The year of living dangerously. A year in the wild. Annus horribilis. Call it what you will—it only makes sense that 2020 was a leap year. For some of us, it was the longest year of our lives. For others, it was a bizarre gap year, like taking a break from the world. One thing is certain: it was one hell of a year.

Looking back, it could have been worse. It started off well enough, then hit a speed bump and it was all downhill from there. It wasn’t all bad. Being forced to work from home gave me some time to hone my barbecue skills. I honestly don’t think I’ve grilled as much in any given year. So that’s good. I also found time to clean my shop and dive back into some woodworking projects. That was good, too. In between projects, I rediscovered 12-hour workdays. That wasn’t so good, but it could have been much worse.

Ultimately, having a side gig or two proved to be the difference between keeping and losing my sanity. There were more than a few times when the actual lack of human contact was a challenge—something my eye doctor learned the hard way when I talked to him for 30 minutes straight one day. But, for the most part, life continued on in a somewhat dysfunctional way.

Along the way, I learned a few things. Actually, a lot of things. Some of those simply reinforced lessons of the past, while others were altogether new. Looking back on 2020, it’s easy to see that it brought out the best in some of us and the worst in others. It was, after all, one hell of a year.

The facts, while interesting, are irrelevant.

This isn’t exactly a new phenomenon, but it found new heights in 2020. Your facts don’t matter. What matters is how loudly someone else screams their “facts” or how offended someone is by yours.

In space, no one can hear the staff scream.

Guardians? Are you kidding me? Was “Space Rangers” taken? You might as well break out the moon camouflage, Space Force, because the nerd bullies already have you in their sights.

I was made for this.

Weeks into self-isolation, I realized that I had spent much of my life preparing for this moment. Stretching a roll of toilet paper to last a month? Check. Seeing the same five people for weeks on end? Check. Working for hours on end with no human interaction? Check. It was like being deployed, but with good internet and actual beer.

Pants are overrated.

In 2020, I discovered a new term: Zoom shirt. As long as you keep your webcam focused above your waist, nobody knows whether you’re wearing pants. Keep a nice collared shirt close by for those inevitable moments you’re on camera, but otherwise, you be you. I’m nine months into wearing a t-shirt and gym shorts to work every day. I’m not sure I want to give this up.

There IS a doctor in the house.

In the halcyon days before the pandemic, there were plenty of keyboard lawyers on social media, but never a good doctor when you needed one. In the AC—after COVID—era, finding an expert on infectious diseases has never been easier. Judging from what I’ve seen on Twitter, roughly ten million people work at the Centers for Disease Control.

Statistics don’t lie, statisticians do.

If the first half of 2020 introduced us to the keyboard epidemiologist, the second half announced the arrival of the laptop statistician. I get it. Your best friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who took statistics in college. So, you know a thing or two about statistics.

We had it easy with #JadeHelm.

Remember the good old days when we joked about the conspiracy theories surrounding the 2015 military exercise? Well, it’s ancient history now. In the year of the pandemic, conspiracy theories are everywhere, from vaccines to masks. What makes it worse is that people aren’t just buying into them, they’re acting on them.

Murder hornets are a thing.

Brought to you by the month of May, the arrival of the Asian murder hornet heralded the next phase of the apocalypse. In any other year, this scourge would have been contained by Cletus and his industrial strength can of Raid, but in 2020 it was front page, above the fold terror news.

I’m not really antisocial.

For years, I joked, “I’m not antisocial, I just hate people.” But I don’t. I can spend twenty minutes talking to the UPS driver about his tires (and I have) or an hour visiting with the retired Navy chaplain who lives next door. So, it turns out that I actually like people. But, if 2020 taught me anything, it’s that I have a low tolerance for people who don’t contribute anything measurable to our society. I just didn’t realize how many of those people existed until this year.

Retail therapy is kind of fun.

I probably spent more money online this year than at any time in the past. Some of that was just being smarter about spending money, which even a temporary pay cut will cause you to do. I also spent some cash to upgrade my personal office for a year of working from home. I’ll admit that there were a few times when I bought something just because it felt good. It did. But, now I have to explain why I needed a working Infinity Gauntlet. And all those starships. And a life-size Rocket Raccoon.

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Steve Leonard is a former senior military strategist and the creative force behind the defense microblog, Doctrine Man!!. A career writer and speaker with a passion for developing and mentoring the next generation of thought leaders, he is a senior fellow at the Modern War Institute; the co-founder of the national security blog, Divergent Options, and the podcast, The Smell of Victory; co-founder and board member of the Military Writers Guild; and a member of the editorial review board of the Arthur D. Simons Center’s Interagency Journal. He is the author of five books, numerous professional articles, countless blog posts, and is a prolific military cartoonist.