2020 Takeaways: What Did You Learn This Year?
2020: The year of COVID-19. The year from hell. The year it all fell apart. Many of us can’t wait to leave 2020 behind. Even introverts like me are itching to get out and about again. Like that year in high school when the bully tortured you for her own entertainment, the end can’t come fast enough.
Last January, I wrote an essay called ‘Grab Your Year and Go!‘
At the end of it, I wrote,’ Get to know, love and trust yourself. You have so much talent and strength within you.’ Little did we know how our strengths would be tested!
Fred Devito, cofounder of Exhale fitness once said “If it doesn’t challenge you it doesn’t change you.” And the biggest growth comes from the biggest challenges. We have certainly had our share of those this year! Before you slam the door on the 2020, take a moment to consider what changes you might bring with you into the future. Here’s my list.
Awareness and Empathy
This year has given me a deeper awareness of the importance of health. That might be surprising to hear from someone trained in medicine and public health, but it’s true. Each time I heard about someone in my life infected with the virus, I felt a little nick in my heart.
While my immediate circle is fine so far, several lost close friends and family members. I am saddened for my friends, terrified for my own family, grateful to be healthy and to not have lost anyone close to me. Yet.
My sympathies go out to readers who lost someone close to them, are still fighting the battle or are watching a loved one fight it. I hope that we will soon have a vaccine that will control COVID-19.
My dad says ‘every day above ground is a good day.’ Some of us may have had cause to question that this year. Nature is cruel as well as beautiful.
COVID-19’s spread through our communities has shown us that we really are all connected. In our towns, countries, all over the world, our actions have repercussions. Like the Butterfly Effect, what we do affects the world.
This is why I do not understand why people ignore public health requirements. The guidelines are there to help us protect each other. No, a mask will not completely eliminate your risk of getting this disease.
But a mask (worn correctly – nose and mouth covered) + frequent hand-washing + maintaining 2 meters distance will drastically reduce the risk that you will get it. If you have it and don’t know, the mask decreases your chances of giving it to anyone else. These measures are like seat belts: they won’t stop you from dying in a car crash, but they do decrease the risks.
We have fewer than seven degrees of separation from thousands, if not millions of people. Why not protect each other?
What’s Really Important
This year reminded me of what is truly important. Health, family, friends, and basic needs are universal; only the details differ. Some of us want to be able to walk again, others want to run their first marathon. Parents wait to hear their child’s first words. Adult children wait to hear an elderly parent’s first words after a stroke. Some workers can’t wait to go back to the office again; others wish fervently for any job at all.
Hot tea on a cool morning. A breathtakingly beautiful sunrise. A hot bath. Laughing with family or friends. These are all simple pleasures. They cost very little. Compared to the fancy shoes, clothes and gadgets so many of us obsess over, they are almost free.
Locked down for much of 2020 with no chance to conspicuously consume, I rediscovered some of these simple pleasures. Waking up slowly. Cooking wholesome meals. Talking with friends and family by Zoom, Skype or even just the phone.
2020 gave me time, space, and the quiet to reconnect with myself. It’s taken me almost a year, but I have worked through my inner noise and made space for doing things I love. I am intensely curious, so online learning is a beautiful gift. I made time to read, write, do puzzles, bake, crochet, garden, and just….think.
For an introvert like me, being alone most of the time, and not having to explain it, is a gift from the universe.
Reflection and self-knowledge is a gift that the universe offered us all this year. I hope you took advantage of it.
Of course 2020 was far from perfect, and like you I struggled some days to keep my spirits up. I miss hugs and big dinners. I miss my family, far away in another country. For the first time in 15 years, I won’t be home for Christmas – and with my parents aging, every visit is extra-special.
Still, I have enough optimism left to feel that 2021 can really be better. Maybe we’ll even have a safe, effective, available and reasonably priced vaccine. I’m starting an editing business. Writing a gluten-free cookbook. And even if it all fails, there are still 365 sunrises. Cups of tea. And contact with friends and family, even without hugs.
No, this year didn’t look anything like what we expected. But 2021 gives you a new start. You can still Grab Your Year and Go!