Which 2020 themes stood the test of time?

But for a moment, let’s cast our minds back to February. Remember all we imagined for this year? This was going to be “2020” — the very number stands for perfect vision. This would be the year when we saw new possibilities and hit new goals.

Well, guess what? We did. We actually did. Just not in the way we expected.

What we thought we knew as solid ground turned soupy. Time had less meaning and was stretched, squashed, bent and braided. But we found footholds and rose to occasions in ways we couldn’t have imagined. We realized that some things we thought necessary really weren’t. And some things we overlooked were what truly endured.

At the beginning of all of this, I discussed 18 themes. Given this whole end-of-the-year retrospective mood, it might be fun to look back at a few of them (six, to be precise), to see how well we prognosticated:

1. The entire world is now focused on the same issue.

This identified how, for the first time in memory, everyone — and we mean EVERYONE — had the same topic on their minds. That didn’t mean everyone shared the same point of view, but there was unprecedented agreement on the issue of the day.

This one’s still true.

What we never expected is that it’s still true months later. We live in a new reality, and while we look forward to returning to some version of normal soon, this reality still informs almost everything we do. Seriously: When has everyone ever been tuned to the same frequency like this?


2. Togetherness has been redefined.

We couldn’t be together physically, but we found innovative ways to be together anyway. Interacting through rectangles, the written word and from across our balconies became an immediate substitute.


This one sure has resonance now.

We’re in the midst of a season typically marked by coming together. We are learning how to gather differently (“Zoomgiving”?). And, as winter closes in, making those gatherings meaningful could make the difference.


3. Social distancing

That used to be a phrase that no one had ever used. Remember that? Literally, we had never heard those words put together in that order. There was a time where it had zero meaning.


Weren’t we ADORABLE?


4. The hidden are heroes.

We had a sudden and immediate appreciation for the people and industries that make our lives work: Thanking health care workers, grocery shelf stockers, truckers and farmers.


While we may not be banging pot lids at 7 p.m. anymore 

(probably a good thing, TBH), we are still more acutely aware of the people we often took for granted. The kind word, the acknowledgment that they show up every day, the need we have for each other — that hasn’t gone away.


5. Local intimacy

The dividing line between home and work, or between public and private, has blurred, shifted or been erased altogether. Work colleagues see our homes and our sweatshirts. Yoga classes invite others into our living rooms. The dimensions of our lives are familiar, but the real estate they take up has shrunk to the contours of our living spaces.


According to articles I’ve been reading, leggings are now pants. I rest my case.


6. Stay the course.

We cannot lose our resolve.


That, too.

We are resilient, we get through things together and we have flexed to current conditions, even as we await the return to ones that feel more familiar. Travel, gathering, not washing our groceries (OK, maybe we aren’t doing that anymore), a handshake, a hug, a dinner party, a concert, window-shopping, a parade, a sporting event, conventions: All of these things will return, but in the meantime, we have found new skills to explore and ways to find joy and continued value in the things that matter.

So, 2020 did give us some perfect vision!

We just didn’t see what we expected to see. Here’s to celebrating what we can and looking forward to what’s next.

About the Author

As EVP of Strategy and Planning at Bader Rutter, Pamela Narins’ perspectives inform all of our business and communications thinking. Pamela has served as a global planning director at DDB and director of planning at Y&R, among other agencies. She helped win, design and launch the fully integrated agency model for McDonald’s that placed human insights at the center of all brand and communications development. A graduate of the University of Chicago, she’s a lover of words, who can frequently be found nerding out behind a book, gesticulating madly with a for or drinking in every second with her teenage twins.