2020 was a year we will collectively never forget. It was the year the world turned upside down and life as we know it came to a halt. Feelings of uncertainty, fear and anxiety challenged most of us. Today I’m reflecting on what this year has taught me, because as hard as it (and some of its lessons) were, I think I grew a lot this year.
I confronted my fears
I’ve always been someone who has a lot of fear about taking risks – I like to play it safe. But I hit a breaking point sometime in late-summer. I started seeing a psychiatrist, taking medication for my anxiety, seeing a therapist virtually, took a month of medical leave and made a big work decision. All things I was terrified of doing, but my sanity depended on it and I have zero regrets. It was freeing to make some big decisions, even though I was scared in the moment.
I got better at enforcing boundaries
I tolerated a lot less in all aspects of my life this year. People are hurting and angry, and I do have compassion for that, but I refused to be a punching bag and deposit box for other’s issues. There was a lot of blocking, unfriending and moving away from relationships without a level of mutual respect. I learned I didn’t have to allow people to have access to me if they did not interact with me in a way that was respectful and kind – online or off. Living in a world where it’s easy to connect with almost anyone with the click of a button makes it easy for people to steal your energy and say things without consequence and I’m not opening the door for those types of interactions anymore. There are no warnings or second chances – I just don’t have the time or emotional bandwidth for it.
I stood up for what I believed in
So much has happened this year – from George Floyd’s murder and the protests that followed, political disagreements and the COVID-19 pandemic. I was not interested in remaining silent about my beliefs and that comes with its own set of consequences that I’ve accepted.
I challenged my own beliefs
I spent time this year reading books about racism and challenging my own beliefs and biases. This included examining how white supremacy was deeply embedded into my upbringing, even though I never considered myself to be racist. Doing this work was important and worthwhile – but it doesn’t end. Examining ones thoughts, feelings and biases when it comes to race is an ongoing process without a finish line. The ways in which white supremacy is deeply ingrained in society as a whole isn’t something that can be “cured” with a few weeks of reading. Continuing to challenge assumptions, biases and feelings is something that can and should continue throughout your lifetime. See more anti-racism resources here and here.
I prioritized my mental health
I have never in my life spent as much time honoring my mental health needs as this year. Between seeing a psychiatrist, taking medication for my anxiety, weekly talk therapy and taking a month of medical leave from work, 2020 was the year I finally went “all in” to address my mental health. I finally accepted that therapy wasn’t enough for me and embraced that medication could give me the outcome I’d always hoped for. My mental health isn’t perfect, but it’s much better than it was before. Medication helps take the edge off enough so that my days are not spent in a constant spiral of worry and intrusive thoughts. It also helps me cope better when I do feel anxious.
I created a space for happiness
I know this sounds silly, but creating my home décor group this summer really provided an outlet for me that was positive and uplifting. Due to the pandemic, a lot of our social connections now take place online and I couldn’t be more thankful for the amazing community there. I’ve always had a passion for home design and décor and this group has been an escape from the endless news cycle – when I’m on Facebook, 95% of the time, I’m there to participate in that group and nothing else.
I recognized the silver linings
I blogged about this back in June, but I continue to recognize the silver linings, the most precious which is the bond our children developed with all of their time spent at home 24/7 from March through summer. But there have been more since then. My husband and I are both still employed, my blog has been doing well, our children are thriving, our family has remained healthy thus far, I was able to get the COVID-19 vaccine, we got Teddy, had our entire yard turfed and landscaped and spend so much time outdoors now…the list goes on. Though I’m eager to travel, resume normal activities and more – this time where we were forced to stay home and slow down comes with its own set of blessings.
Since we moved right before the pandemic hit, it has been incredible to be home a lot and focus on all of the home-related projects that I know would have taken us much longer to accomplish in our typical routine. Living in our home 24/7 allowed us to recognize what our needs were and how we used the spaces in our home and optimize all of those spaces to make life at home more functional (and beautiful!)
Our family became closer
Though I’m back at the office now, we did spend many months together 24/7, something we will likely never again experience in our lifetime. I am grateful for that privilege and thankful for the time we got to spend together. Our life was full of so many activities and we almost always saw friends on weekends, but with those options out, we really counted on one another to fulfill so many needs.
I thought about the future
This relates back to my career decision – but this time of working remotely and being home more often really made me think about the future – my short and long term goals and where I see myself in the next 3-5 years. It made me realize that I should be more thoughtful about what I really want for myself instead of relying on the comfort of what I have.
I don’t know what 2021 will bring and when life will have some semblance of normalcy. I want to dip my toes in the ocean again. I want to see family and friends in Canada. I want to have vacations and moments to look forward to. Though we’ve given up so much this year, I also feel like I gained and grew a lot, which I’m grateful for.
What have you learned during this challenging year?