Carrying Forward from 2020
by Mary-Margaret Zindren, EVP/Executive Director
In reflecting on 2020, it’s easy to be drawn toward focusing on the pain, loss, and frustration of this past year. There’s been simply so much of all of these things, affecting people’s health and happiness, financial stability, and whether and how we see each other—both physically and across political and cultural divides.
I encourage you to resist that pull and to seek out the bright spots and positive learnings to take away from 2020. Here are a few that I’ll be carrying into 2021 and our time “on the other side.”
Time is elastic – and we have both more and less of it than we think. While there remain 24 hours in a day, every day, pandemic days seem different. I’ve said several times during the pandemic that most days feel like a Wednesday. Gone are many of the usual markers of the passing of time. Google searches for “what day is it” have spike dramatically. I’ve never been more attuned to nature and grateful for the fact we have distinct seasons here in Minnesota. We have learned that time gained from no longer commuting or traveling out of state for work seems to evaporate in the context of schooling children from home or caring for sick loved ones. If we’re lucky, there are stretches of time that are less stressful and allow for new hobbies and skills to be developed. If we’re unlucky, we have experienced times of deep worry and anxiety. Too many of us have also had to mourn of the loss of loved ones, alone. We never know how much time we have in front of us. Even the days that feel like Wednesdays are precious, not to be taken for granted.
Resilience is overrated. I have often told people that one of the characteristics I look for in hiring employees is resilience. It’s incredibly important to success in any field and has been necessary in the context of the pandemic and following the murder of George Floyd. Too often resilience is needed because of not just misfortune but because of systemic failures. The systemic failures brought to the fore in 2020 are many, varied, and interrelated, among them: failure to unify our communities and nation around a course of action to contain the pandemic; failure to ensure consistent, effective healthcare regardless of income or geography; failure to ensure all children can be cared for and can receive high-quality education; failure to address the climate crisis and the conditions that lead to novel coronaviruses; and failure to reckon with hundreds of years of discrimination and brutality based on race and ethnicity. A world where people and all living things require less resilience to survive, much less thrive, is the world we need to create.
We are capable of transformative change. The worlds of business, commerce, education, healthcare, culture, and human connection were forced to transform dramatically within a matter of days and weeks. The changes implemented in shifting to virtual, socially-distanced ways of living and working are so vast and have been so prolonged that we have no idea what impact they will have on us as individuals, organizations and communities. But we do know that, when faced with great risk, we have been capable of tremendous, transformative change. This should give us hope that the greatest challenges facing this profession and the built environment can be met, if the risks are better recognized and if we realize that our futures are deeply interconnected. Change doesn’t have to be evolutionary – it can be revolutionary and extraordinary.
As we leave 2020 behind, we know so much more about ourselves, the people we love, and the communities, nation, and world we live in. My hope is that the clarity gained from experiencing this year will create a new foundation for the architecture community and for the broader public to build upon.
Looking forward to the turning of the year and to continuing to serve you and this amazing architecture community in 2021.
View the December 2020 edition of Matrix.