Haven’t you heard? These are unprecedented times. And in a year filled with so much uncertainty, so many enormous challenges, so much hurt and loss and polarization and chaos, there have been a few people who stand out. So, here’s to you, humans on this list. You really done did it this year.
Most of us have to be dragged into change kicking and screaming. And in some instances, change has to be rolled out in a slow and methodical pace. However, with COVID-19, changes—most of them inevitable—rolled out with lightning speed. For every person who has grumbled, groaned, complained, and/or resisted the changes, I want to give a shout out to those people who rolled with it. I want to acknowledge those people who embraced it. I want to cheer those people who didn’t view change as an attack on their liberty but an evolution of their livelihood. Change is painful and it can be tiresome, but it is inevitable. I applaud the countless people who integrated the changes into their lives and quietly displayed the courage of showing it’s not that bad!
We’ve been a society that has often put massive importance on breadwinners, but the people who impressed me the most in 2020 were the breadmakers. Specifically the hobbyist baker. Your friend, your parent, your neighbor who had extra time on their hands and didn’t give up because internet society labeled them as “basic.” They kept fine-tuning their craft, sharing their wares, and in some cases, patiently and methodically expanding their repertoire, in the same way they kept feeding their sourdough starter.
There are breadmakers in my quarantine life who drastically improved my days with random acts of carb-ness, and I hope each one of you is lucky enough to have people who give you a similar rise. Cheers to you, breadmakers!
In high school, we had a current events class where we were supposed to read The New York Times every day, and somehow the teacher had gotten us a classroom subscription. I would do the New York Times crossword every day in study hall. So I’m a good crossworder.
But I’m nothing like my friend Rob from running club. He tweets every day when he finishes the Times crossword, and he does it at a speed I can’t even really fathom. Six minutes, 11 seconds on a Tuesday, a Friday in 11:00 flat. He runs a trivia night at his neighborhood pub and is probably some kind of half genius. I can’t even read all the clues in the time he takes to finish. Maybe elite crossworders start seeing the terrain in a different way, the way chess grandmasters group pieces into mental buckets. Rob is incredible.
I’m a faster runner though.
For years, I have tried to want to do yoga. And, because my brain is always running a-mile-a-minute, I have to do yoga for some semblance of a break. Finally, Adriene, from Yoga with Adriene has helped me love yoga. My friend Caitlin introduced her to me last year, but I’ve done so many of Adriene’s videos in 2020. They’re pretty quick: 25-35 minutes, and Adriene is equal parts motivating, kind, and engaging. Plus her dog sometimes makes a cameo in the videos. She’s got videos focused on stress relief, insecurity, vulnerability, and text neck—all necessities in 2020— and does frequent 30-day yoga challenges for all you competitors out there. Adriene has helped me to love yoga and love my body/mind and calmed me down on many an intense 2020 night, and left me nothing less than impressed.
Coming from a family of teachers and daycare providers, this year, I am impressed by all who work with our little ones. In the first months of the pandemic, I watched my sisters and mom quickly shift gears to make the children they cared for continue to have as much normalcy as they could have in an abnormal situation. This meant finding ways to educate their kiddos via whatever technology was available, and doing what they could to safely stay open to care for the children of essential workers. Were they stressed at times? Of course. A lot. But when each day handed them a new hurdle—be it having to navigate quarantine or a student going virtual—never have they wavered from their mission of helping the kids they love. They’ve also never stopped leaving me in awe.
Similarly to Sarah Razner, I am impressed by my friends and family who are still working and/or serving others during the pandemic. My mother is a teacher of subjects that are particularly challenging to conduct over Zoom, so she has had to really revamp most of her classes. Often times, I see her working extra hours going to professional developments and grading student work (which isn’t factored into her pay). I am impressed by my loved ones attending Zoom university. I fell asleep through a lot of (usually engaging) in-person lectures, so I imagine staying alert and focused during virtual classes is a whole other challenge. I am impressed by people who have moved during the pandemic, too. One friend of mine moved across a few states to room with another friend & someone else moved to their graduate school to pursue her masters.
There are a lot of people who have impressed this year, primarily my wife and son who have been simultaneously brave, decisive, and flexible in the face of changes outside of our control. Then there’s our friend who ran a New York literary salon that she had shut down to take a job in Africa at the end of 2019. She brought it back virtually to keep the community together, hosting Zoom readings while it was 2 A.M. for her. Then there’s Dwayne Johnson, who contracted COVID and remarked, “I can’t smell what I’m cookin’.” As I said, a lot to admire.
You know what? I impressed myself. I finally started writing seriously. The completion of my first novel is on the horizon. I come up with new ideas every day. I am learning and improving all the time. It feels wonderful, and I am quite impressed with myself, especially considering this year is 2020.
Hands down, it would have to be kids. My kids and everyone else’s kids. While trying to grow and learn, they have been thrust into a crazy remote or hybrid school situation while adults scramble to figure out how to provide some sense of normalcy and some way of teaching information that will actually work. (Conversational Spanish via Zoom, or with masks on, anyone? Think about that for a second.)
Adults are having a hard enough time with 2020. Think about what it means to be a kid: You have a lot less life experience, so you have less perspective. It’s hard for a kid to understand or appreciate that this is temporary, this time will pass . . . eventually. Kids are also hard-wired to be social; in fact, kids have a lot of critical socio-emotional learning to do, and you can’t do it if you’re isolated. Isolation is depressing, and teens, with their hormones in flux and frontal lobes out to lunch, are suffering beyond anything I’ve ever seen before.
Our kids are weathering this time the best they can, and the ones I see are doing it with grit and grace. I tell my own kids that someday their grandchildren will be asking them, “Tell me again about what it was like to live during the Great Pandemic, Grandpa!!” One day, I tell them, all of this BS we’re enduring will be unimaginable again. I long for that day.
Until then, hug a kid, high five a kid, or fist-bump a kid and tell them how awesome they are doing. They could really use it.
1st Place: Donald Trump. For all the wrong reasons. I’ve never seen a single person destroy so many cultural and behavioral norms in such a short period of time. Kudos, I guess?
2nd Place: A Certain Someone Who Tried to Catfish Me Twice. The audacity! I sincerely applaud your dedication to perpetrating online fraud, and all the threats that came with. Godspeed, sir.
3rd Place: The Burger King Impossible Whopper. It tastes just like the real Whopper! Put it in your goddamn mouth!
Honorable Mentions: That Girl I See Running Every Day Who Lost Like 40 Pounds Since March, A Prostitute Who Works Across the Street I Call WhoDat, and finally, Rahul from Great British Bake Off – Season 9.
Basically every other country with people who understand that toughing out a strict lockdown in the spring in order to save their fellow countrymen was worth it. Jesus, America you fucking cesspool of selfish yokels.
Zachary G Straus. Coming in at the top of my “Most Impressive People I Convince Myself I Kind of Know But Don’t Really Know But Would Really Like to Meet List.” In true Straus-fanboy fashion, Here’s and incomplete and growing list of reasons Zach is hilarious.
– He can clearly fit three differently colored pieces of fruit in is mouth
– His phallically shaped poems
– His ability to stay nonpartisan and still deliver facts
– I’m convinced he wrote this poem just to say he wrote a poem with with “sac” in the title
– His ability to be vulnerable
– I don’t know if he actually has a dog, but this piece leads me to believe he does, and that’s good enough for me
– He knows what he wants
Who did we miss? Who stood out to you as impressive in 2020? Tweet us and let us know!