In 2020, we learned what was missing from most of our natural disaster kits: toilet paper. Stores had to ration it as it flew off the shelves over fears of what might happen during a pandemic unlike any we had seen in our lifetimes.

It was an odd, dark, lonely and frightening year because so much was unknown. There also was plenty of political and social unrest that reached into our nation, our community and even our homes.

By the end of 2020, the general consensus was that it had been a terrible year — good riddance — and the world was generally glad to see it go.

Then came 2021, wrapped in hope that the new year would magically return life to what was known before. With a vaccine on the horizon, all would be right again.

The vaccine started rolling out, and some typical activities did resume. Students went back to school. Shopping became a little more recognizable. People could again eat at restaurants, first outdoors but eventually inside. Many lives were saved.

Many of us even took off the masks briefly until the virus numbers started surging again, and it became clear that even though we were done with COVID-19, it wasn’t done with us.

And of course, it still isn’t. Too many people still have no immunity. Vaccines can help us get there, but the virus will mutate until enough of the world (not just the U.S.) catches up.

Scientists will keep working toward a long-term solution — or mitigation. As they work, our job is to live as safely as we reasonably can to aggressively suppress this mutating virus like the shared enemy that it is.

It’s true that much unrest remains, and we often cannot even agree on who the shared enemies are.

Still, there’s no need to write off 2021 as the Year of Dashed Hopes and Dreams. We only get so many years on this Earth, no matter how lucky we are. Give history time to provide the long view of a complicated year.

Good things did happen, beyond the often overwhelming weight of the pandemic and all the rest of it.

Keep it simple. Count the people in your life who are still here. Focus on the fact that you are still here. Note that toilet paper is still available, even if pandemic-related supply chain problems have left other random empty spots on store shelves.

Cheers to 2021 for the experiences, the lessons, the precious moments with family and friends, and the opportunities to grow.

And cheers to the possibilities for 2022. There is a 100% chance it won’t be all rainbows and sunshine. It never is. But we can hope for the best, and more importantly, we can make good things happen.

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