Looking back at 2020

I think none of us could have expected what 2020 would bring at the beginning of this year, especially not me. Full of expectations in my private and professional life, I was looking forward to 2020 like I can not remember ever having looked forward to a new year. And it started good, too. Until 2020 kicked in the way we now know it developed.

My last business trip was early-March, and it was planned to be one of many to come. April, May, and June already almost completely booked with events and activities. I remember flying back from Bergamo in Italy that day and thinking about how to organize the workload so I would still have time for the people who mean the most to me.

Indeed, Bergamo in Italy, in early-March. When COVID-19 was already spreading throughout the region that a few weeks later became known as the Corona hotspot of Europe. Seeing military trucks rolling through the city to transport the deceased was a shocking moment, and just the first of the many that would follow.

My fully loaded schedule was quickly flushed empty when one event after the next got cancelled, and aside from the financial impact, I was glad that this happened. And the few stubborn ones that persisted on in-person events where cancelled by me. I realize how blessed I am with a doctor who understood how dangerous this is very quickly and made sure his patients understood it as well.

I also feel blessed that last year I had already started to transform most of my services into online editions. Training and coaching can be done through video calls, even when it is “not the same thing” but I am fully aware that I could not have done it without last year’s preparation. With that also came a new opportunity to offer my experience and expertise in manufacturing and industrial environments. What started as a “Virtual Lunch” with the subtitle “Bring your own food” became a wonderful opportunity to help companies navigate the challenges of digital transformation and the omni-present impact of this pandemic. And all that through videoconferences! Something I would have never expected on New Year’s Eve!

Sadly, two very dear friends did not survive their COVID-19 infection and they are dearly missed by their families and friends. Thomas, my smart companion, friend, and mentor. I miss your friendship and wisdom every day. Jörg, tough and strong, living life to the fullest. HIV did not kill you and you were living on borrowed time as you always reminded us. It does not make missing these special people less sad, but at least we had the opportunity to say our goodbyes by phone. It breaks my heart to know that so many people have not been able to say farewell to their loved ones due to this pandemic.

This pandemic and everything that came with it, also brought out the good and the bad in people. Some grew to unforeseen levels of strengths and other exposed themselves for what they really are and that is not a pretty picture. My most shocking experience in this context is someone who I respected highly and even admired, someone who always appraised himself for his integrity, and I believed every word of that. This believe was nuked apart when the same person posted “If you don’t #stayhome #StaySafeHelpOthers then we know the consequences… you are complicit in a global homicide” and popular memes of NHS doctors and nurses begging people to stay at home. All of this could of course be another sign of his good intensions if it were not for the fact that he was doing all this and arguing about its importance online while being on vacation himself. It matches the kind of behavior and lack of integrity displayed by the politicians he appraises for their “good work” during this pandemic.

A very shocking experience for me and it gave me a lot to think about and once again question the difference between who people say they are and who they really are. Although it was a sad and emotional experience, looking back I am grateful for the lesson. Apparently, I needed it!

Others showed what they are really made of and that their words are just the starting point of their actions. There are so many people who rose far beyond the occasion and became lifesavers for so many and in so many different ways. Too many to list them all but I want to show my appreciation for two very special friends who shine like never before.

Denise Kelly, the “wee little” as she calls herself, registered frontline nurse from Northern Ireland has always been a tough cookie and never leaves a stone unturned to take care of her patients and her team. But this pandemic, this unseeable enemy, unleashed the Lioness in Denise. Thank you Denise, your strength and leadership inspires many.

Debra Ruh, my dear friend and mentor, voice and advocate for everyone and anyone with special needs. Debra takes her role as advocate and solution builder for inclusion and accessibility very serious. She always did and she always will, this is her mission and purpose in life. This pandemic exposed exclusion and inaccessibility throughout our society, in levels we have never thought about. Debra rises to the occasion, steps up her advocacy even further. Thank you Debra, you are the light in many tunnels.

I grew during 2020 in areas in which I never thought I would.

May 2021 see more solutions and less suffering!