12 Jan 2021

Reflections on 2020

“Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.” (Allen Saunders)
In 2020, even the best planners were blindsided. However, we gradually became accustomed to a new temporary way of life. Looking forward, as we plan to gradually get our old lives back, we can reflect on what part of 2020 we would like to continue. For everything that has happened, we can seek a positive perspective and a blueprint for new plans going forward.
First of all, even though everything crashed in March, we surprised ourselves in being able to adapt. We just had to plan for the new normal. For those of us who were fortunate enough to remain healthy and work from home, our biggest challenge might have been finding toilet paper – until we realized that our kids were staying home. For most parents, this may have been the biggest adjustment they were never prepared for. However, we rose to the occasion. We learned how to navigate online school, we learned how to somehow get our jobs done in the same homes where our kids were going to school online, and we learned how to rely on our immediate family for most of our in-person socialization. Our children have adjusted as well. What seemed impossible turned out to be doable with the help of teachers and administrators who went above and beyond to create and implement a robust curriculum for online students. This never was an ideal way to learn for most students, but students are none-the-less continuing to learn. I wish I could point to a quick return to normalcy as we welcome the new year, but uncertainty remains. It is time to reflect on both positives and negatives while continuing to tentatively plan for the upcoming year.
Based on my own experience, conversations with others, and a lot of editorial reading, here are my reflections. Being a positive person, I tend to emphasize the pluses. Maybe some of them overlap with yours.
  1. Family – In mid March, my husband started working from home and both my daughters returned from college to live with us indefinitely. I had to share my office, make sure we had enough wi-fi to go around, and cook lots of food. This was after enjoying my empty nester status for about a year and a half. There was a period of adjustment, which wasn’t always easy. However, looking back, I see this extra family time as a gift. We were able to mostly get along, have fun together, and adjust our relationships from taking care of kids to living with young adults. We spent many weekends hiking all over Northern Virginia and produced a “quarantine” photo album that specialized in the woods. I began regular personal training sessions with the daughter who now has a professional personal training certificate, and we continue these twice a week with Facetime. We took the opportunity this summer for a socially distanced week in the mountains near cousins whom we rarely see and did a lot of bonding with them. We plan to go back next summer. As a whole, this experience has improved our family relationships.
  2. School – Online college for our daughters worked and continues to work pretty well. (I realize that many transitions to online learning were rocky, but almost all have improved over time.) Like many students, our daughters are stuck with the burdens of school but are missing the fun social times with friends and events on campus and in the city. They are compensating by spending lots of time on Facetime and meeting friends outside. I understand that students all over are doing the same. While school can seem impersonal, teachers all over are trying to reach students with online office hours.
  3. Social life – Of course we miss dinners out, shows, concerts, and trips. Now my entire social life consists of walks with friends. I love to walk and have increased walking multi-fold since we are trying to stay away from indoor crowds. We are lucky to live in a beautiful area with reasonable weather all year long. I hope to continue social walks post Covid. While restaurants are fun, I am now saving both money and calories.
  4. Exercise – For me, this has increased with more time for walking, biking, and hiking. I also see children and adults in my neighborhood walking, biking, and playing more than ever. This year, the supply of new bicycles fell way below demand. I also exercise in my basement gym and do yoga with my laptop. Attending school online, children have the opportunity to take exercise breaks multiple times per day, all good for their brains and their ability to focus. Hopefully, movement during the school day will be encouraged once they return to school. Parents should insist on it.
  5. Reading – Being an avid reader, I used my newfound time to read more books than ever. In challenging times, I find the escape to books to be deliciously rewarding, and I make warm friendships with appealing characters from novels. I encourage everyone I know to read for pleasure, which is not only fun but also increases knowledge, empathy, and skills in reading fluency, writing, grammar, and spelling.
  6. Work – For Tutoring For Success, things were tough in March, since many of our clients abruptly cancelled. However, students still needed tutors and quickly adjusted to online tutoring, mostly using Zoom. Even those who missed the physical connection still learned just as much. Some students still prefer tutors at their homes, and for them we have been using masks and washing our hands. Post Covid, we can all benefit by continuing to offer both online and in-person tutoring and academic coaching.
  7. Zoom (also Houseparty and Google Meet) – The option to have both tutoring sessions and meetings on Zoom has been fantastic. Using Zoom and Houseparty, I was able to connect regularly with college friends more than ever, plan and attend even more book group discussions (two that included an amazing author from California), and attend religious services, a Passover seder, lectures (one from a celebrity in Israel), a birthday party, a funeral, and yoga class. I am on the board of CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder) and we will continue our Zoom lectures in addition to resumed in-person local lectures. No doubt, Zoom will continue for most of us, reducing the need to travel so much on clogged roads and giving many more people from all over the opportunity to attend events.
  8. The Environment – There is no doubt that fewer cars on the road is better for the environment. It is my hope that virtual meetings and working from home will continue in a big way. This will not only help the environment, but will also allow us more free time in our days. How will we use it?

Cheryl Gedzelman, President, Tutoring For Success

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