It’s Been a Year! By Jackson Silvanik

It seems surreal that 2020 is drawing to a close – what a strange and eventful year it’s been. As I’ve gotten older, naturally, the years have slipped by faster and faster. In more recent years I’ve barely even gotten into the habit of writing the current year when signing and dating papers and forms before the calendar flips over again.


The ever-shifting climate doesn’t really help my internal clock mark the passage of time, either; jumping straight from deep, bitterly cold winter into steamy summer with hardly a spring to speak of, whole winters with barely any snow, and others with countless feet. The natural signposts that mark the passage of time seem harder to trace than usual when you’re looking out of the same living room window just about every day (is it January or April?). Deliberately spending a little more time outdoors this year helped me reconnect with the more powerful and important cosmic clock, which flouts the human conventions of time that we force upon ourselves – the same conventions that are so disrupted by things such as, say, a global pandemic. 


2020, it goes without saying, was about as far from a typical year as I can remember and perhaps underscores just how fragile our whole daily reality really is. I still recall my last day in the office back in early March, when me and my coworkers were gathered up and informed that there was a potential exposure to the virus in our office building, and we’d be working from home until things got cleared up. Within 20 minutes, we’d gathered up the equipment we might need to get through the next week or two and went our separate ways. Things didn’t get any clearer for weeks, and then months. As it turned out, those would be my last few minutes at the workplace where I’d spent close to a decade. 


As March turned into April, then May, and then, unbelievably, June, the novelty of working from home started to wear thin. My wife and I were expecting our son to be born in late July, but it was starting to look like he’d be showing up earlier than expected. The walls of the house were feeling a little more constraining than I was used to, as we each carved out workspaces to try and make the most out of our available space, maxing out our WIFI signal for virtual meetings while also working to prepare a nursery and make room for our new arrival. 


Without the ability to run our typical errands and the slowed-down economy taking a mounting toll on small businesses, friends and family and our community at-large, the passage of time somehow both slowed to a crawl and slipped by in a blink. In March, we were optimistic that the virus would come and go before our great adventure at the hospital would arrive; by June, it was clear there would be no visitors, no family present, and still no end in sight.


Cancellations mounted, countless lives were disrupted, sports were cast by the wayside and family members – especially those in long-term care facilities – dealt with increased isolation and loneliness. People died – real people, with families and friends of their own. My own job was eliminated as lost revenues for all sorts of companies skyrocketed. I experienced the frustration of navigating an overwhelmed and under-resourced unemployment system, where frazzled call center employees on the other end of the line are doing their best to help people that are as stressed out and worried as one can be. 


I’ve watched the parking lot of the megachurch just beyond my backyard fill to capacity as families lined up for thanksgiving meals, boxes of food and free Covid testing. Millions of people around the country are leaning on these resources for the first time, and even more are reluctant to seek help because these circumstances are still new to so many, and the stigma of accepting help burns bright. 


As for myself, despite the rollercoaster of a year that 2020 has been, I am trying to accept it for the rare opportunity it may be providing. Oftentimes, the new year approaches and we collectively make our resolutions, talk about the changes we want to make and the big plans we have – we wonder where life might take us. A few months slip by, suddenly it’s July and we’re looking towards the fall and ramping back up for the holidays again – and nothing has changed. 


This time, that choice has been made for me. For the first time in a while, I’ll be heading into a new year without the job that’s occupied most of my time for years and years, with a son and supportive wife to navigate these unknown waters with, to bounce ideas off of and enter into a new chapter with more hope than fear and stress.


A new year doesn’t mean a new slate, though. Though the promise of a vaccine looms, people will still get sick, will still die, and businesses and families will still suffer. Our collective mental health struggles will linger, and now is the time to double-down on taking care of yourself and your community. I learned a lot about myself as the year slipped by, and I didn’t necessarily like all of it – but it might not have happened if the year hadn’t been so challenging. The work will continue, and the chance to make a real impact will come with it.