Reflecting on 2020
Baltasar Garcian, the Spanish writer and philosopher once said “self-reflection is the school of wisdom”. Well if that’s the case, I think this year has put us all through a pHD and maybe a post-doctorate as well. Reflection is defined as ‘serious thought or consideration’. And with a global pandemic still at hand whilst nearing the end of a Gregorian calendar, what better time to stare into the mirror of the cosmos and reflect on oneself, life and the past 12 months?
Before we dive head first into introspection let’s take the time to acknowledge a few facts. 2020 has definitely been a year of change, lessons, humbling, ups and downs. No matter your socio-economical status, COVID came in like a bat out of hell with no discrimination or order in terms of attack and destruction. Now, this pandemic has also proven facts that we’ve all known to be true, such as “the rich get richer” (I’m looking at you Jeff Besos) and “the poor get poorer” (insert the names of countless individuals with precarious work who are now out of jobs and are swimming in a sea of debt in hopes of the government tossing them a (viable) life raft). But whether you sip Cristal for breakfast or water down your OJ to make it last a little longer, the reality of this game-changing year is impossible to ignore. Though some may be of the mindset of “the past is the past. Why reflect on something you can’t change?” I am here to challenge your pragmatism with a few fun facts. My dear left-brained friends, are you aware that reflection allows your brain the chance to pause and unravel the various observations you’ve made and experiences you’ve lived which helps one contemplate the numerous potential interpretations? This allows you to create meaning which inturn grows into learning. This flowering of new knowledge closes the loop by becoming future ethos, mindsets, attitudes and actions. All that new-age-crystal-ball-esque jargon basically means that reflection (and self-reflection) is an important component to wellness. Your brain (and mind) are muscles too, and if you don’t exercise your muscles they succumb to atrophy. Yes, sudoku and word-find games are great for working your left brain but you wouldn’t build Hulk-like muscles on one arm and let the other one wither away, would you? So over the holidays, let’s take the time to reflect on 2020 and how this year has affected us. Don’t worry, I’ll go first. Here are 3 things 2020 has taught me…
1. The Preciousness of Life
I’m not talking about life, as in a bunch of cells working miraculously together to form a biological system that works in synergy like a well oiled machine. Or the endless (and impossible) game of striving to live forever. I’m talking more-so about the importance of living life, as in living life to the fullest and appreciating life. Oh the plans I had for 2020. The weddings I was going to attend, the trips I was going to take, the family milestones I was going to celebrate, the graduations I was to witness, the groups I was going to join, the classes I was going to take (and yes, I am aware of how much of a privileged western millennial I sound). How dare you COVID-19 come in and steal my shine!? And I know I’m not the only one who’s bubble got burst by a microscopic killer. But it (or the removal of distractions which forced me to do some much needed self-reflection) did provide me with some insight and helped me realize that every once in a while you need to slam on the brakes before you go nowhere fast. 2020 has given me the opportunity to realize that there really is no time like the present. The past is a distant memory and the future is a projected dream. But while trapped in my shoebox-sized apartment with nowhere to go and no one to see I would reminisce on all my adventures and happy moments of distant days and think to myself “if I only knew…”...but that’s just it...you DON’T know. So take the time to stop and smell the roses because you never know when a global pandemic will knock on Earth’s door. The importance of remaining present and enjoying life as it unfolds is of great value as it is the only power we truly hold. You can plan for the future and learn from the past but you can only control your present state. This lesson has been amplified this year as plans have been put on hold and the future remains uncertain. And I’m sure we all learned how to make the most of your present mindset in order to stay sane during crazy-times.
