By Maisie Cocker, Editor in Chief

Unprecedented, adjective: “never done or known before” (Oxford Languages). 

The word we’ve all heard and grown to associate with the bizarre and devastating events of this past year. Though Merriam-Webster named “Pandemic” the word of the year, I feel that “Unprecedented” is easily the most used word throughout the news, dinner table chatter, classrooms, and almost any context in recent months. 

The 419,000 Americans who have died from the pandemic; unprecedented. 4.1 million acres of land burned across California: unprecedented. The confederate flag in our nation’s capital; unprecedented. A twice impeached president; unprecedented. Brilliant students falling through the cracks academically for the first time; unprecedented. Virtual everything; unprecedented. I so badly want to return to a time where this word was something I would occasionally read in a book, or used in an English essay as a fancy synonym. An afterthought, possibly. The word has certainly drilled its way into our vocabulary and minds. We are coming up on a year since we all went into quarantine, and still have yet to make a return to any concept of normal. 

However, here is a refrain: “never done or known before”. This word can be recontextualized if you want to attempt optimism. Maybe a recap of the last nine months wasn’t what you wanted to hear this early in the new year, but I think there are so many amazing things buried underneath piles of bad news that deserve to be acknowledged.  

One notable event on my list would be the unprecedented drop in global greenhouse gas emissions, which according to CNBC was a 2.4 billion ton drop. The largest decline on record! Though a zero percent emission rate is needed to halt global warming, this is still progress, and it shows us that we can move towards sustainability at a rapid pace if we really try.

Something we rediscovered this year was drive-in movie theatres. Until this year, I’ve never had the chance to attend a movie from the comfort of a car until this year, but I have grown to love it. Prefer it, even. The privacy of a vehicle provides free reign to sob, munch, and chat as loud as you want without bothering others. Though it’s not the same as looking up and seeing the little lights on the ceiling of the old Starlight Movie Theatre, it’s pretty special to tilt your head out of the car window during a movie and see a crystal clear Nantucket night sky full of stars (plus a full moon, if you’re lucky). Better yet, setting up camp in the back of a pick-up truck on a warm summer night to watch your favorite cult classic re-run. 

In a world full of go-go-go culture I think many had their wheels spinning for years on end with no time to pause. Quarantine forced us to breathe. Everyone found something creative to keep busy. Some grew vegetable gardens, others started to knit. The challenging art-form that is bread baking was taken on by many. Creativity began flowing, conventional and unconventional. Many found themselves appreciating nature, and their neighbor. As I reflect on the first strict quarantine we had, I realized that a lot of people finally got in touch with hobbies that served no purpose other than joy. Back to the basics. 

Right now, it feels like the long haul. An attempt at a new normal is a difficult endeavor. With the consistent new spikes in COVID cases, months of staring at screens, having to accept the temporary loss of traditions, and the never-ending slew of headlines reading “unprecedented” there is a dismal tune trying to surface. Suppress it, and take time to reflect on the great things you would have never done or known without these absurdly strange and unprecedented times.  

One thought on “Unprecedented, but not all bad: 2020 in review (OpEd)

Leave a Reply to Barbara Gookin Cancel reply