Let’s talk 2020. This time last year, I was naively optimistic. 2020 was supposed to be the year of more celebrations, opportunities, and travel. We can’t really predict the future, now can we? Instead, this year was quite the opposite of what I had in mind. I have spent the majority of this year, in my room, in front of my desk, probably on zoom calls. And if I wasn’t working, I was probably in the kitchen… baking or eating.
I’m sure everyone can agree this year did not go as planned. To say it bluntly… it sucked. I was anxious and fatigued through it all. Sometimes, I wonder if this year was even real. Is this an simulation? Is this an awful dream I can’t wake up from? Despite the challenges and uncertainty, I am extremely fortunate to be where I am today and for the health of my loved ones. At the end of the day, with all that’s going on, isn’t that what matters?
So this year may have sucked, but it’s definitely given me a change in perspective that I can bring forward in 2021. I gained a newfound sense of myself, my priorities, and my needs. I may have not done much physically this year, but I definitely gained some new lessons. Here are the 2 main ones that stuck with me:
1. It’s ok to not be “on” 100%
I used to think I had to be productive all the time to feel successful — whether it’s in my studies, career, and personal life. This year, I had weeks where I went into overdrive working long hours, thinking I was just simply doing my work. It has been more challenging to strike that work-life balance when home is work and work is home now. Some days, work was all I could think about and I rationalized it by telling myself that I didn’t have anything else to do anyway. I later recognized that I have a need to be constantly productive and occupied. And I was doing the same thing with my fitness routine.
Before the pandemic, I used to attend my Pure Barre workout classes about 3-4 times a week depending on my schedule. Since the classes are now on zoom and I could do them at home, I started to squeeze in more weekly classes: nearly 5-6 days a week after I logged off work for the day. This was my way of maintaining normalcy even while at home. With this routine, I felt productive, accomplished, even stronger. On my rest days, I would feel guilty and unproductive– simply, “blah”
I channeled the world’s emotional stimuli and distress into my work and fitness because those were the things I could control. Those were the things I could zero in on so that I wouldn’t consume myself in my own thoughts. I would go into productivity overdrive in my work and fitness to distract myself from life’s stressors. However, I later realized how unfair it was to expect myself to achieve the same (or greater) level of productivity than normal this year.
This same lesson holds true in my personal life. I’m allowed to have social breaks, and not feel guilty for it. I used to feel that in order to gain social acceptance from my friends, I had to be “on” all the time — that I always had to be very social and extroverted. I used to have “off” days when I would push my feeling aside, switch on my outgoingness, and hang out with a large group of friends, thinking that would make me feel better. Instead, it would drain me. I can’t switch my feelings on and off in split second — they’re not like a light switch. Sometimes I have to take it easy. Being less sociable or taking time for myself some days doesn’t make me any less of a friend, nor is it selfish.
My greatest takeaway is that I don’t have to be “on” 100% of the time. Rest is important, mentally, and physically. Professionally and personally. It’s ok to take a few days off work, to have a lazy day by myself, and treat myself to some goodies (or a few). These things won’t halt my hard-earned progress, but rather, give me the energy to keep moving forward.
2. Consistent friends will always show up
I was surprised at how close I got to some of my friends this year, even while physically distant. Many of these close friends are those I don’t speak to or see often (even in normal circumstances). However, these are the friends who bring a smile to my face when I get a call or text after a while, and we can just pick up right where we left off.
I’ve learned that true friendships (while you have to put work into them) should be easy-going. I shouldn’t have to feel like I need to be 100% all the time for them to work (see #1). It’s a two-way streak and I shouldn’t be expected to carry all the weight. Like I mentioned before, I’ve struggled with putting my feelings on the back burner so that I can be social and extroverted– I feared that if I didn’t, my friendships wouldn’t thrive. I was wrong. We all have a lot going on and I don’t expect all my friends to completely understand what’s going on in my life. But, I do expect my friends to understand that my feelings are true and valid. If that means I’m just having an “off” day and can’t explain why I expect them to honor that.
It seems difficult and lonely to make friends in adult life. With school, I’m surrounded by my peers– friendships come naturally because it’s convenient. However, I think post-college (and especially this year) has been the true test of some of my friendships. I have been able to better connect with others who have shared interests, values, and goals.
I’m lucky to have friendships from all phases of my life. Some of my closest friends I’ve known since childhood and high school, others I’ve known since college. This pandemic has tested these friendships and shown me what it really means to have that support system. I have different communication styles and frequencies with all of them but one thing in common: our interactions don’t feel formal/forced. It’s easy to pick up where we left off, regardless of how much time has passed. I can genuinely open up and be myself, without judgment. And importantly, they show up, consistently.
This piece is one of the rawest blog posts I’ve written thus far, but I hope you enjoyed it and are able to relate. I would love to hear of your similar experiences or anything you have learned this year!
Here’s to growth and reflection this year, despite the challenges, and may next year be full of making memories, travels, celebrations, and health! Happy (almost) New Year! I hope to see you never, 2020. 😉