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In 2021, Stop Complaining
It’s become a sport online, complaining about the year 2020. Yeah, it hasn’t been easy for anyone. But there’s a subsection of folks who haven’t really had a hard year, but who spend the bulk of their time complaining about it. They don’t know anyone close to them who have gotten sick or died (of anything), they haven’t lost any income; their lives are largely unaffected outside of missed vacations. And yet, 2020 has been the worst year of their lives, and they do nothing but tell you about it on the Internet.
And here we are in the dead of winter in December and they’re miserable. And I believe they are because they’ve psyched themselves into that misery over the course of the last nine months. They’ve told themselves they’re miserable so much, they’ve started to internalize that narrative.
Compare this behavior with the folks I know who have actually lost income or loved ones, and who are resiliently working through the challenges 2020 has thrown them. How often do you see folks like this wallowing in their misery, constantly posting memes about 2020? Very infrequently.
That’s for a reason. Resilient people don’t spend their time obsessing about the curveballs life has thrown them, they focus on overcoming them. And so, if this year hasn’t brought severe and tragic disruption to your life and yet managed to be the worst year of your life, focus on the fact that your life up until this point has been truly blessed, and in 2021, the sky is the limit on the return of normalcy. My advice to anyone going through trauma of any kind applies to 2020: Fake it until you make it. Your mind is the most powerful weapon you own; don’t turn it against yourself.Published in General
This year has had challenges. I lost the day job in March I got, and recovered from Covid in December. But, ya know? This hasn’t been the worst year of my life. (I am not sure it is even in the top five worst years, but even if it is, even my bad years are pretty good years.)
On the whole it has been a pretty good year, personally. I have more money in the bank today than I did in March. I am living my dream of being a full-time professional writer. (Okay, I am not making much more than I was when I was a part-time professional writer, but today I am making most of my income that way. That means I am living the dream, right?)
I figure every year will have challenges. If it doesn’t that means I am dead. That is the only way nothing changes. But on the whole we are put on this Earth to overcome challenges. I don’t plan on seeking them out, but I’ll deal with them as they come.
I’d say my attitude towards bad years applies to most people who live in the US: even the bad years are pretty good if you have good health, food in your belly, clothes on your back, and a roof over your head. For most of human history satisfying those four conditions put you among the world’s privileged. And in the US, even in most people’s people’s bad years they have cell phone service, cable, and internet service. Even royalty lacked that 150 years ago.
I think I know where you’re going with this post, and while I understand and share some of your sentiments, phrased as they are, they seem to me to be a bit too angry and very reminiscent of what Hillary sounded like during and after her campaign.
I think most of the complaints have been tongue in cheek.
It was a weird, strange, economically and socially hard year. I know that conservatives are weird about collectives, but we are capable of acknowledging a personal good year while also noting that nationally, it wasn’t all that good.
Students in blue cities are behind, locked out of school. The economy was treated horribly by COVID lockdowns. Riots tore apart several cities leaving people destitute. Our politics is in a shambles. Our churches are operating on skeleton crews. Our communities are isolated.
Yet personally, my family ignored COVID so we are not isolated from one another. We moved and now have a lower mortgage payment with a more expensive house thanks to ridiculous interest rates that now match my saving account yield. Cyber security and cyber defense concerns solidify my husband’s job security. My daughter got As and Bs 2 quarters in a row and is now taking music lessons. My brother is in an exclusive rehab that he got into in spite of COVID.
Yeay us. But those are very ephemeral and easily changed especially as the national situation doubles down on 2020. It can be both personally good and nationally bad. And we can engage in the same dark humor we ended 2008 and 2009 with without being berated.
Stop complaining? Kinda messes with the business model…
Maybe people are doing it out of sympathy. There is a lot of pain around and bragging about your good fortune seems rude. It is probably even worse, because people making bank in 2020 are probably doing it at the expense of other people. It is polite to join the pity party generically.
Eh. I don’t know. Western civilization is in shambles. Everything has been made ugly, and everyone has become stupid. The American dream is dead. The future is bleak. These all strike me as worthy causes for complaint.
