This has probably not been the year you expected. Few of us went into 2020 expecting an impeachment, a pandemic, riots, murder hornets, earthquakes, fires, record-setting unemployment, a contested election, whales swallowing kayakers and god knows what else has hit you individually. Blew out your knee? Lost a big client? A falling out?
It’s easy to sit here and say this has been a bad year. But is it really so bad? Is it 1865 bad? Winter of 1777 bad? Was it as bad as many of the years in Marcus Aurelius’s reign? The years at the end of Nero’s? How about 1919—when the world was mopping up after the Great War just as a pandemic was making landfall? Or '68, which had civil unrest, terrorist bombings and a major influenza outbreak on top?
Of course, this is not to dismiss or make light of any of your troubles. Things have gotten real. No one would deny that. The Stoics would simply have pointed out those other examples to help you see that you still have options left. There is still room to maneuver. All is not lost.
They’d want you to have some perspective and also to grasp this simple, black and white truth: Humanity will either survive this or we won’t. You will, or you won’t. Things looked dark in 180 AD, in 1777, in 1865, in 1919 and in 2009. But guess what? We made it through. We survived.
And the people who didn’t? They got their own form of relief too, as hard as that is to wrap our heads around in the moment.
This hasn’t been a bad year. It’s been a year. A year more like some others and less like some others. But it is what it is. You don’t control what it has been, but you have some influence over where it’s going—there’s still a couple quarters left to play. So focus on that. Stay objective and don’t despair.
It’ll get better…or as Marcus quips in Meditations, it won’t and you won't be around to worry about it anymore.