What a challenge 2020 has been for everyone. (Photo Credit: concepts via Adobe Stock)

This past year has been a challenging and chaotic one that will go down in many a history book yet to be written as a frightful mess. From protests to a worldwide pandemic to horrendous push-back from a governmental administration that was hell-bent on stripping the rights of a sector of its citizenry, the minds of everyone have had to deal with so many issues, too many to name.

qnotes asked the community to share what they have learned, lost and gained from their experiences in 2020. Here is a sampling of those who were gracious enough to share their thoughts.

Jermaine Nakia Lee
Dad, Songwriter, Playwright, Director, Producer, Community Activist
Charlotte, N.C.

Thank you 2020 for the abundance of fear, isolation, uncertainty and heartache you provided without ceasing. I am grateful for that interruption of EVERYTHING because it forced me to re-calibrate: to re-evaluate relationships, to self-reflect, re-imagine my future, cling to loved ones and not take LIFE for granted. Thank you kindly… but good riddance.

Tom Warshauer
Assistant Director, Community Engagement – Housing & Neighborhood Services, City of Charlotte
Charlotte, N.C.

Half full, half empty. I learned that just over half the country wants reason, equity and civility to return to the public realm. And the other half seems empty. I live optimistic that the full side is ascendant, which gives me hope we can recover from the pandemic and build back even better. 2020 marks my retirement and the end of my work at the City, with 2021 the year of new beginnings for me as well as the country. I learned to trust that issues I care about will be advanced by others that care as well. And for that trust, that I journey with others who will carry us forward, I am very grateful.

John C. Quillin
Gay Men’s Chorus of Charlotte, Managing Artistic Director; Carolina Voices’ Impromptu, Director
Charlotte, N.C.

The pandemic dealt us a body-blow: we lost our ability to sing together, which is at the very core of who we as the Gay Men’s Chorus of Charlotte are. Singing, it turns out, is an extremely effective way of transmitting COVID, so face-to-face rehearsals and performances were out of the question. We held rehearsals over Zoom, we tried utilizing specialized rehearsal software, we’ve even produced virtual events and music, but this is a far, far cry from our regular experiences.

Eventually, we managed to have a few in-person, socially-distanced rehearsals in a parking garage. Those four rehearsals helped us reconnect with each other and with our music. It helped us find a way for our souls to sing out loud.

That’s what I’ve gained from the pandemic (in addition to a whole bunch of new technical skills), a renewed sense that music connects us and allows us to express our innermost feelings. It’s a tremendous gift, and in the future, we’ll treasure it each time we gather to summon music out of thin air.

Buck Jones
Paris, France

One can only think of that ancient Chinese curse, “May You Live In Interesting Times,” when remembering the year that was 2020. For many of us, the challenges pushed us to our limits. In my case, as a small business owner running a small café, our livelihood is in the balance. Facing financial ruin, my husband and I struggle to remain optimistic but also realistic about our situation, and have learned to focus on what we can actually do. I can choose to be nice or a grouch. I can smile, or “smize” with my eyes over my face-mask, or I can wallow in self-pity.

It might sound la-dee-dah, but it works.

Psychologists say that the most stressful moments in life are when facing health challenges, financial worries and lip-synching for your life on “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Maybe that last one is for only a select few, but I could also add that this year also brought stress with the election. But again, just focusing on what you can control — wearing a face-mask, washing hands, social distancing, not spending any money on non-necessities, cutting back on expenses, negotiating with creditors, voting early, and making sure your friends voted early — is the biggest lesson I learned. If I can’t control it, I refuse to worry about it.

In the meantime, I’m going to work on my wardrobe “reveal” for “RuPaul’s” runway. This queen is going to be ready for 2021!

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