12 Lessons I Learned in 2020

“Let our New Year’s resolution be this: We will be there for one another as fellow members of humanity, in the finest sense of the word.” (Göran Persson)

Attribution: Donna CameronA year ago, so many of us were making resolutions or setting intentions for a new year, cleverly referring to our effort as our “20-20 Vision.”

And how’d that work out for us?

In my own myopic wisdom, I referred to the epidemic of incivility swirling around us and even predicted that it would become a “pandemic” as the presidential election took center-stage. I should not have used the word pandemic quite so blithely, nor assumed that the universe would ration its epidemics to one-at-a-time.

While I may still muster the enthusiasm to set a few intentions for the coming year, I prefer to use this time to look back (with 20-20 hindsight) on the lessons I learned from this year—lessons that shed light on many things we needed to see, some horrific and some truly enlightening.

The Lessons of 2020

The Culinary Determinant: When you plan your meals in advance and only shop for groceries every two weeks, you eat better and healthier. And cheaper.

The Connubial Covenant: If you’re going to be in isolation with one person, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for months on end, it’s good to 1) have married or partnered wisely, and 2) have a sense of humor.

The Theory of Judicious Balance: Self-control and self-discipline are essential, but so is an occasional dish of mint chocolate chip ice-cream. Either without the other leads to protracted gloom.

The Good Guy Postulate: The people who are heroes will never tell you how great they are. The people who are a blight on the planet will do everything they can to convince you—and themselves—that they are important and worthy. The harder they try, the more unimportant and unworthy they reveal themselves to be.

The I’m-a-Good-Liberal Deception: If you are absolutely certain you are free of any bias or prejudice, you’re undoubtedly wrong. Read a book, listen to a podcast, or engage in conversation that challenges your assumptions. Then, allow what you read or heard to get past your defenses. 

The Omission Revelation: The more quickly we learn how to overlook small annoyances, the happier we will be. The more quickly we learn to moderate our own annoying habits, the happier our partner will be. Do not overthink this one, just do the best you can.

The Comfortable Shoe Cognition: A fuzzy slipper with a supportive sole is all one really needs 93.7 percent of the time. A good athletic shoe will suffice for everything else. High heels can be repurposed as garden ornaments.

The Rob and Laura Inevitability: Any dark day or period of despondency can be lightened by healthy doses of The Dick Van Dyke Show or either Bob Newhart series. This is a scientific fact.

The Flawed Human Disclosure: If you find it hard to admit that you’re wrong, start by admitting that.

The Who’s Winning Delusion: Unless you’re playing cards or a board game, it is unnecessary to keep score. We’re all just doing the best we can—what does it matter who emptied the dishwasher last?

The Elasticity Certainty: As crappy as 2020 has been, there are myriad reasons to enter 2021 with optimism and hope. We are resilient. We can learn to do better. We know how to encourage and support one another. We are here to listen to each other’s stories, and to eat one another’s cooking, and declare it delicious.

The Kindness Constant: Every kindness matters, even the smallest. If you’re in a place where you can’t find kindness, it’s up to you to make it.

“Be kind to yourself in the year ahead. Remember to forgive yourself, and to forgive others. It’s too easy to be outraged these days, so much harder to change things, to reach out, to understand. Try to make your time matter: minutes and hours and days and weeks can blow away like dead leaves, with nothing to show but time you spent not quite ever doing things, or time you spent waiting to begin. Meet new people and talk to them. Make new things and show them to people who might enjoy them. Hug too much. Smile too much. And, when you can, love.” (Neil Gaiman)

31 thoughts on “12 Lessons I Learned in 2020

  1. This is wise and witty. Thanks for reminding us to look inward and to laugh and to above all be kind to ourselves and others. And thanks for the reminder to eat that mint chocolate chip ice cream!

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  2. I loved this.

    Two things to note – permission granted to eat ice cream. Oh my word, yes please!
    And the connubial covenant – for as much as I whinge about the other party in the household, it would be a miserable party without him!

    All the best in 2021, and thank you for your continued guidance.

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    All great truths are simple, but not all come with such clever and humorous titles! 😄 I may print these and post each one in a different place, so I may be reminded everywhere how to be my better self. Happy New Year, my friend!! 🎉 💃🏻❤️
    We have much to move on from and toward. So grateful to do it with you!! 🙏🏼❤️😬🌟

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  4. I always appreciate your sense of humor, Donna, and your hearty laugh.
    What a fine list of lessons learned, thanks for sharing it. I thought “The Elasticity Certainty” was referring to the Pandemic Wardrobe of pajamas, sweat pants and leggings — the only pants I’ve been wearing all year.
    I cannot wait for the day when, once again, we can hug too much and smile too much. xo/k

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    • Ah, yes, a much more practical use of the word “elastic.” For me, it’s been jeans–all day, every day–but only the loose, comfy ones. I can’t wait to resume our periodic lunches, at which we solve most of the world’s problems … if only they’d listen to us. Happy new year, Kris!

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      • Lunch with Donna is in the top 5 of my (lengthy) list of 2021 wishes. Hey, maybe we could launch a podcast: Making the world a better place, one Cobb salad at a time. Think about it! 🙂
        Wishing you and Bill a calm, sane, peaceful, healthy and (dare we hope) joyous year ahead ~

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  5. This is a great list. I especially like The Theory of Judicious Balance, The Good Guy Postulate, and The Rob and Laura Inevitability. Those are ongoing principles in this house, too. Thanks for sharing your wisdom here and Happy New Year!

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  6. Ohhhh, the “good liberal” relates to me. I’m committing to read at least two books on aspects I abhor, just to challenge my brain and my values. And the Culinary Determinant is a true fact! I lost 30 pounds this past year by practicing ZooFit at home.
    I also have to admit that while I recognize 2020 was “the worst” to many people, and that it ACTUALLY was the worst year for many others, I saw a LOT, and I mean A LOT of positive opportunities with 2020.
    I really appreciate your list. These are incredible lessons!

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    • Hi, PJ, welcome! I think one of the best things that will come of this year is that so many of us have realized our liberalism wasn’t sufficient and that we needed to dig deeper and step up. And congrats to you for losing weight while so many of us have gone in the other direction. Yay, ZooFit!


  7. Very wise words. I particularly liked “The I’m-a-Good-Liberal Deception.” Until we’re willing to use our vote and influence to change the system, who cares if we’re a “good” liberal? It’s meaningless.

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    • So true, Christi, racism and inequality are so deeply entrenched in our systems that bemoaning and talking about it offers little hope of change. We need wise, committed, and nonviolent activism.

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