Radio hosts all December – “Phew! We’re almost through it folks. Whatever it’s bringing, I’m sure 2021 will treat you better than this mess of a year were leaving behind!” Youtube videos, podcasts and certainly TV news: “Ohh! 2020, just about gone, and good riddance!” Downtown West Bend Theatre sign, “First rule of 2021: Nobody talks about 2020.”
We’ll I’m going to talk about it for a minute, because I too want to get in the seemingly obligatory comments on just how bad 2020 sucked. Here goes:
In March, all the restaurants closed. For a while, none of them even offered takeout. This was bad, because I, and everyone else, was hungry – for pizza buffet, salad bars and FISH FRY. For weeks (maybe it was even months), I was barred from enjoying a wax paper wrapped sugar bun and 1/8th pound mixed meat burger, and certainly I was prohibited from any of the Johnsonville sausages or other hot-roller fare offered by Kwiktrip. I was forced to stay home and cook from scratch hand-shaped breads, elk stuffed wontons, sourdough pancakes with home-tapped maple syrup, roasted local vegetables, farm fresh eggs, seasonal salads and other delicious, nutritious meals. After St Paddy’s day, I was even kept out of the watering hole and forced to mix my own cocktails. Thanks a lot, Gov Evers.
Summer rolled around and Milwaukee’s music gem – Summerfest – was nixed. The only lakefront fireworks show was in my mind, my memory of 2019’s muffled and dim flashes as the fireworks were launched over the lake into the thick fog. Talk about depressing. I was again forced to modify previous years’ habits, and instead of Budweiser and rock bands, I had to go on a multi-day canoeing trip with my best friend. The beer was sohard to keep cold, not that we could afford much beer anyway, since gas prices had risen 40% (or more!) over the previous weeks, reaching the precipitous heights of $1.50 per gallon. It was ruff.
I nurtured a patch of lawn into an abundant and beautiful 1500 square-foot vegetable and flower garden. I started in February, I swear, so I was doing the thing way before the masses decided Farmer’s Markets and local food was cool. So annoying. Record interest and purchases of the meat, vegetables and fruit produced by the farmers living in our communities. Ugh! All these posers, they made me feel so basic. How dare the people take such an interest in local, sustainable, seasonal and nutritious food and the friendly farmers that produce it!
I mostly stopped watching the news, I slimmed down the apps in my life, and I eliminated junk and advertisement emails. This freed up a lot of time in each day. And all that time sure was boring. It was so boring, in fact, that I resorted to regularly called old friends, new friends and family. What a mistake – the super important hyper-sensationalized news stories surely would have been much better than the stories, laughs and deeper social connections shared with my friends.
With so many work holiday parties, conferences and bar mitzvahs cancelled, I found myself at home a lot more and hungover a lot less. This meant I read twice as many books as the year before. I also watched Youtube. I learned and did everything from installing a furnace to preserving tomatoes, building a maple syrup evaporator to raising chickens, replacing a toilet to growing microgreens. This was no fun, because I hate learning.
Probably the most irritating part of 2020 was money. It felt like every time I turned around. the government was either trying to give me more of it or telling me that I didn’t need to give them as much as previously supposed. First, $1,200 was deposited to my bank account, no requirements, strings or obligations attached (well, kind of. First I had to go through the chore of telling them my bank’s routing and account number). Then, the government told me not to bother making the usual estimated tax payments. Instead, I should keep more money in my pockets for longer. Finally, they asked if they could stuff a bit more money into the pockets of me and my employees through the Paycheck Protection Program. Between the $1,200, the PPP, a dozen other government aid handouts and forbearances, cheap gas and no gym membership to pay, money seemed to be stacking up and spilling over.
Some people think that more money is a good thing, but I know better. As a Certified Financial Planner and Registered Investment Advisor, I learned it: Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems. With the year coming to a close, the government sensed one last opportunity to pile on to 2020’s woes and they took it, getting in one last second jab, depositing $600 dollars of more problems into the bank accounts of 160 million Americans on New Year’s Eve.
A lot of people did have a hard year. Kids pulled from school and sat in front of the blue-light of a screen for 12 hours every day, parents that had to juggle work and at-home school support, old people and others pre-disposed to a serious health problem, the fearful, the unemployed – I have that about them often, and I acknowledge theirs’ and many others’ truly difficult situations. I do hope this new period is better for them, socially, financially, physiologically and mentally. I’ve tried to spread some joy to them and to the world by growing Mammoth Sunflowers for all to see, smiling at people more often, writing positive posts and sharing pictures of nature and my garden. Also, since “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems”, I gave quite a bit of the government’s money to organizations that know how to get good meals into the bellies of hungry kids. In their case, Mo’ Money’, Mo’ Full Bellies, and Mo’ Nourished Kids.
I could continue on with both my “woes” and the real troubles faced by others. I won’t belabor it further. 2020 was full of both true gifts and true frustrations. There were late evenings and early mornings that I lied in bed, sleep miles away, mind racing. Times I stared holes into my computer screen, wondering what in the hell to do. My situation was privileged and way better than most. Even so, the reality of my year was a mixed bag. My perception and reflection, however, is that I and many others enjoyed a top-notch 366-day period and that we thrived through a damn fine year of living.
Some people did have a tough year. They did not thrive. Some people think they had a tough year. It seems every news story, billboard, social media post and overhead small talk is encouraging us to think that the year has been tough. To everyone, I sincerely wish the best and hope that the present and future are better in both reality and perception.
Oh, yeah. One more gripe. This actually did suck. 6 hours of watching and 6 hours more, at least, of listening to people talk about it – a half-day of life – wasted, dead and gone, all thanks to Tiger King. Fingers crossed that no such travesty will be imposed upon us in this New Year of 2021.