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  • John R. Durant

Reflecting Differently on 2020

Updated: Dec 16, 2020

Reexamining 2020 may lead us to overlooked treasures in unlikely places.

As we wind down 2020, many are echoing the sentiment, “The best thing about the year is that it’s almost over.” I get it. Everyone one of us has felt some effects from the year, and some of us were impacted in more awful and tragic ways. With this awareness in mind, I am nonetheless urging us to take another look at the year. I want you to consider that 2020 might have been better than you think—maybe just a little, maybe more. If you’ll allow, I hope to coax you into reexamining the past twelve months, and maybe you’ll find an overlooked treasure in an unlikely place.

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In the wilderness

I’d like to share a moment from my past that has colored my overall perspective. Some years ago, I had been dealt some hard blows on more than one of life’s fronts. Frankly, I wasn’t handling it well. In my hour of need, I reached out to a wise friend, and he suggested we meet for breakfast. He greeted me at a café that we liked, and I recall how wrecked I was, vainly trying to return his welcoming smile. We sat down, and he got me talking. I shared my troubles, and he patiently listened. I was overwhelmed by the challenges that awaited me. I remember feeling numb, staring at the eggs and toast that I had ordered which had by that point gone completely cold.

Then, he pronounced words that are seared in my memory. He said, “John, you’re in the wilderness. But I promise you, you’ll make it out. You can’t see it now, but right now you are going through one of the greatest experiences of your life. You’ll look back on this and be grateful.”

His counsel surprised me. He knew very well the scenario I was facing. It wasn’t that I doubted his judgment. But from where I stood looking at the harsh realities directly in front of me, I couldn’t see any way possible that I would get to the future vantage point he described. But, in the end, he was exactly right.

Tightening strings to tune the instrument

The pain of those hard experiences was real. The things I lost were real. But my personal growth was just as real. The humility foisted upon me (I’m stubborn so it was probably the only way) has been essential. Those difficulties, like other painful experiences in my life, were like the tightening of strings on a viola (sorry violin and cello players). I was being tuned so I could make music. I look back on that period of my life with the sort of gratitude I now know is possible, although I couldn’t see it then. It is understandable that many of us want to quickly turn the page on 2020, hoping that the new year will be substantially different. I do, too. But during this past year, did you receive a card from someone you’d lost touch with? Did you see a beautiful sunrise in June? Did you make amends with someone with whom you had been at odds? Did you learn more humility? Did you drop your phone, but the screen didn’t crack? (whew!) Have you heard a songbird in the morning? Did you hug the warm clothes you took out of the dryer, secretly feeling like a kid again? Did you feel the satisfaction of helping someone professionally, just because it was the right thing to do? Did the security of your current job make it easier to overlook its downsides? Did difficult events prompt you to take another job opportunity that you wouldn’t have considered otherwise? These are the kinds of questions I am recommending we ask.

The way forward

The list of potential positives for 2020 is longer than we may think at first. Exploring them doesn’t mean we are putting on blinders and ignoring life’s realities. We can acknowledge what has induced anxiety, pain, and anguish while recognizing that they are not the only things we've seen. In life, we’ve signed up for the full range of experiences, and the ones that stretched us this year may be the ones we look back on gratefully as our strings are tightened, tuning us so we can add our unique notes to the grand human symphony.

© Growthsight, LLC 2020


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