2020 wasn’t the year anybody expected, so what would you tell your January self if you had the chance?
In 2019, “climate strike” was named word of the year by the Collins Dictionary. As we were entering 2020, we swore to ourselves, with one hand-on-heart and the other holding a glass of bubbly, to live a greener life and lead a more sustainable lifestyle, among our other undoubtedly long-forgotten New Year’s resolutions.
Reflecting on the past few months, climate strikes and strikes in general could have potentially retained the title for the second year straight. However, one word that physically interrupted these strikes, sending most of them online, ranked foremost: 2020 became the year of “lockdown”.
Lockdown has given us a lot of food for thought, as well as time for those thoughts. Some of us had no one to cry to but ourselves, no place to go to but our own bodies, and no work to distract ourselves with but the hardest, most draining, and strenuous work of all: working on ourselves. Indeed, this year has been like no other; not better, not worse, but rather different and incomparable.
Yet, If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t really want to rewrite my resolutions completely, adding such trivial things as being more frivolous and going out more when it’s still possible, acceptable, and safe – pursuits which with the events of this year seem far from trivial, quite frankly. Instead, I would emphasise the “big” things a little more. So, if I could travel back and give my January self any advice for the year ahead of her, this is what I’d say:
Practice gratefulness. I know you’ve been journaling already, but maybe try writing down and focusing on what you’re grateful for, instead of what made you feel like shit. You’ll be surprised at what appears on the page.
You are afforded many privileges by the society you live in (they’ll become more apparent to you soon). Acknowledge those and question your beliefs. Reshape them if needed. Constantly running low on battery will only lead to more exhaustion and thus, less work getting done. Have your priorities sorted and rest before you take on more work - everything else will wait. You won’t be able to find out how much you’re able to achieve unless you give yourself some time off. And yes, time off means doing nothing. You’ll become more familiar with the concept when the time comes.
Don’t try to bite off more than you can chew. All these activities and responsibilities that you’re so willingly taking upon yourself and trying to juggle are pointless if you don’t know what you’re doing them for. Treating your time with respect doesn’t always mean having every single hour dedicated to something useful – it can be investing it into activities which align with your goals and which make you happy. Otherwise, you’ll struggle big-time.
And yes, the same applies to the people you surround yourself with. I know you want to be friends with everyone - who doesn’t? Wouldn’t the world be a better place if everyone liked everyone as Andy Warhol thought? Truth be told, it probably wouldn’t. There’s only so much of yourself that you can give to others, so give it to those who inspire you, support you, and who challenge you in a healthy way. And this year you’re in for a wild ride when it comes to self-growth, so fasten your seatbelt and make sure there’s someone to talk to when the pace gets too fast, or you get scared. Be present for them too, but don’t forget about your boundaries.
Boundaries. Familiarise yourself with the word, please. Don’t compromise them.
You’re strong, but you don’t always have to be – and you don’t always have to pretend that you are for the sake of others. Don’t be afraid to show vulnerability. Let yourself be who you are and feel what you have to feel. Protect yourself and your energy. Repressed emotions will lead to stagnation, and emotional stagnation is not a sign of strength – it’s the opposite.
Speaking of which, change your perception of physical strength and health. Now. Exercise to feel good, rather than to look good. If you work out and eat whole with only your physical appearance in mind, you’ll be disappointed. It’s your health and wellbeing that matters, everything else comes second. Don’t worry, you’ll learn to listen to your body. It will ask you to stop fighting it.
Another crucial word to add to your vocabulary: Mindfulness. Take care of your mind. Again, rest your mind. Quite a few things will come to the surface this year, and it will take time to work through them. But you’ll thank yourself later.
And, finally, the usual: worry less, be open to change, trust the process, and let things unfold naturally. And don’t panic, soon you won’t be such a planning and control freak anymore – that one gets sorted for you.