2020: The year some are secretly thankful for

It’s easy to say that 2020 was a universally difficult year. A turbulent election season, Dr. Fauci, and volcano eruptions are just a few aspects of 2020, none of which seemed familiar prior. A year packed with fantastical events that test our strength and constantly reminds us of our own mortality isn’t one that comes often, but one thing is for sure: nobody will find it easy to forget this year.


One demographic whose lives have been affected in tremendous ways over the course of the year and whose lives continue to be turned upside down in the midst of a global pandemic that is still continuing in this new year are students. Some have found this time easier than others, as online learning is not a one-size-fits-all approach, however necessary it may be. At Cape Henry, some students have themselves been transitioning between online and in-person learning periodically, or their peers have for what seems like forever. Each day’s events are unpredictable, to say the least, and there’s no way to know just how long the building will continue to house classes. Any day could be the last.


In terms of which event of the year, was the most memorable, students and faculty seemed to agree that the presidential election was the forefront of their year had COVID-19 been out of the question. “Definitely the election,” says Crystal Lans, a Human Resources Generalist at Cape Henry, “that in itself was crazy,” as students in the room nod in agreement. There’s no question that the election was the focus of the media, American or not, for months on end, even after the results had been confirmed. When shown a picture of William Barr, the attorney general from 2019 until the end of 2020, multiple students add that they didn’t know much about him, and to be fair, they’d have to be avid news readers to know what he’d been up to, including times throughout the year when he disputed the president’s claims of election fraud and that there was no reason for a special counsel investigation into Joe Biden’s son, Hunter. The students admit they avoid reading the news as much as they can. Nobody wants it to take over their life.


Part of the reason students avoided the news was because 2020 was almost a little too busy. With such a turbulent election season taking center stage in American media, there was little coverage of international events that were incredibly tragic. On January 12, 2020, the Taal Volcano in Batangas, Philippines erupted and spewed ash across the country, which led to the suspension of businesses, flights, and schools. The ash destroyed homes, businesses, and ruined an incredible amount of the island’s nature, yet there was almost no coverage in the Western media. When presented with a news quiz question about the event, Crystiana McCollum ‘22 remarks that she “did not know that happened.”


Someone in the room adds, “Weren’t there wildfires?” Crystiana remarks, “Yeah, in a lot of places.” When someone says that they thought there was something that happened in Australia in the beginning of the year, Crystiana responds again laughing, “Yeah, wildfires.” A group of students in the class laughs along with her, and it’s clear that there was a little bit too much going on for one year to process. 


Looking back on 2020, people seem to have mixed feelings. George Cutler ‘22 was not a fan of the year at all, not hesitating at all before dubbing 2020 “trash,” “disgusting,” and saying that if he could, he would get rid of the year altogether, and plenty of people around the world would agree with him. Ms. Lans reflects in a different way, calling the year “eye-opening” and explaining that she adjusted to new ways to do the same things. She mentions that she turned 30 in 2020, and although she was supposed to travel to Las Vegas to celebrate, she still wouldn’t get rid of the year if she could as George would. In fact, she says the year was “great” for her, aside from the pandemic. Crystiana describes the year as “hard. It was really, really hard,” but goes on to call it “impactful,” and not in a bad way. She says that she’s actually grateful for 2020, and the pandemic especially, because it “taught [her] to have more gratitude for the people in my life and not to take anything or anyone for granted.” Her words act as a reminder that 2020 was not all negative, but that a lot of the negativity might have prompted some incredibly necessary changes in our mindsets, lifestyles, and society. 


Regardless of who is asked, chances are 2020 was a tumultuous year for them. Some have experienced loss in their families, friend groups, and just about everyone has lost someone in their community. Despite the fact that the global pandemic did not end with the year as some had convinced themselves it would, there is still plenty to be grateful for from 2020. For many, the alone time away from all the usual business of everyday life forced them to reevaluate their beliefs, connections, and habits. Some spent more time with their family than they had in years, for better or worse, but regardless, as Ms. Lans put it, “I’m just glad my family and friends are healthy and that we all made it through.”


The past year has no doubt been eventful, and some people would be okay if it had never happened in the first place, and that’s a valid reaction. Even if some are grateful for the year, in spite of all the negativity and instability, that’s okay too. If nothing else, 2020 has taught us all not to take even the seemingly regular moments for granted, because no job, person, or plan for the future is guaranteed.