Many would consider 2020 to be the year from hell. We had a devastating wildfire season, our favorite royal couple quit the royal family, COVID-19 swept through the world, Kobe and Gianna Bryant died, we had political turmoil with President Donald Trump’s impeachment, the stock market crashed, peaceful and violent clashes over social justice movements dominated summer, murder hornets arrived in the United States, we lost Ruth Bader Ginsburg and so much more.
When you list it all out, it is hard to imagine all of this happened in a single calendar year. Despite all the tragedy and unrest that commandeered 2020, we gained a beneficial new perspective that I hope we carry through this new year: selflessness.
In my lifetime, it seems as a society we have made a gradual climb toward blatant selfishness. The prevalence of social media allowed us to flaunt our good fortune and beauty to anyone with access to the internet. It became common practice to count likes on our selfies rather than hype up our friends in person. We careened toward an elitist mindset where Gucci belts and Hermès Birkin bags cement a person’s status in a friend group. We had little to no awareness of public health, cramming ourselves into crowded fraternity basements and sharing drinks even if we were sick.
After the events of 2020, it is hard to imagine any of that mattering anymore. As we became more and more acquainted with loss, the mindset started to change.
The basketball community, and those beyond, mourned with Vanessa Bryant as she grieved the deaths of her husband and daughter. We collectively put away NBA team allegiances and appreciated the yellow-and-purple jersey with No. 24 stitched on the back.
When racial injustices overwhelmed the tolerance of the American people, humans of all walks of life and racial makeup united in solidarity. White people and Black people, the rich and the poor, stood together and campaigned for the change they wanted to see in a movement of empathy.
As family members and friends died or were sick with COVID-19, we endured quarantines and a more cautious outlook toward sickness and public gatherings. Many people wore masks to protect loved ones and even total strangers. Gone are the days of frat parties and massive get-togethers with strangers in restaurants.
“Why did we do this?” one might ask. Because it was no longer a matter of personal gain and fun, but rather a majority agreement that the health and happiness of the whole outweighed the comfort of oneself.
I can truly say that I have never seen such a collective societal move toward selflessness. It’s a new normal, a new perspective and a new way of life.
2020 taught me the fragility and preciousness of life. It was an abrupt reminder that life went on outside my little bubble of privilege and health.
So, as I sit at home in the early days of January, I am struggling with my typical new year goals. There are no major resolutions, no daily, weekly, or monthly boxes I feel I need to check off to gauge my success in this odd time. There is simply a new perspective, new boxes I mentally check off.
Is this cough because the air is cold or do I need to get tested and stay away from the people I love? Am I taking the freedom and privileges I enjoy for granted? What can I do to keep the people I care about safe and happy? Have I reached out to that friend or loved one enough?
Losing five pounds or going to the now-closed gym now seem like trivial resolutions. Spending more time with family is something we all do now and that is something to be celebrated and continued. 2020 may have robbed us of a lot. Graduation ceremonies and spring break trips to Italy are off the table, but we are alive and we have tapped into an empathy and compassion that can benefit our society greatly.
Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.”
So instead of attempting a five-days-a-month juice cleanse that is bound to die as soon as we move into February, let’s keep the ball rolling with our new perspective. Selflessness is the new sexy selfie on Instagram. It’s a trend I can get behind and one that will greatly benefit society.