Looking ahead to 2021 and learning from an unpredictable 2020

Some witty folks say that 2020 should be measured in dog years rather than months. With all the adversity, discord and division we’ve endured, the past nine months have aged us more and passed slower than ever before.

It’s tempting to rip the last three months off the wall calendar and flip to January 2021 so we can “get back to normal,” right?

But I believe we will look back on 2020 as a year of rapid, global change – like pushing the fast-forward button on a slow-paced Netflix movie — that is destined to create a “new normal.”

COVID-19 has propelled (or more accurately, Zoomed) the use of technology for everything from educating students and treating patients to operating businesses and conducting elections. We will sit side by side in classrooms, waiting rooms and board rooms again, but necessity forced us to find solutions that provide more choices.

The discourse on equity, power and compromise is ragged and raw. But this open discussion may help us see that while our intentions may be good, the resulting impacts are often not. We are increasingly learning that people of different backgrounds and experiences hear some words and phrases differently. We need to listen more closely and patiently when people talk about discrimination, systemic racism, privilege, respect, law and order.

The economic earthquake resulting from the COVID-19 shutdowns and lifestyle work-arounds has revealed cracks in our culture and communities. Childcare demands have created fork-in-the-road career challenges for two-earner families. Houses and workplaces will be built and equipped differently because of this moment in time. We are re-examining accepted norms like high school grads heading off to college campuses and senior citizens moving from two-story houses to communal spaces.

Change can be scary, uncomfortable and paralyzing. It can spark anger, sadness, contempt and depression.

But change can be good. It can push us out of comfortable but limiting ruts. It can promote rapid growth in awareness, problem solving and self-sufficiency.

2020 is undoubtedly a year of tremendous change for the entire world. But history tells us adversity often leads to opportunity. It’s up to us – all of us — to develop a vision beyond 2020 that is brighter and better for all of us.

— Chad Carlton

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