One Actually Useful Gift That 2020 Gave Us

Indrani Sen
Published in
2 min readDec 24, 2020

Older woman wearing face mask reading a book outside a cafe.
Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images

If you’d told me last February that I’d be spending the next 10 months almost entirely inside; that my children’s schooling would be catastrophically disrupted; that I wouldn’t be able to hug my elderly dad, go for a drink with a friend, or sit in a room with my co-workers… I probably wouldn’t have believed you. My brain simply would not have been able to compute how the joys and privileges of my life were about to be so severely curtailed. And I probably would have pushed back, insisted that this can’t happen—that surely there was something I could do to avoid this reality.

But there wasn’t. There isn’t. And 10 months later, I’ve adapted. We all have.

In a piece that I’ve read and re-read, my colleague Kelli Korducki points out the psychological benefits of adapting to difficult circumstances. And as this year, with all its horrors and inequities, comes to an end, I find myself grateful for this growth in our collective and individual resilience.

Hardship and change have been two unfortunate hallmarks of the year 2020, for some of us much more than others. We’ve all done what we can to get through it. But we’re getting through it. After it’s over, the overwhelming majority of us will be people who survived.

This is not to say that the past nine months have been a blessing in disguise; they’ve sucked. Nor do I mean to downplay the mental health ramifications of chronic stress and uncertainty, or the loss, for too many people, of income, or shelter, or kin. But I suspect that all of us — whether by choice or by circumstance, or both — have expanded the scope of who we are and how we deal.

As Kelli writes, we are different people today than we were a year ago. Not better, necessarily. Likely not happier. But perhaps stronger, in that we now know we can live without so much of what we took for granted. And when we’re able to regain some of what we lost, perhaps we’ll savor it just a little bit more. That, in itself, is a gift.

Indrani Sen
Writer for

Editorial director at Medium, mom, gardener, cook. Formerly at Quartz.