2. Change Can Bring Growth
2020 has also taught me that change is good. Even when it’s bad. I’m sure you can come back and list hundreds of different ways change has negatively impacted people, places and things but I believe that the reflection that change can bring has the ability to move people forward and grow. It’s what you do with that change that can make or break you. This year has changed all our lives. In some ways for the better, like learning new skills or developing new hobbies. But this year has also really changed how much I value many people in my life as well as the way I show them how much I value them. With this year being about social distancing, covering the majority of your face and spending time in isolation, it’s easy to feel disconnected from people. And in reflecting on that disconnection, I realized just how precious relationships really are. I mean yes, we all ‘know’ that relationships are important, but this year I really got to KNOWWWWW the importance of relationships. Just how much simple and pure joy it brings me to merely have a conversation with family or friends, to see someone’s face, their smile, the expression in their eyes (even if it’s through a phone, laptop or at a 6 foot distance)...all things that I subconsciously or occasionally reflected on but never took the time to consciously contemplate and reflect on how these connections bring happiness into my life (Hello? Maslow? Is that you and your hierarchy of needs?). And it's not just people that will bring this flow of joy in your life. Many people throughout this pandemic, myself included, were blessed with the opportunity to appreciate the outdoors, green spaces and the unconditional love of a furry (or feathery, or even scaly) friend and the power/importance of connection.
3. Life Is Like A Pendulum
Reflecting on this year has taught me that life is like a pendulum. We are not perfect, but the only way out is through. If that ain’t the truth for 2020. As much as I wished, prayed, begged, pleaded and cried, my wishes to wake up from this nightmare fell on Coronavirus’ deaf ears. So I’ve had to take a deep breath (or two) and accept that the only way we’re going to get to the end of this is by going through it. And just like Newton’s cradle, life is a balance of moving forwards and backwards...and you know what?...that’s OK. To deny that, occasionally, one may regress despite significant growth is to deny your humanness. This year has been trying for many people, communities, governments and businesses. And when faced with adversity, we all have moments, maybe some large, maybe some small, of regression. In a time when being social is relegated to the backburner, many who have social anxiety and who have been working hard to develop healthy coping mechanisms may have had their growth stunted, or have returned to a dark place of fear and uneasiness when thinking about meeting new people or going to a social event again. Some people who never had social anxiety and navigated social situations with ease may now feel a bit nervous when challenged with the prospect of being thrown into social situations. Practice makes perfect and when you haven’t been able to read non-verbal cues from peoples faces due to face-coverings for 9+ months, the thought of meeting new people can be more stressful than ever. On top of that, we have been forced to isolate. For many who were already dealing with feelings of loneliness, isolation or lack of belonging, this year definitely proved to be even more challenging. And for those who are used to social contact, when human touch has been stripped away from daily life, the feeling of isolation can increase. Add on the cold weather and Seasonal Affective Disorder and one can see how 2020 has been a full-frontal assault on mental health. I’m not trying to be pessimistic, I’m just keeping it real. This year has not been easy. I’m guilty of falling back to old thought patterns and old ways, but the beauty of this regression is that, just like Newton's cradle, once that sphere swings all the way back, it moves forward with a force so powerful that it travels right through everything in its way. This energy reaches the end and propels that last sphere to new heights. Energy can never be created nor destroyed, it's conserved and transformed. And though this year may have caused some regression, that energy can morph into growth with the right mindset (provided through reflection). As Nikki Giovani once said: “Mistakes are a fact of life. It is the response to the error that counts”. So, remember what I was saying about how through reflection we end up learning?
Well, through reflecting on 2020, my ups and downs, I’ve learned so much about myself, and I’m sure you have too. Maybe you’ve had the opportunity to truly discover your likes and dislikes without external influences and have developed a deeper connection with yourself this year. Many of us have set goals (big or small) and achieved them with all the new-found time on our hands (like learning to play an instrument, learning a new language, learning to cook or bake or mastering a challenging yoga pose). 2020 has allowed us to try new things, in new ways and forced us to mature and evolve in ways that we couldn’t have before (or at least not in 12 months).
All this to say, reflection is a wonderful tool to add in your wellness kit. And with such a rollercoaster of a year, what better time to exercise your mind and spirit? You don’t have to sit on a rock staring at a river in the middle of nowhere to meditate on this. Make it fun! Challenge your friends and family to reflect on the events and emotions of this year and laugh, cry and learn together! Write a journal, draw, paint, sing, dance or do anything else that helps you process these unprecedented times and express the knowledge you’ve gained through reflecting on the 365 days of 2020.
Written by: Bayza Mirotichie