There is no denying 2020 has been a shitty log year. When writing and reflecting on a year gone and the New Year ahead you are supposed to be upbeat, but with all which has been lost this year (and we have lost a lot, some much more than most) and no obvious signs of things improving in the short term next year, it feels challenging to write anything positive.
An alternative approach often taken at New Year is to consider resolutions for the year ahead. This is tricky, as I don’t make resolutions. While I understand the symbolism behind them, for me I do not find the new year a big enough motivator and I am just as likely to break the resolution than keep them (and for those of you who had travel and see the world as 2020 resolutions, well, sorry about that…).
Instead, in an attempt to avoid wallowing in the losses this year, or the less than peachy year ahead, I have decided to reflect a little in my final post of 2020 on what this year has taught me. I have learned a lot about myself this year, as well as those around me and society as a whole, and it seems as good a time as any to put this into words.
Staying in touch
Despite needing to keep separate from family and friends this year, I feel I have had more contact with them than ever before. Whether it was through snatched meetings in the park, occasionally successful video calls or family WhatsApp chats, it seems I have been in touch with people close to me more, not less.
And the importance of staying in touch with people has never been more stark. Whether it is sharing our challenges or more importantly a joke, in a year that has felt isolating needed as much contact with others as we could muster.
Will things return to normal when the pandemic is over? I sincerely hope not. Of course I would much prefer to see my family and friends in person, at family gatherings, parties or in the pub. But there is no reason virtual contact cannot remain a part of our lives, especially when we might not have the time available to us to travel to family a distance away.
I’m not going to deny I like a routine. I find it much easier to have an idea of what is happening in my day, week, month even sometimes, and changes to routine (especially last minute) can be challenging. For me the hardest part of my job has always been the unpredictability of the work, with the urgent phone call seeing my plans change suddenly a particular challenge.
2020 has been a year where being flexible has become the norm. Just two weeks ago we had plans for family gatherings (within the rules of course) for Christmas, and at the last minute all but a day was taken away from us. And thinking back to the start of lockdown one, I had turned up to work as usual that Monday morning. By lunchtime I was working from home, by the evening it would become the norm, and I did not return to the office for nearly a month.
Despite the challenges and need for flexibility, I am quietly pleased with the way I have managed the change. The overriding desire to want to do my part (however small) has helped with my dislike of flexibility, and while this drive might not be present to the same degree moving forwards, I hope my new found adaptability remains.
Up the Key Workers
I don’t think there is much needs to be said here. 2020 has been the year where key workers have risen to the top and shone. Did we underestimate and under-appreciate their importance before 2020? Of course we did. Will we make the same mistake moving forwards? I hope not. I certainly will not.
There are too many people who have done their bit and more this year (and far too many who have lost their lives as a result), but for any key workers reading this post I want you to know, like many other people I am eternally thankful for everything you have done and keep doing.
Work can be different
If you had asked 2019 Jamie whether work could be done remotely, I would have laughed and said mostly likely no. I remember when the current health secretary was appointed feeling dismayed at the apparent zeal with which he wanted technology to revolutionise healthcare. Telemedicine was to be the next big thing, and I was entirely sceptical.
How wrong I was. Adapting to video and phone calls as a means for reviewing my patients has not been flawless, but it has worked infinitely better than I expected. While I have had to see people face to mask on occasion, and there are people requesting to see me back in clinic, I think video technology is going to be part of my clinical repertoire moving forwards. For the right patient, remote contact can be better than coming to clinic, and it is certainly better on the environment and time-efficient.
As for the rest of you outside of the healthcare sphere, I suspect many of you are in the same boat. Getting back to the office may be of benefit for some people some of the time, but for those who can, working remotely or from home has to be the way forwards, especially if the pandemic has lifted and people can socialise once more outside of office hours.
I want to get away
I love travelling. I live exploring new places, seeing the world, relaxing on a far flung beach or traipsing through knee deep snow (have a guess which option the wife chose for our honeymoon…). 2020 has been the year when that was well and truly stymied, and I think the first year since the millennium when I have not travelled abroad.
Now I know being able to travel like I have done before is a great privilege and far from essential. I have loved and made the most of every moment of my time travelling, and while travel is a privilege, it has not stopped me missing it.
But what have I learned this year? Well to once more appreciate the beauty of the world a little closer to home. I’m an fortunate to live in the North of England, a place of staggering beauty. And with my best friend and travel buddy (the wife) we have managed (when the rules allowed) to explore once more a little of what our local area has to offer. I know I will be back on a plane as soon as it is safe to do so, but I might just have to factor in trips more locally as well.
Death to shopping
To finish, we go from one of my favourite to my least favourite of pastimes, shopping. I despise every part of shopping, from the crowds and queues to the rampant consumerism. I shop because I have to, and try to do this as little as often.
2020 has become the year of online shopping and home delivery, a trend I am very much in favour of, but it also came with a challenge to try avoid spending all of my money with the global jungle-named giant. I wrote early in the year about ways to shop ethically in a post-pandemic world, and stand by everything written there. Going forwards the challenge for me, and I hope some of you as well, is to limit shopping to when it is needed, remotely when possible, and as ethically as possible. It is a challenge, but worth the effort.
Goodbye 2020, hello…
Hopefully, you will be able to relate to some of the lessons I have learned in 2020, and if you have additional thoughts of your own let me know in the comments.
All that is left is for me to say goodbye 2020, you will not be missed, even if I must admit you were not all bad. For everyone reading this post, I hope you have a happy and healthy new year, and if I could have one wish (and if wishes were actually real of course…) it would be that 2021 is the incredible year 2020 should have been for you and yours.