What We Gained From 2020: The Joys — and Losses — That Give Us Hope
Vital Plan
By Vital Plan Posted 12-17-2020

There’s no denying that 2020 was a difficult year, and one filled with incredible loss. But despite it all, if you look a little more closely at the days and weeks gone by, little moments of joy and hope still manage to shine their way out of the darkness. And giving those glimmers of light more attention may actually help them shine a little brighter. As author Robert Brault wisely put it, “Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.”

With that in mind, the team here at Vital Plan decided to take a few moments to reflect on 2020 and take stock of the good things that came out of it — no matter how small — as well as any losses that turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It was an exercise in gratitude that’s helping us end the year on a positive note, and shift our gaze toward the new year with a sense of optimism and hope. We hope it inspires you to do the same!

Dr. Bill Rawls smiling


“As I reflect on the many changes that occurred in 2020, family is top of mind for me. This fall, within a week of losing my mother (who had come to the natural end of a long and full life), my first grandchild — a boy — was born, bright, healthy, and ready to renew the cycle of life.

In addition to the birth of our new grandson, I’ve enjoyed a bonus amount of quality time with my wife of almost 40 years. Like most people this year, we’ve spent far more time at home than in any year I can remember. As Meg has been winding up her rewarding career as a college biology instructor, her school went online and she was able to work from home alongside me this year.

We’ve been on-the-go at a brisk pace for our entire marriage, and it has been such a gift to slow down and enjoy time together at home. This unexpected time together has ended up being one of the happiest times in our relationship — I will cherish it always.”

Braden on the couch with her son


“I gave birth to a baby boy this fall, and it’s been among the most joyful times of my life. Looking back on the year, I’m grateful for the slower pace that allowed me to sink in and be present as I transitioned to this new role as Mom.

I was disappointed to miss weddings, travel, and more this summer, but on the positive, it was a special time with my husband as we geared up for this new chapter with the baby. Things have been full blast since little Max arrived, but we are having a ball and it’s been such a great excuse to connect (virtually) with family and friends from all over.

I’m especially thankful to continue in my role as Vital Plan CEO in parallel to becoming a mom. Balancing career and family is tough work, I am quickly learning, but historically, many women haven’t had the option to do both. Advances in technology have enabled me to stay connected from my home office without missing a beat, and I feel fortunate to be surrounded by supportive family members, co-workers, and community.

I’m grateful to the many women in history who have fought for women’s rights and paved the way for me to be both a CEO and mom. As I reflect on what I’ve gained in 2020, celebrating the advancements of women and their contributions to society is at the top of my list. There is still much work to be done to achieve true gender equality, but the momentum created in 2020 has me feeling optimistic about a bright future ahead.”

Jon with his wife and daughters, holding up toilet paper and hand sanitizer, making crazy faces


“In 2020, I gained a new appreciation for toilet paper and wipes. I now permanently smell like Purell hand sanitizer (which my wife says is an improvement).

Also on the plus list: Our house has never been cleaner, and the home-project to-do list has never been shorter. I started binging on those Survival-Prepper TV shows. We now own more crafts-for-kids projects than a Michaels store. The Christmas tree and lights went up by Thanksgiving, and almost half of the lights worked. My parents learned how to use Zoom… sort of.

In terms of things I’ve lost, like everyone, my world got smaller in 2020. We couldn’t travel all over to see our family and friends as we wanted. Special birthdays and celebrations were missed. Our kids’ soccer games and basketball games were canceled.

But not being “scheduled up” as much in 2020 did allow new doors to open. I got to spend a lot more time at home with my family and create new flashbulb memories.

We had more meals together. We talked more. Conversations ran deeper. We laughed more. Cried a little, too. Our relationships grew stronger. And for all the things “lost” in 2020, they will be cherished 20x more next year when the world opens up and those moments return.”

Jim with his dog


“Like most people, I’ve gained more time at home in 2020. Which means more time with my wife (wonderful); more walks with the dog (good for both of us); more home-cooked meals (some better than others); and more things crossed off the household to-do list (satisfying).

Our daughter has also spent more time at home since she, too, is able to work remotely. We would not have had her home for multiple weeks-at-a-time visits, and that has been a true joy.

Also like many people, I’ve lost my exercise classes at the local gym. Without the encouragement of the coaches and the camaraderie of the classmates, my home workouts pale in comparison. I’ve had some unwanted gains as a result, but hopefully that can be remedied after the holidays.

I’ve also lost out on visiting with my mother (in her 80s), my siblings, and my nieces in and around Washington, DC. Birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries — all times we would normally have gathered together — have passed with small acknowledgements. That is a loss.

But as a happy consequence, I am calling and texting my mom and my siblings a great deal more frequently than I ever did in the past. That has strengthened our relationships, and it is a habit I intend to continue well after we are able to get together in person once again.”

Mark smiling with his wife playing with dog in background


“My wife and I are both in the creative field, and working from home has given us both immediate access to feedback on new designs and concepts. Our ideas get a little sharper and a little more clear with an outside opinion always there.

