Seven Big Lessons I Learned in 2020

Well, here we are. My last blog post of this wild, horrible, beautiful year.

Like many of us in 2020, I spent a lot of time reflecting, learning and observing, which has often lead me here; documenting it all in some shape or form on the blog.

In a way, my blog posts of 2020 will always hold a historical importance to me. I shared how I coped, and how I celebrated, during a pivotal moment in history. And, hopefully, others will stumble upon these posts in the future and get a tiny glimpse of how we survived 2020.

What better way to say “we survived 2020” than by sharing the lessons that came out of it.

Below are the seven big ones for me.

Life before COVID wasn’t perfect

I never quite understood the rush to “go back to normal life”. A close inspection of our life pre-COVID revealed a life of exhaustion, excessive spending, unhealthy obsessions with personal image, materialism, societal pressures, traffic jams, long line-ups to crowded places, injustice, divide and disconnect. I don’t miss any of that. I hope that being forced into a simpler, slowed-down lifestyle will stick even after this period passes. I hope that our need for deeper human connection and respect will continue to be our goal.

I’ll never take hugs or smiles for granted again

I miss hugging my Mom. I miss the fragrance of my Dad’s aftershave. I miss going to the movies with my brother. I miss having friends over for wine and pizza. I miss going on coffee breaks with coworkers. I miss kissing the tiny hands and feet of newborn babies. I miss dropping by my grandma’s apartment and treating her to coffee and cookies. I miss smiles and facial expressions, now hidden behind a mask. Those are the things I miss the most about our old life. Human interactions that I’ll never take for granted again from the people I love most.

People will lend a hand

March 2020 was a moment of panic for those of us who suddenly lost our jobs. But when I reached out to my circle of friends and contacts, I was so touched at how people were willing to take their time to schedule a call with me, connect me with their recruiter, or forward me job postings. One of those job postings landed me a temporary job that provided some stability during a period of chaos (thank you, SπŸ–€). This experience reminded me that when we ask for help, people are willing to genuinely lend a hand during a time of need. It also made me feel so grateful for the humans I have in my life.

Self-doubt is part of growth

2020 was the banner year for introspection. I revisited my childhood and adolescence a lot this year, and boy did I uncover some heavy stuff. In my discovery, I realized that I have a lot of unlearning to do. One of the things I’m slowly unlearning is that self-doubt is not a reflection of my incompetence. It’s simply a feeling of not knowing the outcome of something.

I have spent the majority of my life (mainly my schooling and career life) equating my self-doubt with “I don’t belong here/I don’t deserve this/I can’t do this/I’m not enough”. Instead, I am slowly learning to see it through the lens of: “I’m faced with something new/I’m learning something I haven’t done before/I’m growing”. My old spin instructor Leah Brathwaite always used to tell us: “On the other side of discomfort is growth“, and that sentence resurfaced again when inspecting self-doubt a little more closely. It’s still a work in progress for me, but I’m finally understanding that self-doubt is part of the process of growing, it doesn’t mean we’re lacking anything.

Choose flexibility when you can’t control anything else

We had no choice but to let go of our wedding vision and postpone our wedding. It was sad and it was disappointing, but it was oddly comforting to know that the reason we were postponing (i.e. a global pandemic) was out of our control. What felt wrong was delaying time when time wasn’t even guaranteed. We learned that although we couldn’t control time, we could control what to do with it. So we changed our minds and went back to what we truly wanted: just us getting married. We chose the simple route of a backyard wedding with just our parents and siblings, and our friends and family attended virtually. Our wedding story will always be a reminder of how to make the best of what we have.

Losing a job is not always a bad thing

Sudden unemployment rattled me. It snapped me back to the reality that job security is not guaranteed, and that in fact nothing is guaranteed in life; not even life itself. Almost two decades of non-stop work and career mindsets has made me believe that I’ll always have a job. I needed to be reminded that things can change suddenly, and that I may need to re-orient the priorities in my life. I don’t think I would have learned that if I didn’t face sudden uncertainty. I realize my next statement comes from privilege, but I will always be so incredibly grateful for the time I took off work, without feeling guilt or pressure.

The benefits of phone-free morning routines

One of the most helpful habits I’ve incorporated this year for my mental wellness was to stop grabbing my phone when I wake up in the morning. I use a wake-up light as my morning alarm, so that already eliminates the need to grab my phone. During my new WFH routine, I spend a good hour and a half without my phone before I start work. When I wasn’t working, I spent that hour and a half going on morning runs or picking up groceries first thing in the morning. When I’m not allowing negative news alerts, mindless scrolls or triggering internet comments greet me first thing in the morning, my day starts off focused, productive and peaceful.

To my dear readers:

I wish you all a mentally and physically healthy New Year. I would also love to hear what big lessons you learned this year. More importantly, I want to say a big thank you to everyone who’s enjoyed this little blog space in 2020. I hope it made you feel less alone, and more inspired and hopeful.

Love always,

Nahya ✨

2 Replies to “Seven Big Lessons I Learned in 2020”

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