We all seem to have a strange habit of setting starting lines for ourselves. "On Monday, I will start that new workout routine." "After this episode, I will do the dishes." "In 30 more minutes, I will make dinner." "Next year, I will finally make all the changes in myself I have been planning for so long." Before the clock struck midnight on Dec. 31, 2019, we all had things we wanted to do, habits we wanted to form and break, plans for the year ahead that we would finally put into action. Maybe some of us got off to a good start, too. But this year was anything but usual \u2014 and it turns out it's difficult to plan ahead for a global pandemic. If you're anything like me, you spent days, weeks, months feeling discouraged about failed plans, lost goals, and achievements suddenly left unaccomplished as you stayed indoors, talked to family over the phone and tried to decipher if your cough was a seasonal cold or something more. We all saw the posts on Instagram and Facebook and TikTok of our friends and complete strangers getting a six-pack over quarantine, learning a second language, or becoming a master chef. But even though I spent most of this year working from home and suddenly had more time on my hands than ever before, there's something about the uncertainty of a pandemic that made it difficult to feel inspired to start speaking Spanish or learning to bake bread. A perfectionist at heart, I've never been one to cut myself a break \u2014 even during a year where I'm fairly certain no one had any idea what they were doing \u2014 but as the year now comes to a close, I am trying to remind myself that this wasn't a lost year. It may not be even close to what I had planned, but more good came from it than I realized in the moment. Without COVID-19, my roommate and I wouldn't have been cooped up in our apartment together for months, giving us a chance to become even closer than we were before. Without COVID-19, I wouldn't have rediscovered my love for reading which left me barreling though hundreds of pages of fantasy and science fiction a night. Without COVID-19, I wouldn't have learned that it's OK to allow myself to take a break when my body and mind really need to. If this year had gone any way other than it did, I may not now be facing one of the most exciting challenges of my life \u2014 moving to Washington, D.C. by myself to take a job at a nationally-based nonprofit. Those who know me well know I'm not one to believe in fate or a predetermined life plan. I do, however, firmly believe that every choice I make is my own and because of that somehow things will work out in the end, and without every small influence that came from the impact of COVID-19, I wouldn't be where I am now. And I have to say, I am feeling pretty good at the moment. My heart truly hurts for everyone who has lost someone this year due to the virus, everyone who has had to close their business due to shutdowns, and every healthcare worker who went to work filled with fear, but I hope everyone can find some small positive from this whirlwind of a year. Many people I know, myself included for a time, felt like this year was wasted on the world, but no matter what, we at least learned something about ourselves, our friends and our neighbors. As I look forward to next year, I keep seeing the box for Jan. 1 on my calendar as another starting line, but I know with this one will come fewer expectations and much more personal forgiveness than ever before. Taylor Fussman is a former reporter for the Herald Review. She penned this column prior to her departure.