I’ve lost my usual commute time to and from work, which was good for head clearing and mentally preparing for my day. In its place, I gained time for daily exercise in our makeshift home gym, and for helping my kids with their homework before and after school.

Lunches are now leftovers. Leftovers are now lunches. I had a bad habit of spending too much on lunches out, and throwing food out when I got home. That’s been fixed now. And the process has really helped me analyze where else we can limit unnecessary spending.

We got a new dog over the summer. His name is Crash. Needless to say, we go on a lot more family walks and have met a lot more neighbors.”

Tim with baby daughter on chest


“I gained so much more time with our new baby girl by working remotely, which has allowed me to be more present and involved in our daughter’s life than I otherwise would have been. I am so grateful for that, as everyone tells me these first months fly by so quickly!

This year I’ve lost the community of in-person yoga classes with my usual yoga studio, which I sorely miss. However, it prompted me to expand my yoga practice and connect with new teachers that were offering virtual classes. Without the pandemic, these classes would not have been available to me since they were in other geographic locations. This changeup and new virtual community was just what I needed — and I didn’t even know it.”

Cari smiling with husband and dog


“I’m known for being constantly busy. A normal consequence of that has been sitting in either my car or a chair all day. But with the pandemic, I’ve actually been able to get up and move more.

My husband and I got a puppy not long before the pandemic hit, and we live in a neighborhood for the first time, so I include walking regularly in my life now. I also used to be so all over the place that I was always picking up food on the way somewhere, but now I get to cook more and eat healthier. My use of time has been flipped upside down, but mostly for the better.

Something I lost was all my in-person church meetings. I generally had three or four events a week, and although I miss hugging and seeing them face to face extremely much, I love not burning through gas (and my personal energy!) so quickly. I’ve gone from filling up the tank once a week to every three weeks, and meeting virtually lets me replace driving during rush hour time with a chance to better transition by brain off of work.

I’m grateful to give myself and the environment a better chance to breathe. Plus, now I can use my saved gas money to support small businesses and those in need during COVID.”

Meghan smiling at camera with boyfriend, surrounded by creek and woods


“This is ridiculously material, but this year, my fella and I have gained a new home. Well, technically we don’t close on it until a week into 2021, but most of the work for it was put in during the last quarter of 2020.

I’ve always been terrified of owning a home, but I finally put enough experience (and rental money) behind me to look boldly toward our future — tucked away in the mountains of western North Carolina — with hope and excitement. This move would have been much harder had we not all been remote.

I’ve lost the chance to be around people in my free time, but that has made my communications more meaningful. I go out of my way to take time to call or Zoom people. We have a cooking group with friends in Colorado and Maryland, and a Friday night virtual meetup with our Florida crowd that have made us all grow closer, in spite of several hundred miles between us.

Finally, while I did regain some aspects of my health by taking lots of walks to shake off my nervous energy this year, I did not manage to evade COVID. I was just diagnosed after experiencing a fever and cold-like symptoms despite doing everything right: I masked up, kept my distance, religiously cleaned everything, stayed home unless necessity dictated otherwise, and supplemented to keep my immune system strong. But ultimately, I caught it while teaching at a high school (my second job).

It feels like a failure, but I’m determined to recover fast: I am staying home and finally embracing how important it is to rest and let myself heal. I’ve always had trouble slowing down, and haven’t really stopped to take care of myself like this since I was sidelined with pneumonia in 2015. I am hoping that this time those self-care lessons stick, and am looking forward to contactless deliveries, limitless show bingeing, and having a good, old fashioned Victorian era lie-in while I heal.”

Carin smiling with young kids and dog


“Prior to the pandemic, I was just like so many other moms out there: shuttling my daughter to preschool and son to elementary school in the mornings, rushing to the office to make it to my first meeting on time, and then bolting out the door at the end of the day to pick up my kids again and get dinner on the table before diving straight into bedtime routines. Kids grow up so fast — I swear they sometimes sprout 6 inches and gain 20 IQ points in a single day — and I felt like I was missing it all with mine.

Now, since Vital Plan closed its offices in March and we all started working from home, I get to be with both kids and my husband all day, every day. The new version of our balancing act is hard, I won’t lie. Helping a 7- and 4-year-old with virtual learning (and keeping them from killing each other or themselves) while also doing a full-time job — and the dishes… so many dishes… — is a whole different challenge.

But at the same time, I’ve had the great fortune of seeing my kids grow and learn and become best friends and incredible little people. Gaining this time with my family has been the best gift of my life, I only wish it hadn’t come at the expense of so much loss in the world.

As for what I’ve lost, there’s a lot I wouldn’t mind never getting back. I shed hours of commuting in the car every week, which translates to less negative impact on the environment and more time to be productive at work. I don’t spend money on much of anything other than groceries, and so I’ve been able to contribute more to our savings account.

