I remember the hype. How we as a world celebrated the dawn of a new decade with such fervor. I mean, how could we not? Just look at the year: 2020. Something about the very number itself — the alternating pattern of digits, the semi-symmetry, the evenness, and even the fact that it is a leap year; How could we not fall for that?

Even the more cynical among us, I imagine, must have felt slightly auspicious about this year.

I believe there are seasons in life. Not simply the seasons that are determined by the weather or the position of our earth around the sun, I mean episodes in our lives in which we are beset by misfortune after misfortune or during which the stars seem to align themselves perpetually in our favor. Each of us seems to have our timelines for such seasons. This year has plunged many people into unprecedented depths of pain and sorrow but it has no doubt been the best year for some.

It would therefore be unfair — even untrue — to say either that the year was good or bad. I doubt if there’s anything like a good or bad year. The way I understand it, time is simply indifferent to the happenings of humankind. The clock simply ticks away and our world goes on rotating whether the earth be quaking or the storm raging.

We would be nearer the truth if we say it is a year in which many bad things happened to our planet and to so many people. The year when the very air we share smelled of death and the sky was the color of blood and the heavens just couldn’t get enough of the souls of men. It is the year in which I felt claustrophobic under the open sky. Never, in my experience, has our world felt so small or our race so powerless.

But that year is finally ending. I want to rejoice that it is ending. I want to feel hopeful and optimistic at the prospect of 2021. But I will not be so naive as to expect things to somehow magically turn around simply because 2020 has ended. The events of this year taught me better.

As things began to worsen at the start of this year, I found myself more than once trying to convince myself that I had witnessed the worst of it. Surely, it can’t possibly get worse than this?, I would tell myself. How cute! Almost immediately following this, as if in defiance of my naivete, another more terrible blow would be delivered. It felt like some variant of Murphy’s law playing out on repeat: If you think things are bad, they can and will get worse.

Sometimes we think that times have changed when really we have merely garnered more experience with age and it is only our perspective of the world that has changed. I am usually inclined to believe that it is our perspective that has changed, probably because that way I relieve myself of the responsibility, even if only psychologically, of doing something to “fix” all that is bad about that change.

But the world as we know it is changing — as it should, for change is inevitable. The thing that should concern any person who cares is if that change is for the worst, as it has been for some years now. I will take the case of the crisis situation in Cameroon as an example, as I am both directly and indirectly affected by it.

When I look at the socio-political landscape of Cameroon over the past 4 years, I am besieged by grief as if over the loss of a loved one. The ongoing crisis has left the nation bruised and battered. Grief, pain, despair, sorrow, economic hardship, and hatred are festering, and on top of that fresh injuries are still being sustained as a result of the crisis.

More than half a million people have had to flee their homes and communities to seek refuge in other cities. Thousands have died and the number continues to increase. Over fifty thousand Cameroonians are in Nigeria as refugees. Hundreds of schools have remained closed for the past 4 years. Nelson Mandela once said that education is a powerful tool that we can use to change the world. When a large proportion of our population is not receiving an education, any sensible person should fear for our future.

Conclusion

The lessons of 2020 were many. I have learned so many lessons, most of them the hard way. 

Life does not owe us anything. Instead it is a gift. A very precious, fleeting gift. Life will not soften to accommodate our whims and desires. If we want some semblance of happiness, we have to create it ourselves; and you would be surprised at the kind of unusual places one can often find it. The very fact that you can find happiness, joy, peace, beauty in even the most turbulent of times is an indication that there is got to be more to life than meets the eye.

I am sure that if we allow ourselves to look past all the horrors of 2020, we would find that despite everything, there were aspects of the year that had their own rather twisted kind of beauty or at least that were worth remembering. Determining to continually shift and adjust our perspective of life to bring it the point where we can see that beauty in almost any situation is something we should continue to strive for. Waiting for situations to adjust can be futile, as 2020 has taught us. But we can adjust our perspective and that can make all the difference.

Thanks for reading and I wish you a Happy new year!