Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks, Daniel Prude, Walter Wallace. Black Lives Matter.

And while there were so many other horrible events and developments that defined 2020: the California wildfires; a death on the Supreme Court with a rushed and out of touch replacement, growing numbers of emboldened white supremacist groups and hate crimes; and the GOP’s full embrace of Trump and his anti-democratic actions that have enabled relentless attempts to undermine the the 2020 election results, there have also been some silver linings.

Donald J. Trump, the worst president in the history of this country, lost the 2020 elections, and will not be back for a second term. The nation will soon not have to pay attention to the gas-lighter in chief who wishes nothing more than to stay relevant. No, the man who whines that they didn’t give him Time person of the year; the man who pretends that he actually got the Nobel peace prize when he didn’t (he’s full of noble gas), will lose his tweeter followers, try to grow a media empire and fail just like he failed in all his other ventures. He may spend a good part of post presidential life in court, raising money from various grifts to pay his legal fees. But one thing is certain, that after this year and the 3 horrific years that came before, Donald Trump will be gone. In the words of Robert Hunter, who wrote the lyrics for the Grateful Dead song “He’s Gone” (1972), “Like a steam locomotive/rolling down the track/He’s gone/He’s gone/and nothing’s gonna bring him back.”