I’m going to make a controversial declaration: 2020 was NOT a wasted year. One could argue that it was a lot of things – a dumpster fire, traumatic, monotonous or even total bullshit. But not a waste.
Hear me out.
The circumstances of 2020 were unbelievable. No one saw it coming.
Most people don’t know this, but my family personally experienced four deaths, permanent layoffs, pay cuts, emotional trauma, and worry over many family members and friends who were fighting Covid. It was enough to bring one to their knees. But the challenges we faced, the lessons we learned, and the struggles we overcame have shaped who we are on this very day in time. And, no doubt, they will continue to shape us in 2021.
Before you decide to slam the door on 2020, I invite you to take stock of your own situation. It’s important to pause and really think about everything this year may have taught you. There is a good chance that even if the past 12 months were some of the hardest of your life, they were probably also some of the most important. I know they were for me.
What if 2020 was the most important year of our lives?
Instead of measuring this year in a traditional way, I propose we approach it a little differently – not just focusing on how productive we’ve been, but also looking back on silver linings and hard lessons we take forward.
I’ll go first.
The 15 biggest lessons I learned in 2020 were:
- It’s okay to slow down.
- Time is a limited resource, you shouldn’t waste it for people or things that don’t add value to your life.
- You have the strength within you, even if you think you don’t.
- Self care is a priority, not a privilege.
- Family is paramount.
- Only you know what is best for you.
- Don’t take anything or anyone for granted.
- Happiness is self-created.
- Be intentional with everything. Your future is dependent upon it.
- Be grateful for everything you have. Nothing is constant.
- Respond instead of reacting. Have empathy.
- Forgiveness is for yourself, not the other person.
- Stay focused on your purpose even in the wake of adversity.
- Failure is inevitable for success.
- It is better to regret something that you did than regret the things you did not.
See what I mean? These big, transformative lessons might not have been recognized under normal circumstances. 2020 woke me up and brought me clarity.
Finding something to be proud of…
Usually around this time of year you’d find me assessing the last 365 days of my life. It’s an annual ritual that I traditionally enjoy. In the past I’ve looked at accomplishments, new experiences, vacations and the like as a metric for success. That seems ill-fitting for 2020, a year which has felt like one long, hazy stretch of Zoom calls, panic attacks and yoga pants.
But instead of skipping the entire exercise I decided to take a closer look at this ridiculous year. And you know what? I actually found a few things I was proud of!
- Spearheading a collaboration called Frederick Strong to rally together my community.
- Guesting on a podcast for the first time.
- Joining the board of advisors for Hood College.
- Mentoring a young professional as part of Woman to Woman Mentoring.
- Committing to prioritizing myself and losing 40 pounds.
- Leading the charge in pivoting S.H.E. Week to a completely virtual event.
- Helping move Leadership Frederick County to an online model.
- Guest lecturing courses on social media for a local college.
I also discovered a new love for hiking and rekindled my passion for running and writing. I spent an incredibly special amount of quality time with my husband and children and cultivated new friendships. I felt injustice deeply and learned more about humanity than I believe I ever had in years before.
Am I an anomaly? Of course not! I know many declare 2020 a wasted or lost year but I believe that after a bit of reflection, you’ll also be able to find many wins to be proud of!
Reflection and introspection enable us to acknowledge and honour what we’ve been through, what we’ve learnt and how we can take those lessons into the new year. It gives us an opportunity to pause, untangle our thoughts and hold space for ourselves. But most importantly, it helps us find a way to move forward.
2020 has been a year of awakening for most of us. Let’s use what we’ve learned to make this next year meaningful and filled with purpose!
Questions for you to consider on your own:
- What is the most important lesson 2020 has taught you?
- What was something you did for yourself in 2020 that you would never have considered doing before?
What big lessons did YOU learn in 2020? Feel free to leave a comment!