The Skills We Gained — Or Tried To — In 2020 New rules to safeguard health, plus a lot more time spent at home, left millions of Americans learning some new skills. We hear from some of them.
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The Skills We Gained — Or Tried To — In 2020

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The Skills We Gained — Or Tried To — In 2020

The Skills We Gained — Or Tried To — In 2020

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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2020 has been a year full of frustration and sadness but also, for some folks, a time to grow. Stuck at home during lockdowns or trying to stay at home to avoid getting sick, they decided to learn new skills - making sourdough, for instance. Well, 13-year-old Thien-Bao Truong of Gilroy, Calif., also started from scratch in the kitchen. He just wanted to learn how to cook for himself.

THIEN-BAO TRUONG: I started out with instant noodles, and then I worked my way up to cook pasta.

MCCAMMON: With the basics of the carb-based dorm-room diet mastered, he moved on.

THIEN-BAO: I took cooking classes from a teacher at my school, and I learned how to chop vegetables and cook meat.

MCCAMMON: Thien-Bao is now working on his next goal, cooking steak.

2020 gave Alice Laubach a new passion with her husband. He's into Brazilian jujitsu. And during the spring lockdown, he asked her to train with him at home in Virginia Beach. When their studio reopened, they took classes together so they could remain partners.

ALICE LAUBACH: I've really learned to like it, and it's one thing that we can do together without our children. I get there, and I can not think about work. I can - and I can totally see why he loves it. I will definitely stick with it once this ends, but we probably won't get to go to classes together.

MCCAMMON: Amy Martinez's husband found an abandoned electric piano on the street in Los Angeles. And Amy found middle C, then D, E, F, G and so on. As she learned to play, she also reconnected virtually with her college roommate.

AMY MARTINEZ: I've seen her once since 1975, but now I see her every week. And she is my piano teacher, and she's amazing.

MCCAMMON: When Eileen McQuillan of Missoula, Mont., lost her job last March, she decided to pursue a longtime interest in farming. And so 2020 will forever be the year Eileen learned how to milk a goat.

EILEEN MCQUILLAN: Probably the biggest challenge of milking goats was the two female goats. Both had kids this summer. At a certain point, they start to kick their kids off of their teats. Because of that, she started kicking us off while we were trying to milk her. So it was really challenging. Goats have quite a bit of attitude when they want to.

What I learned about myself is that it's OK to push myself out of my comfort zone. I think I had been working the same job for, like, several years and had wanted to try to find a new route for myself. And I think this helped to give me the confidence to actually, like, commit to something new and not be afraid to fail.

MCCAMMON: There were seed shortages this year and then lid shortages as more people took up gardening and then canning during the pandemic, many for the first time. Lorenzo Lalimarmo of Seattle ratcheted up a skill he'd recently learned out of frustration after his bicycle broke down. He'd enrolled in a bike maintenance repair class.

LORENZO LALIMARMO: I learned how to build bikes, how to service them, how to hand-lace wheels, which is a pretty uncommon skill. Once quarantine hit, my partner and I didn't really have anything to do during that time, so I built her a bike. Anyone can really build a bike out of pretty basic home maintenance tools. I just really like that it's not only a skill that I can use for myself but for people in my immediate community.

MCCAMMON: A new skill to help all those people with all those new bicycles bought to help alleviate the stress of living through 2020. Here's to all the new things you'll learn in 2021.


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