It is a cold Sunday afternoon, and I am sitting at my desk, looking out the window, and trying to reflect on the lessons that 2020 has brought me. “Where to even begin?” is the first thing that comes to mind because for me—and for millions of people across the globe, if social media is any indication—this year has been so ?!>?/.,^!#?!,?!&*?!)#^??#,!?!&?.!?,!!#^&*(<!?!&?!?!. It feels like the world is on fire, moving in slow motion and fast forward all at once. For me, the US Thanksgiving holiday provided some much-needed respite from the busyness of daily life. Since I moved to Boston to pursue a Masters in Business Analytics (MSBA) at Hult International Business School—a program that is every bit as demanding as it sounds—my daily routine has mostly been: wake up, study, go to school, do homework, eat, sleep, repeat.
Collectively, the world is dealing with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), a health crisis like one many of us have never experienced before; this is in addition to the myriad of socioeconomic issues that we are faced with daily. COVID-19 has thrown away every sense of normalcy and ushered in new realities of record unemployment rates, remote-working, mask-wearing, homeschooling, travel restrictions, and limited physical and social contact. Numerous people have lost loved ones in the blink of an eye, and without being able to say goodbye. We lost Kobe Bryant, John Lewis, Breonna Taylor, Chadwick Boseman, George Floyd and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. These are just the names I can recall off the top of my head, and I am afraid of what I’ll discover or remember with a quick Google search.
The point is: 2020 has been rife with bad news and a sense of hopelessness that has been felt en masse, and it is human nature to think of these first when taking stock. No one can dispute the hardship of this year, but if we can be honest for a while, there has also been some good news. Perhaps more importantly, however, the distress of 2020 has taught us all some lessons that I suspect we will be holding on to for a long time to come. Here are some of mine.
“Take your time but don’t waste your time.”
I came across this quote on Lupita Nyong’o’s tribute to Chadwick Boseman, and it has stayed with me ever since. For me, this statement carries the simple yet powerful message of intentionality as we move through life. Life is too short, and time is too precious a currency; we ought to spend it on the things that mater with the people that matter to us. For many people, especially this year, learning about and taking a stand for worthy causes has been one way to spend time on important things.
We can never speak too loudly or protest too fiercely about causes that matter, whether it be Black Lives Matter, human trafficking or climate change. In the same vein, we cannot individually tackle every social justice issue, nor should we try to. Activism looks different for everyone, and it encompasses so much more than black squares, voting or marching in the streets. Take your time to do the things that matter and the things you love. Take your time to discover and learn what these things are. Take your time but don’t waste your time.
Take a break…
…from life, from social media, from all the things that need taking a break from. The collective exhaustion that we feel is real and it is important that we remember to rest, especially in a society that increasingly prioritizes profit and productivity over people. Take a nap, do yoga, unplug from social media, take a walk (with a mask, of course), call your dad. The “what” does not matter as much as making sure that you do something (or nothing). And when you do take breaks, it is just as important to not feel guilty for taking them. I recently discovered a yoga instructor’s YouTube channel through a friend’s social media post, and I decided to check it out one day. Today, I can proudly say that I am 15 days into a 30-day meditation series that leaves me feeling calm and relaxed every morning.
The ongoing pandemic has generated some much-needed conversation about the importance of caring for our mental health as an extension of self-care, and this is a journey that looks different for everyone. Turn off your email notifications for a day, make that spa appointment you have been meaning to, lay in bed and watch tv for one day this weekend. Let go of the idea that you need to be productive all the time or the notion that your worth is tied to your productivity. Give yourself the grace and the space to explore what rest looks like for you. Be kind to yourself and don’t postpone rest; you need it, and you need it now.
Regardless of where you find yourself, chances are, this year has challenged you in several ways, some previously unimaginable. It feels rather cliché to say that we grow stronger from pain, but we do. The unexpectedness of this year is molding us into more resilient individuals and communities, we only need to embrace the growth with arms open wide.