Farewell 2020!

This year has been one that we will never forget, but also one that we might wish not to remember, as we are saying to it – farewell 2020!

There is a running sentiment among everyone that 2020 is a year that we need to just put behind us. It’s been horrible, miserable, and is better left in the rearview mirror. There is certainly some ring of truth in that feeling, but to dwell on that idea is to ignore all of the great things that have happened this year. There have been positive things in 2020, and we don’t even have to wear rose colored glasses in order to see them. 

This was a year of discovery, in wonderful ways that will affect our future and that we can build on. There is a sense that the world has shifted through the demands of this year, and with that shift we have grown.

As we say farewell to 2020, we cannot help but reflect on the good that we have found in it. Here are eight great things that we will take with us from this challenging year. 

1. We found new ways to train

It turns out that the old ways of training are not exactly the only ways to get things done. We have discovered that innovation in fencing training is not only a way to patch our way through these socially distant times, but we can in fact expand our horizons and deepen our fencing skills through online training and a shift in focus.

This sport is deeply rooted in technique and individual development. These are things that we have been pushed to focus on during the pandemic. We are zooming our classes and private lessons, giving coaches and students a different view. We are cross training and watching videos. These new ways of training have opened new doors, and some of them will stick with us even after this pandemic is over. 

2. We built community 

Fencing in general, and in our club as well, lost a lot of members due to the pandemic. Fatigue, the loss of competitions, the lack of end goals, motivation setbacks, financial difficulties – these all contributed to the attrition of fencing participants in the last nine months. 

The community of people who continued to train became more united, with a greater sense of being tied together and facing something challenging together.

3. We rediscovered our passion

With so many distractions pushed aside, we have rediscovered the passion for the things that are left. We’ve witnessed so many people who rediscovered their passion for fencing. 

We’ve seen people realize that it really wasn’t ever about the medals, now that there are no medals to chase. Fencers who thought that they were here for competition have seen that it is the sport that they love, not the race for the podium. That’s a revelation that we can all appreciate, though it is admittedly one that we are still coming to terms with. Finding the love of the sport in every lesson, every time we put on our fencing jacket and pick up our sword, that’s been a true treasure this year. 

4. We connected in deeper ways.

It sounds strange to say that we connected when we all had to be distant from each other, but it’s true!

Though the time at home with family has been exhausting at times, we have learned to lean on each other more than we ever thought we could. There is a depth to what we’ve been through together, and being at home has left us with more time to become part of each other’s lives. For all of the hardship that distance school and working from home has caused, there is also good in it because we are learning about each other.

We’ve also connected with friends around the country and even around the world. Virtually, but nonetheless there is connection there. It strikes me that we would not have this without COVID, and those connections are so precious to me now that I cannot imagine life without them. 

5. We rediscovered the sense of partnership between everyone 

Camaraderie has become a hallmark of this period of time. Parents, students, coaches, former opponents, etc. have learned that we are standing side by side instead of being far apart. The sense of competition or exceptionalism that once dominated our conversations don’t seem as divisive as they did before.

It’s cliche to say it, but it’s still true – we are all in this together.  It doesn’t matter where you live or what your background is, we are all fighting COVID and trying to make it to the other side. This year has seen divisiveness too, perhaps bringing divisiveness out that was already there, but we have seen growth and conversations too. Progress is moving forward, and we hope to see that continue. 

6. We showed cooperation.

I spoke with dozens of clubs during the pandemic from all over the country, clubs that oftentimes we consider the rival clubs on a fencing strip. We exchanged the ideas, passed information and tips, and in general became more united in our common goal of survival. This interclub camaraderie is fantastic for sport, and it’s one of the most exciting things to happen this year.

Leaning on each other has helped us all, no matter where our clubs are located or who we have been in the past. The future of fencing is at stake, and so we learn from each other. It’s been a beautiful thing!

7. We thought globally.

Global communication has opened doors that we didn’t know were possible before the pandemic started. Our sports heroes – fencers, coaches, and referees – were able to reach an audience that they didn’t reach before. We’ve seen their stories, heard their voices in many venues, and welcomed their input to guide us through these challenging times. In venues from the FIE facebook page, to PBT interviews, and even our wonderful chance to interview these influencers at AFM gave us something to go on. 

The world is not as big as it feels sometimes, and even we learned this year that we can find the good. 

8. We stepped up to the challenges.

For everything that has happened this year, what sticks out most to me is that we are still here, still fencing, and still looking forward. 

These are challenges that no one could have imagined. We will look back in a year, or five years, or ten years and wonder how we could have possibly gotten through 2020. Right now, we are a little too close to it to see how miraculous it is because we are really still very much in it. Yet we are stepping up to challenges and overcoming them, one after another. We are all so much stronger than we knew.

There is another side to the pandemic, and though it seems like it might last forever, we know that it won’t. In fact, we know that there is a real possibility that we won’t be quarantined a year from now given all of the vaccine news that has come out lately. 

Sitting here in the waning days of 2020, I must admit that I am glad to say farewell to this year, more than just about any other year. Yet I am not sorry for the good things that came out of this tough year. Sometimes it’s the hardest things that make us appreciate who we are and that even redefine who we are. So yes, farewell 2020. And thank you.