The Year 2040

Claire McMahon
3 min readMay 23, 2020

It was 5pm on a Sunday. I decided that I should start working on a paper for history class that I had been procrastinating all weekend. I had to ask Mom some questions about the topic, so I went to the kitchen where she was making dinner.

“Hey, Mom?”

“Yes, honey?”

“Do you think you could help me with a homework assignment?”

“Sure, what is it?”

“I have to write an essay of 300 words about how 2020 was a turning point in history. I did some research, but my teacher encouraged us to talk to our parents about it, too.”

“300 words? That’s it? Your assignment is to sum up 2020 — the year that lasted a decade — in 300 words?”

“Mrs. Johnson said it’s not just a summary of what happened that year. It’s supposed to be an analysis.” I mimicked quotation marks around the word analysis with my fingers.

“I see. Well, you know about coronavirus.”

“Yeah, of course. That must have been so scary.”

Mom looked at me for a few seconds and then said, “sit down, sweetie.”

I sat on the chair next to her and opened my notebook.

“The world is constantly changing in gradual, mostly imperceptible ways. But every once in a while, there is a major shift that restructures society completely. I was a baby when 9/11 happened. That means I’ll never know what it’s like to live in a world where you don’t have to take your shoes off at the airport. A reality where we’re not constantly at war. A reality where fear of terrorism doesn’t claw at the seems of our national identity and color our perception of everything. No matter how much I read about it or how many stories I heard or how many ’90s sitcoms I watched, I’ll never truly know what it’s like to live in that world. Does that make sense?”


“Grandma and Grandpa were born in the ’60s. They will never really know a world where man is strictly earthbound. And though I’m sure you’ll learn more about the beginning of this century as you get older, you will never know what it’s like to live in a world where everyone is unprepared for a pandemic. A reality where the entire world staying at home 24/7 and not being able to see your friends in person is a ridiculous, impossible concept. Right?”

“Yeah. I never thought of it like that. I wonder what the next world-changing event will be.”

“Me, too. But anyway, that year definitely tested the resilience of ordinary people. Beyond coronavirus, nothing seemed to be going right, and one piece of bad news followed another day after day. It was overwhelming.”

I nodded. “I bet.”

“But it wasn’t all negative. It gave us an opportunity to reach out more to our loved ones, and immediate families were together all the time. Plus, people felt compelled to help members of their communities, as happens in times of crisis.”

I scribbled notes as Mom talked, wishing I was playing basketball instead of doing this, but trying to stay interested. “That makes sense.”

“And something really special about people is that we never lose hope. No matter what happens, we hold onto the idea of tomorrow and next year and five years down the road. That got us through.”

I quickly scrawled more notes while nodding. “Got it. I think I’m all set. Thanks, Mom.”

“You’re welcome, baby.”

I closed my notebook and stood up. As I started to walk away, Mom said, “also, there was this smartphone app called Tiktok. I don’t know if you want to include that in your essay.”

I rolled my eyes and smiled. “I know, Mom. I’m familiar with trends from the ’20s. ”

“Yeah. We needed something to help us cope.”


“To feel better.” She paused. “It wasn’t easy.”

I nodded, gave Mom a pity smile, and went upstairs to write my paper.



Claire McMahon

NY | Psychology student | Currently working on a novel called On the Way Back.