I’ve also lost several shoes and a lot of legroom in bed thanks to our pandemic puppy, Rocky, who’s now 55 pounds (and counting) and insists on destroying anything he can get his mouth on and sleeping with us at night. But he brings so much joyful mayhem to the house that (I guess) I can let that legroom go for good, too.

The one thing I’ve lost that I’ll reclaim as soon as possible is spending in-person time with the rest of our family — parents and siblings, nieces and nephews — and good friends. Fair warning to all: I fully intend to make up for each and every missed hug in 2020.”

Ryan smiling with his dog Davie


While 2020 has been a challenging year for everyone, I think there are several positive highlights that I can walk away with.

I’ve learned to better insulate my personal life from the stressors of work and the world, and have certainly become more adept at “rolling with the punches.” From this, I’ve gained a better sense of work-life balance, allowing me to achieve more enjoyment from both.

I’ve gained a greater appreciation for my friends and family, as any communications or contact with either have been forced to become much more intentional.

I’m also very thankful for the time I’ve been able to spend at home with my dog, Davie, as he begins to enter his senior years (he seems to be tolerating me pretty well).

Alec smiling with his three young children, laying on the floor


Like many others, I’ve gained time with my family. My kids also being remote has given me a closer connection to their day-to-day, and it’s been very special for me.

We also had a new baby this year, and I’ve been able to be more supportive in these important early stages of her life. Lastly, I’ve gained a better sense of awareness of people around me and the impact this year has made on others.

This year has been tough! Losing the simple things you take for granted, like a handshake or a hug. My parents not being able to hug my kids and hold my new daughter has been most difficult. I’ve also missed going to work and having the change of pace and interaction with others.

Despite all the challenges of 2020, I’m very optimistic for 2021!

Belinda between her two sons, outside and smiling


The year 2020 for me has been filled with emotions, tremendous possibilities, sadness, and gratitude. For my two sons, young men, they sought to find the possibilities in life, and thrived by making the best of all situations; a gift which came out of the pandemic.

I fell back in love with bike riding, and became owner of a new road bike, which I thoroughly enjoy! This time has allowed for more personal time to care of myself.

I’ve been doing the things that brought me great joy in the past but were hard to find time for: lots of time at the beach, playing many holes of golf, cooking, special time with my youngest son, and enjoying the sunshine. Time to finalize my certification as a Wellcoaches Health Coach revealed itself and led to success.

My best friend, my dog Snicker, passed on. My heart broke; much-needed time alone was available for healing.

My son was elected captain of the UNC lacrosse team; they were 7-0 when the season came to a crushing stop. The heartache felt by all players was devastating.

Zoom as a way to watch him graduate from college was something never thought of; new experiences begin to open. It was a gift to see the beauty in it all, and the heartfelt time with family and friends — even if only by Zoom — was incredibly special.

collection of healthy foods on kitchen counter


As the mother of two college-age boys, a pandemic quarantine is just about the only thing that would bring them home to spend five months under a roof with their mom! But honestly, despite some — uh, many — adjustments by all three of us, it was a blessing for which I will be forever grateful.

Our pre-pandemic lives had been a bit tumultuous, and those precious months of quarantine gave us time to reconnect and get to know each other in new space. We played a lot of the board game, Sorry!, tried a 1000-piece puzzle (which ended up in the trash), and enjoyed experimenting with new food combos influenced by whatever I could find in the freezer or the stores had in stock!

I lost the ability to go to the YMCA to exercise, but found that I was making a more intentional effort to set up walking dates with a variety of friends. I was enjoying the time to catch up with friends that I had gone too long without seeing, including some neighbors right out my front door!

Our neighborhood started meeting on Saturday nights in our cul de sac with our lawn chairs set up six feet apart. Why does it always seem to take a snow storm, hurricane, or pandemic to bring us together?

Paulette headshot, smiling


Working from home has allowed me to deepen my friendship with my dear neighbor. Both of us are single with no family nearby, and we have become like sisters and have created a community of support around us. In addition, I live less than 10 minutes from my gym, and after it reopened, I’ve been able to work out more regularly on lunch breaks or after work.

Because of the shutdown and restrictions with traveling, I have had the opportunity to take more qigong and advanced qigong classes this year via zoom with my master qigong teacher and his students from all over the world. These classes have been powerfully mind-expanding and healing.

With the shutdowns, unpredictability, and instability resulting from COVID, as well as the social and political unrest, my appreciation of family and friends has grown. The love and support of family and a community of like-minded friends with similar values who are on a similar spiritual path are invaluable; money cannot buy that and nothing can replace it.

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About the Medical Director
Dr. Bill Rawls
Dr. Rawls is a licensed medical doctor in North Carolina and a leading expert in integrative health. He has extensive training in alternative therapies, and is the Medical Director of Vital Plan, a holistic health and herbal supplement company in Raleigh, NC.
  • Dr. Bill Rawls


    Dr. Rawls is a licensed medical doctor in North Carolina and a leading expert in integrative health. He has extensive training in alternative therapies, and is the Medical Director of Vital Plan, a holistic health and herbal supplement company in Raleigh, NC.

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