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Swimming in the Schuylkill, gratitude, and more: What our readers learned from 2020 | Opinion

We asked Inquirer readers to share what habits or ideas they have learned from 2020 that they hope to carry into the New Year.

We asked Inquirer readers to share what habits or ideas they have learned from 2020 that they hope to carry into the New Year.
We asked Inquirer readers to share what habits or ideas they have learned from 2020 that they hope to carry into the New Year.Read morePheelings Media / Getty Images/iStockphoto

We asked Inquirer readers to share what habits or ideas they have learned from 2020 that they hope to carry into the New Year.


I had the resolution of making one great new friend — because of the need to choose your circle wisely I ended up spending lots of quality time with a few new neighbors, roommates and acquaintances that I would usually be too busy for. 2020 taught me to stick around with someone and see what happens, friendship is nearly always imminent. — Elaine Estes, Philadelphia


Streaming new movies directly. I would rather spend the $10 for a new movie than $25+ for the theater experience and have to wear a mask the whole time. Plus I can pause a streaming movie to run to the bathroom. — Jennifer Ahr, Doylestown


(1) Curbside grocery pickup; (2) My gym being closed, I now walk 3 miles three or four times per week — Linda Drumeller, Delran


As I remained confined to my home and restricted from my usual social activities this year, I was reminded of how grateful I am. A comfortable home, enough food to eat, and my husband’s secure career were nothing to be taken for granted. In stark contrast, the media reminded me on a daily basis of massive numbers of people dying in isolation from loved ones, of grieving and inconsolable families, and of exhausted and frustrated healthcare workers. I watched TV as people stood in long lines for food, many for the first time. I heard heartbreaking stories of small business owners on the brink of losing everything they had worked for. Never have I felt heartache for others so intensely alongside gratitude for my own blessings. The awareness I have gained of the suffering of others in our country is truly a wake up call and will activate my desires to do whatever I can to help others in the future. — Sandra Detweiler, West Chester


Although I have long been aware of the large percentage of people worldwide who are uninformed, ignorant, and so full of anger, frustration and suppressed hostility they can explode for the most unexpected reasons, I was surprisingly off in my estimates. 2020 has demonstrated to me I hugely underestimated that number. I didn’t realize just how many are governed by religion over science; internet rumor over proof, facts and reason; delusion over reality; hypocrisy over fairness; and the ability to only see, hear and believe what they want. What I hope to carry forward into the new year is that there are also plenty of very good, caring, generous people as well. — Ted Swirsky, Sicklerville


This year has taught me to never again take for granted my wife’s love and good health, family gatherings, going out to dinner with friends, in-person worship services, the camaraderie shared at my local bar and finally the loving hugs and kisses of my grandkids. — William D. Markert Jr., Philadelphia


My husband Brian passed away in October after a long courageous battle with Parkinson’s disease. I realized that I can take my grief along with all our wonderful memories from over a half century of a rich and joyous marriage, wrap them all together and place them in my heart to carry with me into the next year. I look forward to that strength. — Vivian Wolfson, Downingtown

Appreciation, scrapbooking

This has been “the most challenging year” most of us have experienced. I am an arts educator, when the theatres closed, I was devastated. What have I learned to cherish? A wonderful friend - we speak before 8 a.m. to talk about politics, COVID-19 and our plans for the day. I enjoy Wednesday nights listening to Shakespeare Hour Live! (Shakespeare Theatre Company in DC) for the most enlightening discussions on Shakespeare’s plays. I have learned so much. Many off-Broadway theatres in New York also have discussions and performances online. I have read books about the 1918 Pandemic because we knew nothing about it, and current books about how America came to be where we are now. I am putting together a book with articles and photos of our lives today; I want to leave this for my grandchildren and their children. What do I want to carry into the new year? I have a new profound appreciation for the freedom to choose where we go and being with other people (preferably in a theatre) and thank God we survived and never again take what we do for granted. — Barbara Faith Alperin, Narberth


