Tuesday, December 29, 2020
Thanksgiving after Christmas
The end of 2020 is approaching, and for most people it was a weird year. There were over 81 million known cases of people infected with COVID-19, and nearly 1.8 million deaths worldwide. The measures taken to try to control the pandemic affected the lives of far more people, and very much changed the way we lived this year. And although the first people now got vaccinated, COVID-19 will still be with us for much of 2021, and a return to normal, whatever "normal" is, is unlikely before then end of next year.
A pandemic is obviously bad news, and 2020 was a bad year for many people. People died, others got seriously sick, companies went bankrupt, and people lost their jobs. Several sectors of the economy suffered structural hits to employment, that is to say that if you are a travel agent or organizer for large events, you probably not only lost your job, but the outlook of finding a job again in that field next year is rather dim as well.
And because of all that bad news, whenever people talk about 2020, whether directly or via the internet, they tend to complain about this year. I don't remember another year in which the end of the year was greeted with that much "thank God this year is over" sentiment. But having said that, not all complaints about 2020 are equal. COVID-19 has no notion of fairness. The disease did *not* affect all of us equally, and even those 81 million infected people had vastly different experiences of the disease; both sheer luck and socio-economic factors resulted in the outcomes of an infection varying widely between barely noticing it and dying from it. And the economic fallout from the disease also was very unfairly distributed.
So I would like at this point to stand up and admit that I was very lucky, and have no reason to complain about 2020. Lucky, because I didn't catch the disease, and the people I know that caught it all only suffered minor symptoms. I have no reason to complain, because while my life was affected by the pandemic, on balance my quality of life went up, rather than down. Of course, part of that has to do with personality: I'm more of an introvert, I don't like crowds, and I don't enjoy parties very much; I'm fine with more social distance, and fewer larger assemblies of people.
But more importantly I am nearly ashamed to say that I am member of a social class that already belongs to the winners of globalisation, and now belongs to the winners in the pandemic: The highly educated knowledge worker. Even before COVID, my work days were split between meetings and working on the computer. After COVID the meetings went online, but otherwise not much changed about my job. I didn't lose my job, and I didn't get paid any less than in 2019. Yes, in 2020 I didn't do as many holiday travels as in 2019, and I had to celebrate Christmas with my extended family via Facetime, but compared to the negative effects others are experiencing, this were really minor inconveniences. And on the upside, I didn't have to do business travel (which I dislike) in 2020, and I spent nearly half of the year in home office, which I find a much more convenient way of working. (Again, that is due to character and personal situation, I know that home office isn't necessarily a plus for everybody.)
I don't know what 2021 will bring to me. The pandemic isn't over and might still harm me or people close to me before it is. But in retrospect, 2020 wasn't such a bad year for me, and for that I am thankful. My thoughts go out to those who were less lucky than me!