Yeah, plenty of people have kept their jobs. Yeah, plenty of people haven’t died. Yeah, it could be worse. It can always be worse. So what?
2021 is going to be worse.
They are all over the advice columns: mostly women, who still have their jobs, have a spouse who also has his job, children, none of them are sick, and YET they are writing in to Carolyn Hax, Ask Amy, Dear Prudence, Ask A Manager, etc. complaining about how rough they have it and how tough life is.
2020 may be the high point of the coming decade.
Boy, I don’t see that at all. Hillary whined and whined and whined about the election. Bethany is saying stop the whining if your life isn’t really that bad.
You’re always a beacon of sunshine, MWM! (JK, I happen to think you’re on to something.)
“Resilient people don’t spend their time obsessing about the curveballs life has thrown them, they focus on overcoming them.”
As Charles Darwin once said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change, that lives within the means available and works co-operatively against common threats.”
To quote the Grumpy Cat Calendar for 2021:
“I had fun once. It was awful.”
What do you mean there are extra ballots?
Don’t interrupt Bethany when she complains about people complaining.
Unquestionably, this has been a lousy year for many, deaths or sickness in their families, loses of jobs or income, lockdowns, and on and on. I live in a relatively rural area and, since retirement eight years ago, I have practiced my own version of social distancing. I was never much for going to the movies or sports events. Eating in restaurants was infrequent at best. As to the rest of my lifestyle, I practice the KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid!). At 75 and only a couple of months from my 76th birthday I am in the best physical condition I have been in since some time in my early 50s. That is saying a lot since I have been an active athlete through most of my life.
I have had bad years, many a lot worse than this one. However, one of the best parts of being retired is being on my own clock, going and coming as I please without having to answer to anyone. When the lockdowns started back in March I was initially concerned that they would interfere with my normal training activities which usually entail at least 3 bikes rides a week over 5o miles each. I was a mountain rescue paramedic for years, so I have a pretty good understanding about how diseases spread, so I knew that the chances of getting the virus when out on the road cruising around at 15 to 20 MPH was about as likely as getting hit by lightning on a sunny day. So, the first thing I did was ignore the media and its constant barrage of misinformation.
My local county sends out an email blog once a day listing the number of new Covid cases and deaths for that day. Once I realized that the number represented the number of people who had tested positive, not the number actually showing symptoms, the entire scam became less concerning. The total number grew as more and more people got themselves tested. I was certainly struck by the fact that in no other outbreak of viral disease where positive test results listed as “cases”, only people actively sick. That provides perspective.
I have had some stuff to deal with this year, a new roof on the house, a leaking water heater which led to a month of inconvenience as floors had to be ripped up and drywall taken out, and cabinets move out onto my deck while work proceeded, and a fall back in February which left me with a torn rotator cuff that wasn’t diagnosed until 8 months later due to the effects on the pandemic on my HMO. However, none of these things were all that unusual. The background of the media frenzy over the pandemic could have made it much worse, but I didn’t allow it to. It all has to do with perspective. If you allow the politicians and the media to create your perspective, they are not to blame, you are.
I am reminded of something the late Admiral Stockdale talked about from his time as a POW. He was one of the highest ranking POWs in the Vietnam War, and one of the longest held captive. As such he marshaled and kept order with other POWs. He was asked once how he survived, despite brutal beatings and torture, when so many others, who suffered far less, broke and died.
He said the ones who broke and died were the optimists. They told themselves it would be over by Christmas – there would be a prisoner exchange, or a cease fire, or something, and they could go home. Christmas would come, Christmas would go, and nothing. They they would say “we’ll be home by Easter” or “we’ll be home by the 4th of July”. Then those would come, those would go, and they would still be there. Then they would set their hearts on Christmas again, and Christmas would come, Christmas would go, and they’d die of a broken heart.
I’ve read a lot over the last couple of years of Christian martyrs and confessors (those who were tortured or otherwise suffered, but were not killed for their faith), ancient and modern. Again and again part of what they teach is on the value of suffering and patient endurance. They do not teach optimism. They do not teach to ever give in either to undue hope, or to despair, but to plant one foot in front of the other and keep pressing on.
