5 Things I Learnt In 2020

As this never-ending year finally limps to a close I find myself in much the same position as I started in. I am 23, still single, still working a part-time job in retail, and still living at home. And yet this year has changed me beyond what I could have expected. I am now the Lifestyle Editor for this lovely site – a position that didn’t even exist last year, I am preparing to get my NCTJ qualification, and I have been published across multiple publications.  2020 has made me undoubtedly more confident in myself and my work.

It can be easy to get wrapped up in the negative experiences from the year and boy there have been plenty this year but I have also seen a lot of positivity. Threads have filled my Twitter feed of young people celebrating everything they have achieved this year in the face of the pandemic. If one word could sum up 2020 it would have to be ‘resilience’.

The world we live in now is one that was unimaginable even in February, so here are five things this utterly bizarre year has taught me.

Stand up for what you believe in

Protests in support of Black Lives Matter erupted globally this year and whilst the high-level changes might not be to the extent many wished, the mindset of standing up for what you believe in and taking action will not be so easily ignored.

This doesn’t even have to be on such a massive scale either. On smaller scales, if you are pushed around at work or feel something is wrong in your friendship group; say something. Nobody is expecting you to change the world, we are not all Greta Thunberg. If we all pushed for more equality in our own lives then that ripple effect would bolster others around us.

Being brave and standing up for yourself comes hand in hand with knowing when to admit you are wrong. Self-awareness and critical analysis are skills that we all need to practice a bit more but don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself when it matters.

Set achievable goals

My friend bought me a mindfulness journal midway through the year and there was a page titled “your goals for 2020”. It felt slightly ridiculous to try and set goals in 2020. Moving out or finding a new job were probably out of reach when the world was on fire.

However, smaller goals such as to write for a paid publication or even just to be kinder to myself were completely up to me. I could chase these goals from the comfort of my home – one which I wasn’t allowed to leave anyway. We focus on large sweeping goals in our New Year’s resolutions, be that to reinvent our image or completely overhaul our entire life but those aren’t realistic. This year has taught me to readjust my expectations of what I can feasibly do within 12 months and I am better off for it. I am no longer beating myself up for not being moved out and settled down but embracing the smaller wins of my idol Terri White reading my review or seeing my name in print.

Stopping isn’t always a bad thing

When lockdown hit I felt my entire year’s plan had been thrown out the window. Things had started to go my way with work and my love life but the universe clearly had other plans. My relationship crumbled and career opportunities fizzled away to nothing but I felt a temporary relief.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not wishing for lockdown 3.0 by any means. But that first few months where we were all sitting inside watching Tiger King on Netflix, relaxing in our gardens, and just existing was a much-needed break for many of us.

We live in a 24-hour society, things are constantly happening and often with work we are so interconnected via technology it is hard to switch off. However, with businesses shut indefinitely and the Zoom meeting taking over, many of us found sanctuary in this disruption. Flexible hours may have even increased productivity in 2020.

I began a 30-day yoga challenge and actually completed it – a rarity in normal life. Some of my friends have taken up new hobbies or even just used the time they used to spend commuting to read a book and relax. In the words of Eliza Hamilton; “take a break”.

Take risks

That being said, if you didn’t want to stop but now life around has halted then create your own opportunities. Hundreds of webinars and online courses have sprung up this year – some free, some not. With so much time on their hands, people began to discover new skills or improve existing ones.

As a journalist, pitching is everything and can be time-consuming but the more you put yourself out there the more likely you are to receive something back; this extends to everyday life too. In February, before the madness, I travelled on my own for an hour to meet a tinder match for our first date – on Valentine’s Day no less. It was terrifying! But doing so allowed for a relationship, albeit brief, to blossom. Without that first date I would have missed out on 3 months of laughter, learning, and well maybe not love but you get the picture.

Without risk-taking, your life is never going to change. You cannot sit and wait for the world to hand something to you, life doesn’t always work that way.

Be Kind

Finally, I learnt to be kind. Not that I was a raging bitch before but little kindnesses go further than you would think.

We are often so busy rushing around that we forget to treat others with respect. That retail worker is far more likely to go above and beyond to help if you treat them with a bit of human decency. Life has been stressful this year for everyone so taking a second to smile (or smize with your mask on) at someone or holding the door for them can make all the difference.

Being kind includes to yourself too. Stop beating yourself up for not going to the gym today or eating a little bit too much over lockdown. We hold ourselves to such a high standard that we forget we are human. It is okay if you didn’t achieve all you wanted this year, there’s always next year and realistically opportunities will come back around.

I am a big believer in everything happens for a reason and 2020 has been a roller-coaster of a year. But we have made it through and we are all stronger for it. Through the fire and ashes of this mad never-ending year, we move into 2021 with our battle scars proudly on show. If that all sounds a bit too optimistic and rose-tinted for you think about it this way; at least it’s almost over.

 

Words by Danni Scott

 

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