I have gained a greater appreciation of being independent of my children for a couple of hours each week. I’m a happier, healthier parent when I am in a self care routine, drive to work while sipping my coffee, listening to great music, and get my work done effectively. I am grateful for the ability to go out to work, and pick up the kids at the end of the day. I do also have a stronger appreciation for taking the time to purposely not work and focus on my kids, my home, meal planning, friends, family members and myself. Down time is needed. Slowing down is necessary. Working part time (despite financial stress, naturally) makes me a happier, healthier parent. Successfully balancing my part time working & part time homemaker mommy roles is what I want to bring into 2021. — Colleen McGarrity, Gloucester City


Instead of looking at 2020 as being the worst year ever, we can view it as a turning point. We do not want to go back to what we think of as normal. This is a new awakening. We are evolving to a new place. A willingness to do our personal work, enter the abyss, and engage the grief in which we are immersed is critical to any lasting and effective change. This time in our history opens us to a time of increased consciousness, of sitting in vulnerability, being wordless. Of breathing together in love of God. Of breathing with all of life, conscious of paschal mystery. It is a time of growing in self-understanding. Healing always relates to the body. Climate change, injustice and destruction leave their marks on the bodies of humans and animals, plants and waters and so does the process of healing and wholeness. — Sister Frankie Vaughan, MMS, Medical Mission Sisters, Philadelphia


One thing gained that I hope to carry forward is trust from my management that working from home is not just paid time off. My entire office worked from home since March and we were more productive than ever before. We actually don’t want to telework forever, but it’s nice that we are trusted to be productive on those days when we don’t come into the office. — Alexander Gilchrist, Midtown Village


I learned to be easier on myself in at least one respect: Most days, I let myself wake up naturally. (I’ve also started using a sleep mask and white noise at night.) I started doing this on the advice of an herbalist friend to help support physical and mental health during the scary, anxious early days of the pandemic. I’ve long been a freelance remote worker and set my own schedule, but there can be a lot of self-criticism and self-judgment in managing yourself. Letting myself sleep freely has been a way to give myself space, practice self-care and acknowledge my body’s needs while giving my brain what it needs to function best. — Alexandra Jones, Philadelphia


The United States of America and its people from all walks of life have overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges in 2020 and are approaching Christmas Day somewhat frayed but unified. The darkest days of the pandemic are now giving way to vaccine deliveries due to the determination of brilliant researchers from around the world. Politically, the stakes were high and daunting, the results clear, and the 46th president will be inaugurated in less than a month. October 2020 was the first anniversary of the loss of my beloved brother Brendan to suicide. Seemingly in shock for so long when it first happened, this year, in the throes of so much bad news, his loss was positively suffocating. Surrounded by resilience exemplified in so many ways big and small, I resolved to be strong too. — Mary Kay Owen, Downingtown


I’ve found myself practicing more gratitude – for my friends, my family, my health and my colleagues. I have learned a lot about myself and what values I hold dear, but more importantly I’ve discovered ways to turn that empathy and frustration into action. I think 2020 caused everyone to reflect, but now that I’ve had that time to look inwards, I’m excited to use the next year to push myself further and continue to practice constant introspection, compassion and thoughtfulness. — Ryan Wall, Philadelphia

Close connection with students, families

As a teacher who started at a new school in January 2020 I never imagined where we would be 3 months later. The relationships I have formed with my students this year have been second to none. I am literally ‘in’ their living room each day. I know their siblings, parents, pets and relatives. I hope that these deep relationships will continue! — Lauren Boyer, Fogelsville

Swimming... in the Schuylkill

With gyms and pools shut down, this year I did something I had vowed I’d never do: I swam in the Schuylkill River. Twice a week, weather permitting, I met up with a small group of swimmers committed to swimming safely through the COVID-19 pandemic. The river is beautiful and cleaner than I ever imagined. — Lauren Caskey, Philadelphia

(Lost) Faith

Sadly, nothing positive which is startling as I am a positive person, always able to see past adversity and find the “glass half full”. Not so much. Upon reflection, I realize that I have lost faith. Faith in my friendships to withstand ever-widening disparity in political thought, in the stability of our Republic to ever unite as a nation, in the moral behavior of our citizenry, in the integrity or our voting system and the character of our leaders - at all levels of government. And these fears will not go away with the new year. The disheartening reality is that a COVID vaccine will address the virus but we must address its aftermath. — Beth Turchi, Philadelphia