Illustrations by Hannah Robinson

We are now well into the first few weeks of 2021, and with that has come a plethora of “2021, you better improve upon 2020” style threats. And there’s no denying that 2020 was (to use one of this country’s favourite words) shambolic. Between Coronavirus, the cycle of lockdowns, and Brexit, there wasn’t much room for positivity.

But, in defence of 2020, it was a year that changed everything. Yes, it broke so many of us. Many businesses, big and small, were broken beyond repair. We lost loved ones, colleagues, neighbours and acquaintances to this deadly virus. Loneliness became as much of a pandemic as Covid-19.

Nevertheless, all these changes initiated a shift in the way our society functions. A shift for the better. Lockdown represented the first enforced break from work or school for most of the population. Parents suddenly on furlough were able to spend quality time with their children. Students had to re-learn how to live with their family. People doing too much (exercising, working, studying) were obliged to stop and reassess, whilst those wanting to do more (sport, writing, reading) were finally given the time to do so.

It was a year that broke us, but it also gave many of us the chance to rebuild. Social practices changed and adapted to the trying times, the era of zoom came and went (for most – my dad remains one of the few still on a zoom call every Friday night with his mates and a pint in hand), and we all reconnected to what matters. It was a time of healing despite the widespread destruction the virus caused. Mentally and physically, our society has come out stronger. More resilient. Adaptable to change and uncertainty.

And creative. Lockdown turned the population into creative geniuses. A new generation of artists and entrepreneurs has emerged, selling anything and everything from beaded jewellery to tie-dyed clothes. People tried new skills, hobbies, and habits. Amidst the storm of the pandemic, individuals found their own source of calm. What’s more is that these new practices seem to have stuck. Since work, school and university resumed, many appear to have discovered a better balance, making time for things that were previously pushed to one side.

Because if there’s one thing the pandemic did give us, it’s time. Whilst the virus tragically led to the untimely deaths of many, it also gave the rest of us the time to take stock and change our lives for the better. Faced with the adversity of 2020, it’s easy to only see the darkness. To focus on the pain and suffering everyone has and still is experiencing in their own way. But doing so only lets the virus win. And that is why we must put a positive spin on such a negative year.

To use an age-old cliché (and now song lyric), what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I won’t be insensitive and say that everything happens for a reason, because this virus has caused immeasurable pain that cannot be rationalised. However, there are always two ways of approaching calamities such as this one: allowing it to drown you in its despair or choosing to acknowledge it and move on. Dwelling on the bad only fuels the profuse negativity. Focusing on the good allows us all to not only survive, but to find a way to blossom in spite of the virus.

Still sceptical? Look through your camera roll. You are bound to find a photo, even if only one, of a good time had in 2020. Here’s to hoping there are more in 2021.