Illustration of ladder reaching a rainbow.
Opinion

2020 wasn’t the worst year of all time. We can prove it

2020 may have all the grace of a reversing dump truck without any tyres on, but it’s still had its charms.

Look, there’s no getting away from it: 2020 has been grim. Even setting aside the pandemic, the bushfires, all the stuff happening in China, and the ever-looming doom of Brexit, we’ve had to contend with a myriad of horrors that I just don’t have the time (or emotional strength) to touch upon here.

It’s understandable, then, that many have branded 2020 as the worst year ever in the history of the world. Understandable, yet wholeheartedly inaccurate – and not because it ignores past horrors and atrocities, such as the Black Plague, the Holocaust, both world wars, and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

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No, it’s inaccurate because it fails to celebrate the wins. This is, after all, the same year that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the US presidential election. That Crayola launched a box of crayons with diverse skin colors for children to “accurately colour themselves into the world.” That NASA named its Washington, D.C. headquarters after Mary W. Jackson, its first Black female engineer. That Prince Harry and Meghan Markle refused to kowtow to press bullying and instead decided to step back as senior royals and strike out on their own. That, for the first time ever, the Academy Award for best picture went to an international feature film: Parasite.

That scientists have been working around the clock, day and night, to bring us all a working Covid-19 vaccine.

The Biden-Harris press team will be entirely led by women
2020 marked the year that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the presidential election.

It’s not just these big moments, either: this year has also given us some of the best TV we’ve had in forever. The best music (think Beyonce’s Black Is King, Taylor Swift’s Folklore, and Meghan Thee Stallion). And the best Christmas films, too.

The resounding awfulness of 2020 also forced us to get positive. It reignited our love for baking, gardening, and long walks in the fresh air. It encouraged us to find new ways to connect with one another, too, plunging us headfirst into the world of TikTok and Zoom.

This year has also seen the British public give an additional £800 million to charity. A record number of cats and dogs, too, were fostered and adopted all over the world. And, thanks to Facebook groups and apps like Nextdoor, many of us have made an effort to embrace our community and start shopping small, wherever and whenever we can.

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“But what about all the bad stuff?” I hear you ask. “What about the stuff we can’t sugarcoat, no matter how much you try to Pollyanna your way around it?”

Well, I urge you to consider the words of Leslie Dwight’s now-famous poem, which quickly went viral after it was shared on Instagram earlier this year.

“What if 2020 is the year we’ve been waiting for? ⁣A year so uncomfortable, so painful, so scary, so raw – that it finally forces us to grow,” the poem reads.

“A year that screams so loud, finally awakening us from our ignorant slumber.⁣ A year we finally accept the need for change.⁣ Declare change. Work for change. Become the change.

“A year we finally band together, instead of⁣ pushing each other further apart.⁣⁣ 2020 isn’t cancelled, but rather ⁣the most important year of them all.”⁣

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Exactly this. Exactly this! Because, yes, 2020 has been terrible in lots of ways, but it’s also been brilliant. Serving as a period of metamorphosis, it has pushed us all to take a long hard look at ourselves and the world around us. It has confronted us with many uncomfortable truths. It has challenged us to reconsider our own behaviours, beliefs, and ethics.

Above all else, 2020 has taught us to be the change we wish to see in the world. And if that ain’t a beautiful positive to come out of all this awfulness, then I don’t know what is.

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