Life doesn't always go according to plan. Without a doubt, 2020 was one of the strangest and most challenging years of my life. I never thought I would see people hoarding toilet paper or hear the phase, "Sorry, I was on mute," dozens of times.
In March, I started working from home and tried to balance glitchy video software, helping my daughter with math, and taking master of business administration (MBA) classes in the evenings. Besides working from home and home schooling, our vacation plans were cancelled twice, and I missed my grandparents' 65th wedding anniversary. All of this resulted in a stressful year, to say the least.
Any change brings a degree of stress and anxiety because of uncertainty about the future. Think about these events: changing jobs, moving to a new city, and having a baby. All of these changes involve a major life event — although hopefully for the better.
However, change that is forced upon us is different. We didn't choose COVID-19, and we didn't think it was for the better. This was stressful and anxiety-producing for many people, while others felt isolated, lonely, and just plain bored from being stuck at home.
However, after several months of working from home, it started to feel somewhat normal. We all adapted to the new situation.
My wife and I worked together to get our daughter through the remainder of second grade. We talked and changed our plans to the new circumstances. In the fall, we decided that my wife would quit her job of 13 years to stay home with our daughter for the rest of third grade. My wife would be a stay-at-home mom and homeschool teacher. This was not our plan; COVID-19 changed that.
In August, I graduated with my MBA. I spent three years taking night classes. During that time, I studied every night and most weekends, but because of COVID-19, I was unable to attend my graduation ceremony. Instead, I received my diploma unceremoniously in the mail.
"It is not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters." — Epictetus
I tried to look at the facts of our predicament and leave my value judgments behind. I could have mulled over the fact that I couldn't eat out, there was nothing to do, and how horrible I thought the situation was. Instead, I looked at the facts: I couldn't go to the office, and we were all at home together for the unforeseeable future. I tried to find the silver lining of the unusual circumstances. There was nothing I could do to change our situation, so I changed myself.
One positive aspect of working from home was I no longer had a commute. This freed up an hour per day. So in the mornings, I started walking in our neighborhood. Then I started walking at the local nature sanctuary. This allowed me to be outside and get some exercise — how wonderful!
I later started volunteering at the nature sanctuary on the weekends. I helped with a controlled burn of invasive plants, made birdhouses, and spread wood chips on the trails.
After I graduated in August, I had more time in the evenings to spend with my family. We cooked dinner every night and played board games, and I read stories to my daughter. I also had more time to practice my guitar, which is something I love to do. Then for Christmas, we got a Goldendoodle puppy. Her name is Sunny, and she is the cutest dog I have ever seen!
"Some things are in our control and others are not." — Epictetus
Looking back on 2020, almost nothing went according to plan. However, it was not a wasted year. We had challenges for sure, but through those challenges I found an inner resilience I did not know I had.
I realized there are some things that are out of my control. Call it fate or God or what have you, but we are just along for the ride. I can either fight it and get frustrated, or I can accept what happens to me with a good attitude and embrace it. I can only control how I respond to a situation, and that is what matters.
This is what I learned in 2020. I am proud that I was able to approach life joyfully regardless of what happened last year.
I am looking forward to life getting somewhat back to normal this summer and spending quality time with friends and family. I am looking forward to taking a much-needed vacation. I plan on going to Colorado, Chicago, and northern Michigan to see my grandparents and wish them a happy 66th anniversary.
"You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this and you will find strength." — Marcus Aurelius
Joe Byer, CIA, is operational risk and controls consultant II at Truist Financial in Kansas City, Mo.
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