Unpopular opinion time.
Yes, 2020 was a uniquely awful year. A global pandemic, social isolation, livelihood challenges, a distinct lack of slow news days... hopefully 2020 will be an anomaly that we can all look back on as a weird time that we all got through.
I have gone all-in with the meme that 2020 has been a malicious abomination that is actively out to get us. It has amused me during a time when amusement is a much-needed salve. And I'm not going to stop.
Real talk time.
We made 2020 what it was.
Think about the things that went wrong this year, all the lowest of the low points, and you'd be hard pressed to think of one that wasn't a direct result of--or exacerbated by--decisions made by humans.
Pandemics are governed by science, but humans chose to make it political, to listen to the experts or not, to make one less trip to the grocery or give in and buy the comfort food, to sacrifice one holiday season to save lives or not, to spread misinformation or fact-check diligently, and so forth.
With various parts of the world in government-mandated lockdowns, and other parts of the world leaving it in the hands of the people to make the best decisions to balance necessity against the spread of the disease, a lot of martial arts schools are closed. Very many of us have found ourselves without our classes, instructors, training partners, and sometimes livelihoods. Which, besides being painful, it has also been a test of our ability to adapt, to persevere, and to do what is right even when it is hard.
Isolation has been its own awfulness, and without our classes and training partners, we martial artists have lost a major avenue for social connection, which is no better or worse than the garden variety isolation blues that non-martial artists are facing. It's just easier to go unrecognized, since most of us don't show up to class because we're eager to chit chat. We go to train, and the social component is a less-visible side benefit. 2020 gave us an opportunity to recognize our dojang friendships, casual though they may be, and either do right by those friends or not. After all, those friends have also lost their martial arts classes and social connections.
Looking back on 2020, I can think of many decisions I can be proud of, and just as many things I could have done better. And the problems of 2020 aren't going to magically dissipate on January 1st. It's going to take a lot more than a turn of a calendar page to meaningfully improve humanity's biggest problems.
But, we're up to it, right? We, as martial artists, who proudly say we are physically and mentally strong, that we value character and character growth, that we want to be leaders in our communities (or at least positive influences on those communities), and that we are good people who strongly believe in the power of martial arts to make the world better?
Let's walk the walk. 2021 will be exactly what we humans choose to make it.
Let's do it right.