Well, this year didn’t go as expected….
I jest (kinda), but really, has any year ever gone as planned? I feel like most years we find ourselves excited for something new. Just thinking to the last few years for me: 2018 was a year of intense conflict and ultimately led to some heartbreaking realizations. 2019 was a year of positive self exploration, but also some really difficult prioritizing and strained relationships.
Then we have 2020 with a global pandemic and weeks that seem to last forever. For months we thought our lives were going to be temporarily inconvenienced, but now we are coming to terms with a new reality. I think the reason it has felt so difficult (even for those of us who have kept our jobs, health, and loved ones) is because of this shared experience of fear and isolation between all of humanity.
Everyone has faced huge and difficult changes this year, but there are some silver linings. It has challenged us to be more compassionate with each other and forced us to communicate more thoughtfully, and about issues that really matter. The best we can hope for in any year is to have some moments of joy and a few good people beside us during the hard times. When I think about 2020 that way, this year has been pretty amazing. Despite all the isolation, this has not been a year where I felt lonely.
I miss the big things like not worrying about the health and safety of my loved ones, as well as strangers. I miss the personal things like travel and face to face conversations, smiling at strangers in public and hugging family, live concerts and last minute plans, but I have realized that the most important things don’t really change. The people who matter most are still my priority (kid, family, etc). I have also rediscovered my appreciation for phone calls and the postal service in the age of video conferencing. Something about physical isolation has made communication and generosity more essential as we all try to make it through unprecedented changes to our daily lives.
This year has brought a lot of difficulty—Many of us have lost loved ones, income, or set aside dreams and goals we had worked toward. As a parent, it has challenged my patience and as an American, it shined a light on the morals and integrity of the people around us. For those of us who cannot compartmentalize issues of human rights or stand by when people are being hurt, this year likely brought some stark realizations about those we considered friends. For many, it has strained relationships with family as well. But with that comes a deeper appreciation for those who make us better versions of ourselves. For the people who are willing to fight, rather than giving in.
I will forever think of this year as the one where I learned what honesty and connection really feels like. Especially given the personal challenges so many of us have had to face this year. My appreciation for the people in my life who get that parenting is really damn hard, racial injustice needs to be challenged, women should not be shamed for their body, and that friendship is about letting people know you care about their feelings but never sacrificing your integrity.
Despite the physical isolation from most people in my life, this year has been one of the most romantic in the depth of communication and understanding I have found. From late night talks and shared music to intimacy. It has brought emotional challenges and brutal honesty. It has brought longing and pragmatism. It has made me see myself in new ways and understand my worth and limits. To set boundaries and let go of perfection in exchange for real connection. This year has been hard, don’t get me wrong, but it also has made me see people more clearly and to accept life as it is. To not make excuses for our choices, but to take people at face value. This year has reminded me that while love and friendship in your 40s comes with decades of experience and baggage, if you have honesty, that’s not always a bad thing.
2020 will forever be a time in my life that pushed me to appreciate what is important. Where the game of “what if” and “if only” were replaced with finding what is and accepting that. This year I started really paying attention to what I need and asking for it. In doing so, I let go of many people I had considered friends and found my voice by speaking up for myself and others. This was easy to do with people around who offer fierce and unapologetic support. These friendships have carried me through the anxiety and difficulty of this year. If this year has seemed like a decade, the people I have gone through it with are now some of my oldest friends. I am so grateful for the lessons I have learned.
Rather than lament the loss of freedom and spontaneity, I choose to celebrate my growth with gratitude. To feel blessed for the time I have spent with those I love and who I will see on the other side of this. I have no idea what the future holds, but am looking forward to whatever comes.
Just your ordinary introvert exploring and writing about some of the things I love: travel, music, and being human.