Penny, 48, Hartford, Conn., USA

2020 has been a much different experience for my husband than it has been for me.

I’d already been working from home for quite a while when COVID became the kind of problem that obstructs the paths of people’s lives, so it didn’t affect me professionally.

My husband, on the other hand, was released from a job he loved. He was fortunate to find other, even higher-paying, work, but it’s work he hates. He frequently reminds himself that he has it better than many and that he is, when he thinks about it, lucky.

In a small way, we both got lucky thanks to COVID, because the job he hates made it possible for us to buy a house we love. Lose-win.

I am more afraid of COVID than he is. Suffocating, ventilators, dying, or having ongoing health problems for years scare me, so I was one of the people who would spend two hours, because that’s how long it takes, alcohol-wiping my groceries when I brought them home (until an article came out saying people were unlikely to catch COVID from a bag of croutons). I’d feel dirty and contaminated after going to the grocery store because other people were there, and – in the beginning more than now – I’d be mean to people walking the wrong way down the grocery store aisle.

I’ll still, even now, sleep in a different room from my husband and ask him to spend his non-sleeping time in a different part of the house if I think he’s been in a situation at work that could have put him at risk of catching COVID.

He’s concerned about the virus, too, and isn’t anti-science or anti-reality, so he wears his mask and tries to remember to wash his hands (he also actively tries to keep things safer for himself and others at work, such as by organizing a virtual meeting others had wanted to hold in person with many people in one room). But he doesn’t freak out about it as much as I do. He feels safe when he looks at statistics; I fear becoming one.

As people who understand the threat of the virus and who wouldn’t dare travel for holidays, we were pretty happy to live in 2020 and not 1918 and to have Zoom over Thanksgiving and Christmas. Screens, screens. Everything on screens. Those 1918ers would have loved to have this advantage.

Screens also brought us–my husband and me, that is, two white people living in a white neighborhood in a state that is 80 percent white–the yet-another murder of a Black person by police with the gruesome, inexplicable, inexcusable, and horrifying killing of George Floyd.

We, like many others, knew about racism, but we didn’t pay deep enough attention to its real-world damage the way we should have, hadn’t done much looking into the pervasiveness of white supremacy, and hadn’t spent much time actively exploring Black voices and their perspectives on, and stories of, racism. Our first “Ohhh…” understanding, as much as we could possibly understand, was the movie Get Out, but even that didn’t get us looking for books, articles, social media feed…

We look for it all, now, and there’s no turning back, no un-knowing about white supremacy to whatever extent we can and will know about it, and we’d never want to turn back or un-know.

I’m happy that 2020 led to a conversation about racial justice and human rights that isn’t fading the way it has in the past after a short period of outrage.

I’m also happy it brought COVID vaccines.

If only there were a cure for the fatal disease that exploded in Washington, D.C., in 2016.

Share your 2020

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