When you look back on 2020 in years to come, what will you remember? Will it be the challenges or the silver linings? Perhaps the time to reflect is premature given we are still in the throes of this pandemic. But as I fumble through my columns over the past 12 months attempting to capture the year in review, there is no escaping the observations of our rapid adaptation to life in the time of COVID.
If nothing else, 2020 was a year full of contrasts and paradoxes. On the one hand, it was a tragic year riddled with death, violence and political turmoil. On the other hand, it provided a recalibration of the pace of life and a renewed sense on purpose and importance. It required new approaches to problem-solving to everyday actions, eliciting creativity and rapid adaptation to how we work and connect. It revealed the fragility of life, the divisions in our civil society, and the failure of a complex public health care system to deliver what seemed to be some of the simplest, most beneficial ways to pull us out of this quagmire. It revealed our arrogance and privilege, exposing vulnerabilities and a sea of inequities.
These contradictions have left us in a fog of reconciliation as we approach a new year. Facing continued uncertainty and questions of how to resolve these opposing realities, we question how to move forward as a society able to function in a sense of normalcy. The only certainty is change, and so adaptation will continue to be our only choice.
We all feel fatigued and want it to end. We are holding in some pent-up energy to do things we haven’t gotten to do. Sunday’s opening day at the Loup was a testament to that — it was likely a record-breaking opening day with lift lines unseen since the poma was the only way to the top. When travel restrictions lift, flights will be booked to exotic places near and far as people are eager to escape.
But, we also know that something has changed forever. Remember prior to 2001, when we used to be able to say hello and goodbye to family at the airport gates, carry-on liquids, and walk through security with shoes? 911 changed that. COVID-19 too will change some fundamental ways how we move about in a world, a world of 8 billion people who can spread disease rapidly. More security is what the future holds, and this means health security.
Humans can and will adapt and evolve to the pressures of change, but not at the pace of a virus. This we know. Vaccinations are one of the many tools in our toolbox to stay ahead of this evolution, but new protections will be necessary. Life after COVID will likely be a life of more visible masks during annual flu seasons (which will include COVID); more health screenings and testing at airports, schools, and places of work; more travel restrictions; and more personal decisions based on risk to this new threat.
Adaptation has been our friend during this time of COVID. We have adapted to carrying a mask everywhere we go. We have adapted to sanitizing our hands after public places. We have adapted to sending kids to school not at all, or minimally. We have adapted to virtual meetings and working and schooling from home. We have adapted to ordering take out, purchasing online and picking up curbside, and communicating behind a partition. We have adapted, albeit regretfully, to spending less time with friends and family.
Here in the valley, we have continued to seek outdoor options for get-togethers, feeling thankful to live where we can connect safely in the beauty of the outdoors. We have adapted to more time at home, and for some, simply more time. These adaptations have come with some resistance, even defiance. But they have also come with acceptance. Acceptance is perhaps the best adaptation to embrace. Accepting the unknown, accepting the uncertainty, and accepting the inevitable changes to a post-pandemic world.