2020 — The Year From Hell

Aki Kärkkäinen
3 min readDec 31, 2020


Photo by Aki Kärkkäinen

2020. The year from hell, entirely of our own making (we humans). I’ve spent most of this lonely pandemic year reading, listening and trying to understand people’s behaviour better, including people whose opinions, beliefs and actions are the polar opposite of mine. 2020 was also a wake-up call and an opportunity to try to update and reprogram my System 1.

My perception of several countries has changed profoundly in 2020 — including a certain Scandinavian country whose arrogant “we know best” attitude has resulted in not only suffering and unnecessary deaths, but also its international reputation being damaged for years, and perhaps even decades to come.

The coronavirus has exposed not only worst weaknesses, arrogance and ignorance in some Western countries, but also — at least in Sweden — lack of crisis leadership in the form of mixed messages, anti-science thinking, not leading by example, downplaying COVID-19 as well as authorities and politicians avoiding responsibility. It’s interesting to note that many (most?) of the best leaders across the globe in 2020 have been female, including in Northern Europe.

I’m critical for the following reasons:

  1. My worldview is based on educating myself daily on current events with multiple sources in multiple languages, thus avoiding one-sided, uninformed and nationalist viewpoint,
  2. I want to live in a society that respects and cares also about its elderly citizens, and
  3. Because I care.

People’s attitude towards face mask is particularly revealing. Refusing to wear a mask when near other people is a sign of careless and reckless individualism at the cost of other people’s lives. If your argument is “I don’t want to wear a face mask, but you’re free to wear it if you want”, then you and I have very different value systems.

Coping with irresponsible individualism, ignorance and Sweden’s largely self-inflicted COVID-19 disaster has been challenging. We owe a Big Thank You to all Healthcare Workers and their families! On the bright side, international efforts for creating and distributing a new vaccine in less than a year is nothing short of a miracle! Just imagine what we can achieve if we open our minds and work together to create positive change.

I’ll conclude with some of my personal highlights in this difficult year:

  • Completed two Swedish courses remotely: “Svenska som andraspråk 2 & 3”, as well as courses in Communications and Leadership
  • Walked nearly 3000 km (according to Google Fit anyway)
  • Read about 20 books, in 3⁠-⁠4 languages (in addition to countless articles online), which is far less than planned — perhaps because I was walking, or studying Swedish instead :) My Goodreads reading list is growing, and I’m looking forward to reading and learning more in 2021
  • After spending most of 2020 practically in quarantine, I finally managed to travel to Finland in December, experience Lapland, and see my elderly parents in central Finland the first time since Christmas 2019. I’m happy that my family, my colleagues and myself got through this year relatively unharmed so far (but with distress)
  • Continued my daily mindfulness practice, since 7⁠-⁠8 years already
  • Watched Earthlings (2005). Highly recommended. I haven’t eaten meat for a few years now (apart from a few occasions). This documentary film confirmed my decision to favor a vegetarian/pescatarian diet. Humanity’s relationship with animals and nature is truly non-respectful and suicidal (think COVID-19, climate change and so on).
  • Worked most of the year (nine months) remotely, with my team delivering two new digital services in collaboration with other teams. I’m really proud of my team’s commitment and professionalism, and I’m happy to have the chance to work and grow with them! Lastly, I’m grateful that I have work (that can be done remotely) and great colleagues. I firmly believe that the future of knowledge work (everyone’s favourite cliché!) is flexible and remote-first.

With that, I welcome 2021. The old normal was broken, so I have high hopes for the new normal going forward — as long as we all learn from our mistakes. Good riddance 2020, and Happier New Year 2021! Remember to respect the nature, or otherwise you’ll be f*cked by a train, as we’ve seen in 2020. Nature will always win. Take care of each other & stay safe!

Originally published at https://www.akikoo.org on December 31, 2020.



Aki Kärkkäinen

Scrum Master, Agile practitioner and former UI Developer with 20+ years of international working experience in six European countries. Occasional Music Freak.