Lessons I Learned in 2020

The unexpected happened in the year of the Lord 2020!

With COVID19, the world pretty much shut down. I’m not going to regurgitate the events, because we all know what happened and how weird things have been this year. What we all know is that it has tested our resilience, and depending on where you were mentally and emotionally, our responses and reactions varied, which is to be expected.

The pandemic found me personally in a space of hope, the year had just began and I had plans in mind for what I hoped to accomplish both personally and in my profession. I was on the journey or personal growth and development (as many of us are). I have the course of time evolved into a glass half-full person, and at that point, I had been more and more trying to be mindful about my mental and emotional well-being – observing my reactions to anything and tried to follow the train to what triggered them, and figure out how to navigate circumstances better – ultimately to be a better person and have better impacts. To say the least, I was in a good space at the time everything unfolded.

When the first case of COVID19 was reported in my home state of Washington, events span quickly as the Country made decisions to completely shut down. Many businesses had to suspend operations, while some devised means by which to keep their business running without compromising their employees and customers health and safety. It was a lot to figure out in so little time. And we did, for the most part.

I have to acknowledge that many people have lost their lives and loved ones and businesses have indefinitely closed and many people have lost their jobs. The pandemic has shifted us in all kinds of ways. Therefore, in this post, my intention is not to dismiss the craziness, loss, the unfortunate circumstances that many of us have experienced. I just would like to sift through what happened and highlight some of the positive and lessons learned as I have navigated different situations throughout the year. I think many of us can agree that our approaches to and attitudes about life were tried and tested, and I believe we are coming out of this situation with new skills and new ways of approaching life in 2021 and beyond.

So here are some of the lessons I have learned.

  1. Recognize and prioritize what is most important at the core.

What are your core values? In my case I have always identified faith, family and friendship as the core values and this has played out during this time. I have relied on my faith to keep myself together. Additionally, my parents, a few of my relatives, my nieces and nephews, have been such emotional anchors during this time.  I have spent more time with them more than I have ever, and I have enjoyed every bit of it. Although, friendship has been a bit difficult to maintain during this time – especially where it requires physical presence, I have managed to check in periodically, organized virtual calls with groups of friends. Also, this time has made me realize how much meaning I find in the work that I do. I am a public servant, and that work that I do impacts many families. I have always been committed to my work, and COVID confirmed my conviction. Service is very much my purpose

2. Accept things you can neither change nor control.  

I do not know if we will ever get a chance to live in times like we have/are. COVID came and shut everything down! Our plans, our goals, and our means were forced to a stop. If you did not learn to let go of things you can’t control during this time, I do not know what else will teach you that. In 2020 I learned to accept things as they come and to be open to life as it unfolds.

“God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace…”

3. But be open to change course. 

I learned to let go of things I can’t control, but to respond to meet the needs of the moment. Not out of emotions, but with objectivity and logic. The timing in decision-making was important. Sometimes the decision needed to be made quickly– even with the risks, while other times, the decision had to be more calculated and waited out. But what was key was the acceptance of the new reality and embracing the opportunities that the new reality brought and enjoying new journey – even with its complications.

4. Be grateful.

I believe that there is always something to be grateful for. Always. This way of thinking has shifted my life in general to be happy more than not. Especially during this time. When experiencing tough times, I have observed that if I take a moment to identify the things that are going well – even say them out loud, I can feel my energy shift and I become less anxious. Gratitude that I am still alive, with shelter, with a sound mind, my family, a source of income, among other things, brings enough hope for me to face another day’s complications. Celebrating milestones and accomplishments can really help with this – to bring or keep life in perspective – that in spite of the difficulties, there are areas where you are thriving.

5. Do things that make you happy.

Figure out what you enjoy. I have done more of the things I enjoy during this time. I have played more music, danced, sang along, met with my small circle of family and friends and have had a great time with them (it’s been full of laughter). I also took up new hobbies to keep life interesting and less monotonous. I am advancing my piano skills and have picked up guitar classes during this time. Also, I started a podcast, which is allowing me to have conversations about issues that I’m curious or passionate about. It keeps me learning and sharing, and that makes me happy.

6. Appreciate and Explore my immediate surroundings

Adventure is part of our nature. And, of course, this shows up differently for different people. One of the most common frustrations about the current situation is the limitation or added requirements to travel. Several of my friends leave out of state, and my way of maintaining our relationship is to travel to see them, and we end up going on adventures. Also, I have in the past traveled solo, just to get a way. This year, air travel has been limited and advised against and out of caution I have not taken a flight this year, which made me feel very limited. However, I discovered another way to quench my need for adventure. I don’t know why this has taken me so long to realize, but road trips to parts of Washington State that I have never been was the highlight of my summer and possibly my year. I took a week off and took the scenic routes to visit 5 of the 7 wonders of Washington. They were all day trips! I felt so free and so rejuvenated.

In the past, many people, including myself – clearly, have not really appreciated their immediate surroundings and with the world shut down and the travel restrictions implemented, we were forced to explore more our immediate surroundings. I decided that I will do this more often. Adventure is an important remedy to bring some balance, and I have realized that I do not have to go so far to nurture my need for adventure.

7. Take time for yourself. Take care of your mental health.

Mental health is such a buzz that I’m afraid this may be taken as a cliché, but taking care of myself has been a priority – particularly my mental health (my weight is a whole ‘nother issue What aided this for me was making time for myself. The solo trips to the different regions of the State were one way to do this. I came back feeling relaxed and my mind renewed (a huge part of it was because I was alone with nature). In addition to being in lockdown, we were dealing with social issues. It was (still is) a lot that we have had to adjust to, and you can’t deny the impact on one’s mental health. I have tried to limit my social media intake (and other media or social networks that provide way for me to consume negative information) as a means to, as much as possible, guard my mind from frustration, anger and negativity.

This too shall pass. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. These are tough times, but there is definitely much to learn from and during them. It is important to acknowledge the pain points and what this experience has brought us, because I think it’s not healthy to just move on without recognizing the impact the pandemic has had on us in various way. In doing so, it will be easier for to more effectively move forward when the pandemic is considered over. There is hope. Hope that the new normal will be better than what was. That much as we’ve lost, there is a lot to look forward to.

“Toast to the lessons not yet learned and to the trials that will teach them.” – Brook Fraser