According to language experts part of the Oxford English Dictionary team, not one word could summarise the whole year of 2020. This is not surprising. The year has been full of unexpected choices and decisions. Many words have been incorporated in our everyday vocabulary that, at least in my case, I never thought I would use so often.
When I think about 2020, there are many emotions and memories that cross my mind and it’s been difficult to summarise it using just one term. After giving it some thought, I think that the word of the year should be ‘embrace’. Perhaps not everyone will have the same optimistic outlook on our situation today as I do, but I find that focusing on the good will help us face this global struggle.
‘Embrace’ is a powerful word that seems to prevail over the whole COVID period, so here is my breakdown of how the word ‘embrace’ has shaped our world, linking it to three other words which have undoubtedly defined this year: lockdown, racism and remote.
Thinking back to March, one of the most common terms used worldwide was ‘lockdown’. All countries came to a halt for a number of weeks to control the spread of the virus and protect the most vulnerable individuals. Suddenly we couldn’t go anymore to common places, like hairdressers, school, cinemas, etc., and it was a change that we needed to embrace. People faced this situation in different ways, some found this to be an opportunity to spend more time at home with loved ones, while some might have felt lonely. This gave us a chance to pause our fast-paced lives for just a moment and focus on ourselves and the things that are really important in life: health and family.
As many would agree, lockdown wasn’t an easy journey for anyone and embracing it, as our life changed upside down, was perhaps the most difficult part of it all. However, I was surprised by the notion of community that shaped most of us during this difficult time. Many took this time to take care of themselves by going on fitness journeys for instance, while others took time perhaps to advance their career goals and focus on the mind rather than the body. It’s inspiring how everyone, in different ways, embraced this change and used it to look after themselves.
One of the other most significant words used this year is racism. The death of black innocent people, like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor (among many others), helped us raise attention on an issue that was already affecting countries, especially the US, for many years. Not only did we get more information about racism and police brutality thanks to worldwide protests, but the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement was vital for young and old generations to open their eyes to this injustice today. I wouldn’t associate racism to my word of the year, but rather our response and fight against it.
The BLM movement was and still is essential to raise awareness and push people to recognise that everyone should be treated equally. Embracing this concept as one of our most important societal and cultural fundamentals worldwide will help us live in a fairer society and accept people for what they are.
Another popular word that we could associate to 2020 is ‘remote’. Our understanding and use of digital technologies has been expanded due to lockdown and our absence from our usual places of work, like schools and offices, has also changed our lives. It’s obvious that online interaction is not the same as in-person meetings and classes, but we’re still fortunate enough to access the internet and devices.
The concept of work has been transformed by the pandemic and as challenging it was and still is, we are able to adapt to the circumstances and embrace this new way of being productive from the comfort of our home. As a result of this unexpected transition, we’ve grown to embrace new platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams to pursue our normal lives in unprecedented times. This new lifestyle has taught us how to use the time at home to our advantage and adapt any environment to our needs.
Although our lives have been shaped by these new circumstances, I still see our society embracing these changes and uniting against this issue that we are all facing together. It’s admirable how we are adapting and creating new communities between fitness fanatics, binge-watchers, new talented cooks and online shoppers… We have found new ways to coexist and make the most of this unexpected situation. Embracing what we have is one of the things I learnt from this year. It’s easier to look for new things to add to our life but, the changes we encountered made me realise that what I have is more than enough to be happy and healthy.
Photo Credit: Oxford University Press