This December, social media tells me, in many versions:
I thought 2020 would be the year I got everything I wanted. Now I know 2020 is the year I appreciate everything I have.
Lockdown (Part 1) prompted an avalanche of sour dough starters, zoom quizzes and sport based productivity which were compulsively shared on social media. The need to be busy, or at least appear to be so, was very much a feature of early Spring, perhaps to allay the stillness and silence. This was followed by endless months of meandering in daily exercise (another Camino distance of course, affectionately dubbed the Covino) and finally, time to appreciate nature thriving. I have a particularly fond memory of wandering the Thames Path in the direction of Abingdon, and seeing an entire herd of cows in the river seeking shade. To see and hear such a variety of wildlife, so often unnoticed, was a real pleasure and privilege.
Despite this year being one of separation, it also prompted a wave of altruism and generosity. As well as fulfilling the need to be purposeful, making connections with neighbours and members of the wider community became an essential support network. Humans can show immense compassion and capacity to share what they have when they have time to reflect on what is needed.
I reflected on this in my response to Oxford Together Stories: In a society where we are increasingly isolated from one other, with digital space replacing physical touch, reconnection is key. When lockdown enforced physical isolation for everyone, many individuals relied on the support of others around them. Quickly, volunteer networks grew and thrived, bringing help and hope to people in our local communities. I hope that this painting captures a sense of this goodwill, connection, and visibility of those who need us most. Hope is needed now, more than ever.
To read the full report, please visit: https://www.oxfordtogetherstories.com/read-the-report
More broadly, the inequalities exposed by the pandemic, including the Black Lives Matter movement and Marcus Rashford’s free school meals campaign, triggered social action which has begun to make real change. We need to do this together. We also need to continue to be open to getting things wrong and learning.
Lining up the wedding invitations, 2020 seemed to be the year for the big day. The perfect symmetry of the date and sense of hope afforded by a new decade (plus the early to mid-thirties wedding trend) filled our diaries. Many of us will know friends or family who had to postpone their nuptials. Without dwelling on it, I know, from experience, the emotional pressure of making this decision – a generous and thoughtful choice – and the disappointment that many couples will have felt. We managed to marry, in October, with a blue glove clad registrar and four guests. While we missed celebrating with our intended crowd, we knew that the big party could wait and that love would be enough.
Conversely, a leading British law firm logged a 122% increase in divorce enquiries between July and October, compared with the same period last year. Time together, in many cases working from home, challenges the balance of conjugal roles and equity in relationships. How aware are we of the needs of the people closest to us? How often do we pause and really take stock of what we have and what we actually need? 2020 has given us that but not always with the outcome we expected or hoped.
I am very proud to have worked in the teaching profession for as long as I have. Teachers, by nature, are planners. The great uncertainty we faced throughout the school closures and subsequent challenges last term, are testament to what a wonderful group of humans teachers really are. The irony of the county’s infrastructure being propped up by the very professionals and organisations who have been deeply undervalued and underfunded for the last decade by the Conservative government is not lost on me. Reparations are needed, and I hope that in time some balance will be restored. We still have a long fight ahead of us, and I know that we will all continue to have courage and be kind. I am also extremely grateful for absolute job stability and a continuing sense of purpose. Indeed, if you have ever spoken to me about the value of Creative Arts, you will have heard my impassioned speech about the Creative Industries and their essential role in the UKs economy. Resilience, patience and flexibility will need to be in abundance to get us through this one.
In January, my family lost someone very dear to our hearts. We were lucky, in this ‘before time’, that we could physically be together to share in our sorrow. I cannot even begin to imagine the pain felt by the many many people who have lost loved ones this year, and have not been able to come together. Both personal and collective loss is a very difficult thing to process. I hope that at least the silence will have given some time for people to really feel and reflect on their loss. Sometimes, we need the noise to drown out our thoughts, but eventually we need to listen to the rain.
To read my post from last year: https://alexacox.com/2019/12/31/the-age-of-reflection/