As I boarded the plane from Shanghai back to Portland, Oregon in January 2020, I had no idea how much the world was about to change. Shortly thereafter Covid-19 made its way to the US. As news of the coronavirus gained worldwide attention, I recall being extremely thankful that my business trip to China concluded before travel bans took effect.
By March, I was working from home, thankful that I am among those who can work remotely. More importantly, my family and friends were safe from the virus. While adjusting to remote work felt relatively easy in the short term, my wife and I found it a bit more challenging for the kids to adjust to remote learning. The kids are adaptable, but the schools were simply not equipped to handle such a rapid and drastic change.
Meanwhile, the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and then George Floyd captured the nation’s attention. As a white middle-class family, I learned a lot about the difference between “not racist” and “anti-racist.” In addition to participating in a local march for justice, my wife and I took special care to openly discuss these events with our children and to learn more about systemic racism. If anything is to be taken away from 2020, it’s to be sensitive to challenges faced by others.
Despite the various restrictions on public gatherings, we were able to enjoy time outside in beautiful Oregon. Having moved here only two years earlier, we looked forward to exploring the area. In addition to various hikes, we also took advantage of the gorgeous summer weather to paddle board with friends in what felt like the perfect social-distancing activity.
Many Saturday evenings were spent watching Pete Kilpatrick’s livestream concerts. Songs such as Coming Home and Wings provided a nice escape to the social unrest and political turmoil that had gripped the nation and Portland, where we live. In the middle of summer, my father-in-law experienced significant health issues unrelated to Covid-19. Although he had been battling various complications from cancer for years, it seemed that he had reached a point of no return. Fortunately he managed to recover. In a surprise move, he and my mother-in-law finally moved after over 40 years in the same house. That change was as unexpected as anything else. Another unexpected change occurred in late fall when I was laid off from my dream job at NIKE. Although I knew the company was restructuring, it still came as a surprise. Fortunately, my wife had returned to the corporate world shortly before the layoff. This was a significant change for both of us, but again I was thankful that we still had a steady source of income.
As winter fell, the stress of being unemployed was mixed with dreary weather. We continued to watch Pete Kilpatrick’s Saturday evening concerts. Newer songs such as Just Be plus a plethora of covers provided the kind of comfort that comes with a sense of stability in an otherwise chaotic world. Additionally, a strong sense of community developed as names in the chat became increasingly familiar. Music truly has the power to bring people together. For that I’m also thankful.
The winter also saw several friends and family members contract Covid-19, I am thankful that the majority of cases have not been severe.
Despite all the uncertainty and stress, I remain optimistic. The kids seem to have adapted well to the circumstances and we all have our health. Adversity brings growth, so I am looking forward to bigger and better things in 2021.