2020 was the year that changed everyone’s perspective.

Margaret Byrne

10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Oh the blissful countdown that rings us in to the 1st of January every 365 days. You turn and look at the sickening couples in the local nightclub embracing and reassuring each other that this year will be the best one yet.

You even wish the stranger beside you a very happy New Year because, why not? I’m happy, they’re happy, everyone’s happy.

You go home that night and dream about what is to come. Not only will you be faster than Usain Bolt and as beautiful as Una Healy, you’ll be eating Roz Purcell’s dinners and you’ll probably win the lottery.

As all of this was going on, we listened to the news and said, “God isn’t that terrible”, before forgetting about it until the next Caitríona Perry binge. That terrible situation was of course the news from Wuhan about a dreadful virus that was spreading rapidly, taking lives and changing the way people lived.

Sure the swine flu came here and we were grand and what about Ebola? That was meant to be a major world health emergency and it never came to our Emerald Isle. So in January 2020, were we stupid and oblivious as to what was to come? 

February 29th brought news of the first Covid-19 case in Ireland. This was a strange one, it was the unknown. It was only a few cases, it was no worse than a flu and anyway we wouldn’t get it, it’ll probably be just in Dublin or somewhere.

Although we fought with our opinion and strength, at the back of our minds of course we feared the crowded bus, stayed away from the snacks on the train and we were only delighted to be home for 2-3 weeks, sure it’ll be all over by Easter.

So as we battled with the unknown, everyone took each day as they came and enjoyed our holidays until our holidays didn’t seem to be ending. 

Couples departed, families and friends separated and the fear of the unknown forced everyone to play their part. People now began dying from this horrible virus and at this point we didn’t care about daily case figures, we only focused on the frightening number of deaths.

Sanitizer was nowhere to be found in shops. Teachers relied on their pre-pandemic supplies to avoid the dreaded green snotty nose. Face masks were very uncool, but some overly dramatic women wore the white cup mask they found in the grain shed.

The early pandemic had a lot of fascinating fashion choices actually. Back in March the number one fashion accessory for doing the one big weekly shop was the black plastic gloves stolen from the milking parlour.

These were great. You wore them on the way into Aldi and all around town and they’d keep you safe, sure you weren’t touching anything! They were magic. 

We fought for toilet roll, tins of beans, soap, flour and anything we could freeze really. I mean I wouldn’t ordinarily buy the ready to bake frozen croissants but they’d be handy to have all the same. 

After ten weeks of fear and sacrifice things started to look up for the people of Ireland. There was going to be no more rí rá agus ruaille buaille as we were now ar mhuin na muice. We were now allowed to move around our own counties and we were even allowed a visitor.

Life became almost normal. The good weather meant safer gatherings took place outdoors. At this point a roadmap was published and we could see an end. We only had to wait a few weeks until we could move onto the next stage, and sure enough, those stages did come.

July was a month filled with prosperity and adventure. All of a sudden you had to go surfing in Lahinch, visit Fungie in Dingle, go cycling around Killarney and of course you had to visit Kian Egan’s prized beaches in Sligo. 

Although the movement of people caused a rise in case levels, there was hope. We were returning to school in September and everything was going to be ok. Fast forward a few weeks, and although in our second wave, we knew what to do, it would be ok.

Christmas quickly approached and all of a sudden there was a sense of eeriness in the air. We met a few more people but we feared was this the right thing to do. We went out for dinner but worried if it was a mistake. The country was facing a major crisis, like a volcano bubbling and ready to erupt. 

Another 365 days have passed and we rang in the new year again. We’re all ready to start our diet on Monday and of course this will be the year I run a marathon and enter the Olympics for my swimming abilities.

Throughout our journey as a country we spoke about the “new normal” but then realised this was actually the old normal. Our Grandparents didn’t need foreign holidays or shopping trips or night clubs but what we all missed was human connection.

2020 has taught us that underneath all of the materialistic items we so fondly ‘need’, is a desire for love. I believe 2020 has taught us the power of love.

As families we spent more time together and realised we need this time, we missed our friends and relatives and we fought to keep our elders safe.

We realised the important things in life. Our perspective on life changed. Our focus was not on looking at what others had, but on protecting those we love and cherishing every moment. 

So I refer back to my original question – ‘In January 2020, were we stupid and oblivious as to what was to come?’ – of course we were. We’re all human and no one can predict what each day holds, let alone a year.

So stay at home and stay safe, so that on a Summer night you can see your friends again and make unforgettable memories. Cherish every moment, live life.

Margaret Byrne

Image Credit: Unsplash Alex Mecl