So … here we are in 2021. Is everything better yet?

Did you hear that collective sigh of relief just after midnight Dec. 31? I suspect it was heard ’round the world. 2020 is over and done, and hallelujah.

Who has anything new and different to say about last year? I certainly do not.

We all know it was disastrous. Horrible. Painful. Divisive. Deadly. Just plain crummy.

The year started out with great anticipation. It could be a year of “perfect vision,” a good year for forward thinking, new perspectives – and all those other optometric analogies we could make up with the year’s assigned numerals.

It started fairly normally. The 131st Rose Parade was held New Year’s Day, followed by the Rose Bowl, both with thousands of spectators and millions more via television.

Super Bowl 54 was held Feb. 2. In addition to all the players and coaches on the field, more than 60,000 fans filled the stands. It didn’t seem so odd at the time, did it?

On Feb. 7, I was fortunate enough to attend with a good friend the first concert of the Eagles “Hotel California” tour in Atlanta, along with more than 39,000 other people. It was an amazing evening! None of us thought twice about chatting with strangers crowded in line, in the lounge, or around our seats.

Yet, soon after that, in early March, large events started to be postponed – and eventually canceled. Then smaller events.

On Friday the 13th of March (how oddly appropriate it seems now), Gov. Henry McMaster announced all South Carolina public schools would be closed immediately. Across our nation – and the world – closures began happening.

The coronavirus shutdown began. It was the beginning of the dark times.

As restaurants, stores, libraries, churches, travel – everything! – shuttered, we fell into a collective “not knowing-ness.” What was happening? When will it be over?

We couldn’t have known then what we know now, that tens of thousands of lives would be lost, and even more impacted, from COVID-19.

We’ve since lost friends and loved ones. We’ve lost jobs and incomes, a senior year, and wedding dates. Some have lost hope that we can ever return to the way things were.

But …

Good things came out of that bad year as well.

We adapted. We figured out different ways of doing things. We got creative – on many levels.  We came together, even as we stayed apart. “Zoom” became a household word. Some of us developed deeper perspectives about what’s truly important to us.

In early December, a friend began posting daily on social media only good things that had happened in her life during 2020. Friends got married, babies were born, she read more books and watched less TV. She and her husband got good at puzzles. She picked up the phone and called old friends.

Many of us have cleared out clutter – from our homes, from our minds, from our lives. We live more efficiently with what we have.

We drove less, and saved gas. (Global emissions were said to be down 7% for the year – an unprecedented drop.)

Some of us discovered, or rediscovered, our “back yards.” Whether it was gardening or bird-watching at home, or bike riding along leisure paths and beaches, kayaking at sunrise or sunset, or simply being in nature, we found solace in simple things.

So now, as we welcome a New Year, we are armed with determination, perseverance and fortitude built up through the past 10 months. We are stronger for our troubles, and are encouraged that now, we can face pretty much anything and at least survive.

Happy New Year indeed.