Remember 2019?

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

We’re halfway through 2021, and (at least in the US) the calls for getting life “back to normal” appear to both increasing and feasible. 2020 was a crazy year with a worldwide disease, civil unrest, increasing conflict overseas, a volatile economy, and an even zanier political arena.

It’s small wonder we think about 2019 with nostalgia.

But what was so magical about 2019? It seems like a long time. If we’re honest, there wasn’t anything extraordinary about 2019 except that it wasn’t 2020.

But in comparison, the world in 2019 seemed more predictable, less crazy and polarized, and it all made a bit more sense. However, pining for 2019 is unrealistic and counterproductive.

We’re not going backward. We’re advancing. And we need to move forward in light of what we can learn from 2020.

I’m not talking about how our society can change or what can be fixed in our political sphere. I’m talking about your household (and mine). Those four walls, that daily walk.

Where lessons from 2020 can push us forward toward a life well lived?

Don’t Minimize

Even as we move forward, we should not minimize the impact of this recent period. Many people we will meet faced hardship during this time. Millions of people were affected, in ways big and small. Families experienced loss, others experienced bouts of the disease, and some still deal with the long-term side effects.

The worldwide disease and, as significantly, our societies’ reactions to it disrupted business, worship, recreation, and nearly all aspects of daily life. It was a polarizing topic, and in many ways, the period elevated the best in us while at the same time dredging up our worst traits.

Yet even amid hardship and trial, there are lessons to learn. When the stress is hammered down and the pressure heated up, the real things come out.

What follows are the lessons that came out in my household because of the events in 2020.

Lessons Identified

Fundamentally, life got clarified. Goals, values, and relationships; each area was affected and examined. There was a buildup of assumptions and baggage in our life that got sifted through and much of it tossed out.


2020 both clarified and strengthened priorities. After observing how quickly norms and circumstances can change, it was eye-opening to reflect on how we previously spent our time.

Our priorities need to be clear, committed and continuing. What we say with our mouths needs to be reflected in our actions.

Beware the “soft” hypocrisy of claiming to value one thing while striving after something else.

Small Stuff

The small stuff is out. The annoyances, little worries, or ongoing gripes: we all need to be done with that garbage.

If you’re going to do something about it, do it. If you’re not, shut up about it and move on. We can’t waste time fretting over a text message or being concerned about the ding in the car door.


What secures your life? Where are you placing your trust?

When the next phone call could be that your loved one is in ICU on a ventilator or the email in your inbox could be a notification that your employer is closing the doors, where’s your refuge?

Your life and household need to be built on something lasting and true.


In 2020 I frequently meditated on death and dying. With a worldwide disease and headlines blaring about a running death toll of hundreds of thousands of people, it felt unavoidable.

What happens to us beyond the grave? Do you believe there is another life beyond this one?

If so, are you sure of where you’re going?

We live heartbeat to heartbeat; there’s no assurance that we will have another. We must be spiritually prepared to leave this life at any time.


What do you worship in your life? Your job or career?

Do you glorify your achievements or abilities? Is recreation or your hobbies your highest aim?

Where’s faith fit into your life?

2020 exposed a number of idols in our home. What you elevate in your life is what you end up worshiping; it’s what you aspire to.

Be extremely clear of what you treasure in your life and where the idols lurk.


All of these questions confronted my household during 2020. We had a lot of time to ponder what was most valuable to us and why. And not what we said we believed and treasured, but what our actions (upon reflection) revealed was important to us.

I cringe when I hear folks talk about getting “back to normal” (i.e. pre-2020). It’s as if we’ve learned little from this past year, either as individuals or as a society.

I do not want to go back to 2019.

The best days are yet to come, and the way is forward.

My hope for you is that you believe the same.

Moving Forward

What lessons did you take away from 2020?

Start today: how are you applying those lessons to advance in the days to come?

Originally published at on June 24, 2021.



Lifelong writer and researcher, often can be found at, pursuing a life well lived

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Frederick Johnston

Frederick Johnston

Lifelong writer and researcher, often can be found at, pursuing a life well lived