Decades ago when people thought of the year 2020, they thought of flying cars, humans riding on jetpacks and the colonization of Mars. Instead, our delusions of grandeur have been replaced by a much harsher reality. 

In actuality, 2020 is debatably one of the worst years in recent human history. From the Australian wildfires causing insurmountable environmental damage, to the widespread outbreak of COVID-19, the unjust murder of George Floyd and countless others at the hands of the police, there are plenty of profoundly negative events that have marred the entire world. But what if I told you there were plenty of positives to go along with those negatives?

Sure, the pandemic has destroyed our economy, our plans for this year and essentially our way of life. But it’s undoubtedly brought us together in certain ways and will continue to do so. 

Two emotions have surely been in abundance since the start of the pandemic: stress and pain. A study from 2012 found that acute stress may actually lead to greater cooperative, social and friendly behavior. Furthermore, a study from 2014 found that shared pain served as an impetus for social bonding among strangers. 

Once we can look back on the COVID-19 outbreak, it will surely be something we take pride in overcoming. In a country as polarized and divided as ours, coming together to practice social distancing and wearing a mask for any period of time is incredibly impressive.

Of course, these studies could never match the enormity and scale of the pain and stress produced by the circumstances surrounding the pandemic. But despite the fact that the coronavirus has pushed us apart physically, it seemingly will only bring our relationships with one another closer in the long run. 

Additionally, now that the world has nearly stopped spinning due to the pandemic, we have the time, the attention spans and most importantly the empathy to sit down and examine the myriad of troubling defects and faults that plague our society. 

Without the distraction of demanding work schedules, entertainment avenues in the form of sports, movies and TV shows, we are able to engage in collective discourse on pertinent social issues. We’ve seen meaningful progress made toward racial equality, the elimination of police brutality, the establishment of things like a social safety net through federal stimulus checks, placing an emphasis on voting in the upcoming election in November and so much more.

Officers and people in power are finally being held accountable for upholding a prison system and system of policing that disproportionately oppresses people of color. Companies, organizations and citizens are using their platforms to spread awareness about noteworthy issues we should be informed about. 

As much as we want the world to “go back to normal” after this absurdly cruel year, that will never happen. We are in the long, yet necessary process of creating a new normal.

Instead of a year people look back on with disgust and heartbreak, 2020 will symbolize an indelible turning point in the history of our world. It’s a year that has laid the foundation for a long-overdue revolution in the way we treat human beings, not only in this country, but around the world. This is an imperative time in our history, as we get to restructure society in a substantial way that will benefit millions of people. 

For many of us, this year is one of the worst of our lives. And no, 2020 won’t mark the invention of the jetpacks or of robots who will do our laundry for us. What it will symbolize instead is humanity coming together to change for the better, even under the most unlikely of circumstances, as we very slowly but surely move toward a better tomorrow.

Luke Modugno is an arts & entertainment editor. Follow him on Twitter: @lmodugno5.

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