If we have our hearts set on 2021 being somehow miraculously better than 2020 we could well have our hearts broken.
I am fortunate that my personal blog is not censored. Yet. And I am complaining, not about my own situation, which is OK, even though I lost my job this year; but about the condition of Society with a capital “S”, brought on by the Leftists who run my state. And about the rank stupidity of those in my state who elected their Dictator to a third consecutive term. They are more likely to complain about the behavior of the Businesses who are trying to survive all the Health Nazi restrictions (especially independent restaurants, which are closing in droves), and their fellow citizens who resist wearing a mask everywhere. They don’t complain much about the restrictions on their own lives, since they agree with them! But they are quite happy to become little Stasi members, spying on and turning in their neighbors.
Not far from the truth.
It’s maddening, isn’t it?
This should have dozens of likes.
The difference between this bad year and other bad years is that in other bad years you could at least seek the comfort of friends and family.
In 2020 we are denied simple human contact.
That’s why this year sucks so much.
Indeed. Don’t know how often my misery stems from constructing a scenario in my mind of how things will play out swimmingly (even when none of the available evidence suggests it will) and things go bad instead, or even just not as good as I’d hyped myself into expecting them to. I know this too and yet it continues to happen–spend too much time in my head.
Perspective is always good. America and the world have been through worse. It was a crummy year for me, though nowhere near to the degree of many people. Thing is, I complained before COVID, I’ll still be complaining when there’s a generation of kids asking us what it was like living through COVID. I’ve got 30+ years of complaining under my belt. It would be criminal to deprive the world of a skill I’ve honed so well.
Well, at least be original. That’s all we ask. Not recycled, stale old complaints. Fresh, original ones.
Speaking as an employer and owner, I prefer the state old complaints over new ones. New ones mean new troubles, but old ones are well tested, such that you know immediately whether they are valid or just the usual kvetching.
Plus (and this I’m sure you’ll understand as an engineer) it’s much easier to find and correct repeatable and repeated mistakes than to anticipate and then correct entirely new ones. Easier to deal with misplaced decimals than with errors where you have no idea how in heck they got there.
By the way, one of our church staffers has been referencing the Stockdale Paradox quite frequently in 2020. Seems fitting.
I’m partially quarantined all the time anyway. As far as 2020 goes, I have made progress in some areas and gone backwards in others. For my daughter, it’s been a years of crushing disappointment, broken relationships, and loneliness. She also lost her job. For my son, he’s an introvert. It’s been the best year he’s had in a very, long time!
For me, it’s complicated. I laugh at the 2020 memes because it’s healthy. If I didn’t have a sense of humor, I would shrivel up and die. I have come closer to God and my family. I’m thankful for the time I’ve had with my kids. If it had been a normal year, I would have missed Rachel actually being home! We were good friends before, but now, we have time to binge tv together and make plans. Rachel is a young adult and she’s needed me more now than she ever did in high school.
2020 has been “The Year of the Introvert”!
I think we will need each other more, not less, as the new year approaches. It helps to look outside ourselves because everyone is in need. I am not a total optimist (my dad and husband are). I’ve had crushing depression, but I’m still here.
Complain, complain, complain…those restauranteurs…always complaining. And don’t even get me started on all the small business owners that went out of business. They all just need to lighten up and be happier…apparently.
I am personally fine, and everyone in my family has done well financially in 2020. Some have had their best years ever, in fact. I see my daughter and her daughters often. We have a circle of friends that gather regularly.
But for only the second time in 62 years I wasn’t with my brothers and sisters to celebrate Christmas. Pretty sure Christmas 2019 will be the last such gathering – it was bound to end and I tell myself we had a good run.
Many friends and some family have left California and I miss them terribly.
I agree with @guruforhire that 2021 will be worse, and barring something momentous, that will be the trajectory for years. And that is making me sick to my stomach. Literally sick. We go forward with no trust in our institutions, in our economy, in our leaders, the media. Someone on Christmas Day tried to engage me in a spirited conversation about COVID and politics. What’s the point? I don’t believe a single word of anything I’ve been told by anyone. We’re being lied to and manipulated every moment of every day – so yeah; I’m kinda miserable.