What the Last Year Has Taught Us

Rob Clewley
8 min readFeb 1, 2021

These last several months have been a challenging time for the human race with the pandemic, racial injustice, natural disasters, and a U.S. election that divided the nation down the middle and even caused a violent coup attempt to change the results. Our patience as humans has been tested day by day over the last year and our resolve to get through these challenges has been on display more than ever.

These challenges have been moments where the resolve of the human spirit has been tested and time and time again the American people and humans around the globe have risen to the challenge. It is often said that the times when we face adversity are the times when we are at our best and when we shine the brightest, and these last 12 months have shown this. The way that people rise to the moment shows what kind of character they have and 2020 and the first month of 2021 has shown that.

The Pandemic

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room, the global pandemic.

This public health crisis has been incredibly hard for all of us to go through, and there isn't an end in sight yet. Since the very first case of the virus back in late 2019 in Wuhan, China was discovered, the world has not been the same, and in many ways, never will be. This pandemic has been extremely difficult for so many to go through and the end is not here yet, this may be with us for some time.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for humankind, but has especially been difficult on the American people. This is in part due to the fact that the United States and our previous presidential administration was not prepared to handle such a crisis. The last president who just recently left office failed to act to protect our country from this virus and as a result, we have many deaths and mounting cases and a vaccine program that has had a slow and inefficient rollout to date.

This pandemic is hard on us not only from a medical standpoint with the virus being crushing for people who get it, but the pandemic has been hard on the mental and emotional health for so many. This is because the isolation has been crippling for people, especially those who already feel isolated and alone in their lives. Those who suffer from mental health conditions and addictions have been especially hard hit as have those in minority communities across the country.

Being locked down for much of the last year has been a challenging situation for everyone and the threat of getting sick adds an added stress for so many who simply just want to live normal lives once again, and do what makes them happy. Besides the sickness of the COVID-19 pandemic that is a very real threat even all of these months later, there is an added problem, and that is the economic and social fallout from this pandemic. There have been a lot of people who have taken their lives and who have relapsed with their previous addictions during this crisis.

These are the challenges that we face, but there is a silver lining in all of the death and darkness.

The COVID-19 crisis gave people time to slow down and focus on what is important. It allowed working parents to spend more time with each other and their children, and to be more present for their families, being locked down and all. People became closer because of this crisis, families were able to be there with one another and have quality time.

Then, we have people who we may have never met if it was not for the pandemic. Recovery meetings had to shut down and go virtual once the lockdowns forced us all to quarantine in our homes. Programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous went online and people in other cities and even in other countries had the opportunity to meet people that they otherwise would not had been able to. These “Zoom” meetings provided communities to mingle and lifelong friendships were developing across the globe.

The same is true for online schools and online exercise classes, virtual dates, and so on. People learned to adapt during this crisis, they learned to find new ways to connect with one another and ton reach out. Yes, the last year was an isolated and challenging time with this pandemic and the deaths have been nothing short of tragic, but we learned to adjust and adapt to this new and strange virtual world.

We were taught by being locked down that we are valuable people, we learned to get to know ourselves and that we have value in this world, even through the chaos and loneliness. There have been many, many challenges during COVID, but we have a lot to be thankful for too, we learned that we are blessed and that change is always possible. These are valuable lessons that the pandemic taught us, but there is one more thing that we were taught during this difficult year.

We were taught that life is precious.

This should be remembered. Globally we have lost 2-million precious souls to this virus, with many more sick.

We were taught to think of others by wearing a mask and staying home and that life is a gift. This year and this crisis has brought out the best in so many of us. Americans tend to rise to the challenge when we are faced with trying and difficult situations. Like the days following the September 11th, 2001 attacks that took over 3,000 lives, during this COVID-19 crisis, we rose to the challenge once again and showed compassion for others, this alone shows that we have learned a lot.

The Divided States of America

The last few years have been a challenging time for our nation but the division that is deeply seeded within our borders has reared its ugly head more than ever over this last year. We saw that division on January 6th, 2021 with the insurrection at the Capitol and in the prior weeks we saw just how deeply divided our country has become.

The supporters of the previous president have been as complicit in this division as he has over the course of this last year. We no longer are the United States of America, but rather we are the Divided States of America, a nation so divided that families cannot even agree to disagree on the political and social issues that plague our country. These divisions have made life here at home challenging to say the least, they have broken up friendships and cause deep problems for our people.

There is a lesson in it all, a lesson that this last year has taught the people of America.

The lesson is that even a nation as divided as this one can find some common ground. We can find common ground on the issues that matter, there does not always have to be a fight over the problems that we face and at times, we can come together. One of the ways that we can come together even as divided as we are is on what I discussed earlier in this article, the pandemic that we all are fighting.

Our country is more divided than ever and it is to the point where we cannot even agree on things that should not be political or divisive, like public health and fighting a deadly pandemic. This should not be an issue that divides us politically as it is not about politics. People have made masks and lockdowns political topics, they are not.

We can come together and fight this pandemic in the same ways that we came together and helped each other after 9/11, not as red states vs blue states, but as Americans in the UNITED states. The lesson here is that we do not have to be divided at all, we can find a way to agree on things and we can become that united country that we once were. There is always a lesson and if the last year taught us anything, it is that we do not have to always fight, we can show up for one another and come together.

Racial Equality Over Racism

“I can’t breathe.”

The infamous words that we have heard before so many times, only this time these words were dismissed by the President of the United States. These words are ones that nobody should ever utter, yet they are the words so many black people have spoken as their last words. This time, the people stood up and said enough is enough and we saw despite a pandemic, protests all around the world after George Floyd tragically lost his life.

What lesson did this teach us?

The lesson taught us that racism is wrong and that nobody is above the law, not even the law. Racism has always been with us, but things really hit the fan the last year with police killing unarmed black people left and right, and the president ignoring these events. Not only ignoring them, but giving a voice to white supremacy while taking away the voice of the African American sect of this nation.

Racism is wrong — full stop.

2020 taught us that we have made progress with racial equality (and equality in general), but there is much more work to do. We learned that it is simply not enough to be verbally against racism, we must fight it with everything in us. We learned a lot about a lot over this last year, but racism is what we learned the most about.

Racism is another pandemic within this country and this year taught us that we should never defend it or embrace it, as some have done.

Moving On

As we move on past what the last year (2020 and early 2021) and what it has meant for us, we learn what we should do and we have been taught what we cannot do. There is an old saying in recovery, “take what works and leave the rest”, and this speaks to what the last year was and what the next one can in-fact be.

There were good parts of the last year and there were bad parts, we simply need to take what was good and leave the rest in the past. This was a year that tried us in many ways and there was a lot of pain that we all experienced in it all, but there was a lot of good too.

As we move on into the future and the hope of the next year, we must look at what the year taught us and how we grew through it all, as a society and as individuals. There is hope and the lessons that we have learned show us that even when things are bad, there is good that can come from all situations, even years such as what 2020 was. 2020



Rob Clewley

Author, activist, American. Love to write everything from politics to recovery and much more. Find me on Twitter under my name for much more!