If you had been told one year ago that TIME magazine was going to feature on its cover this week the number 2020 with a blood red X through it and a cover story titled “The Worst Year Ever,” you’d think it was a joke.
The history behind TIME’s use of a red “X” on its cover Maybe the caption would suggest a review of a Saturday Night Live skit, or a standup routine by Richard Lewis, whose comic style was to wear a hangdog expression and always play off the most negative side of every incident. But here we are at the end of this year, and for most of us it’s hard to argue against the notion that the last 10-12 months, in a national and even global sense, are the worst we’ve experienced.https://t.co/L15dQDlvRe
— TIME (@TIME) December 7, 2020
Maybe the caption would suggest a review of a Saturday Night Live skit, or a standup routine by Richard Lewis, whose comic style was to wear a hangdog expression and always play off the most negative side of every incident. But here we are at the end of this year, and for most of us it’s hard to argue against the notion that the last 10-12 months, in a national and even global sense, are the worst we’ve experienced.
Depending on how old you are, I don’t think you’d get an argument from the majority of Americans that 2020 stunk worse than a kitchen full of overcooked broccoli and jalapenos. Ask a high school student in his or her senior year, what it felt like to miss that final bonding year of celebration and companionship, and be forced to stay home and stare at lessons on a dispassionate computer. Or the athletes losing that final chance to show a college of their choice that they deserve a scholarship to compete at the next level. I’m pretty sure those young folks would tell you this was the worst year of their lives.
Those venerable folks in their nineties might point to the Great Depression as the worst time ever. Those in their eighties might point to World War II and the Holocaust as being worse than this year, and they would have a valid case. A generation two decades later might look at the Vietnam War and the discord it created throughout our country as being worse than now, and I would support that argument, but the body count wasn’t nearly as high. Some 58,000 American lives were lost in a war that no one today can justify, but the COVID death toll has just exceeded 300,000, and we’re told we have two more months of accelerating numbers. (A huge percentage of the country has said they don’t want to take the vaccine when it’s available, so for them a simple shot is no cause for relief.)
If you got totally wrapped up in the Presidential election, whichever side, you probably pushed your stress buttons harder than they are used to being pushed. If you lost your job and are in a deep financial bind due to the pandemic, there is little consolation to be offered. Maybe a career change is required, and perhaps that will bode well, but those shifts are never easy and, in many cases, don’t offer a satisfying solution.
Depending on the perspective you choose to take through this pandemic, you are either depressed and miserable and seeing no way out of this cauldron, or you prefer to look at the few bright points of being masked and quarantined and housebound. Here are a couple I like:
• When friends call and ask how I’m doing, they have more sincerity in their voices. They seem to really want to know. If I give my typical response, “I’m fine. How are you?” They don’t settle for that. They probe further. “Nobody’s fine,” they might say, “How are you REALLY doing?
• I’ve watched some good documentaries and interviews I wouldn’t have taken the time to see in a normal world. The series The Vow was compelling, and David Letterman’s one-on ones, as he channels a Howard Hughes beard and fashion choices, are fun.
• I’ve spent far more time with our five animals than I normally would, and they seem happier and definitely pudgier than they would have been
• I’ve saved a lot on gas, as personal interviews are now done almost exclusively over the phone or on Zoom.
As my most pessimistic friend Warren said to me recently in response to this issue: “You think this year was bad? Wait till next year.” I don’t take much stock in that forecast. Warren is usually dead wrong.