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Lessons Learned in 2020

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Reading time: 6 minutes
They say that if it did not work out, it is a lesson learned. Considering how many things did not work out, there is a lot to learn.
macbook pro displaying group of people
Photo by Chris Montgomery | Unsplash

Don’t you feel like 2020 was a bad drama mixed in with your worst nightmares? I mean, the TV series is 366 episodes long. Every episode contains so much drama that in three seasons of it, you are so full of events that you do not even care anymore. Yet, events are so bizarre that you keep thinking: “Okay, this cannot be happening. I will wake up and send a 12-hour long voice message about my weird dream to my best friend”. Weirdly enough, there are aspects that you can still enjoy. It seems like it was the year in which we grew the most. We had so much to learn, both individually and globally. It was painful and sometimes heartbreaking. Yet, those were lessons of compassion for ourselves and the people around us. So let’s go through these lessons once again. It would be a waste of time if we forgot them. 

Lesson 1: Being alone is okay, but meeting people is okay too.

Isolation did not treat anyone kindly. Extroverts were stuck at home, badly craving human interaction. After many parties, meetings with colleagues, and getting to know random people while travelling, being alone was a problem. Everything was over so abruptly. One day you were hugging people and sharing stories with strangers, and the next you woke up not being allowed to leave your room. It may seem like introverts were having the time of their lives in quarantine. Finally, you could enjoy books, TV shows or art without feeling guilty about not leaving your home for three days in a row. Now, you can be proud of it. It seemed perfect. Until one day, you felt like going for a coffee with someone. Even parties didn’t feel that awful anymore. All of us learned something about relationships that year too. While extroverts were learning how to be alone, introverts learnt that other humans are not too bad. It is not about contradictions anymore. It is about the balance: you may need a minute for yourself sometimes, but you may also need people more than you thought you did. 

people looking at sunset, doing hearts with hands
credit: Noorulabdeen Ahmad

Lesson 2: Connections require effort.

We can all agree that relationships require effort. However, sometimes we forget that it is not about romantic relationships only. Being friends is usually easy: you meet them every day on campus, or you live near each other. Now, you cannot meet up and discuss everything. You have to check up on them on messaging apps and go through yet another video call. It is hard to do this when you have no will to check DMs and you are fed up with calls because you have had three classes today. It is totally okay to not communicate with anyone if you do not feel like it and need your moment of privacy. Yet, sometimes we are just a bit lazy or too invested in our own lives so we forget to reach out. Friendships are not to be taken for granted. Shoot an “Are you okay?” message. Talk through problems. Get on that video call before you have no one to call.

video call with phone
Lessons Learned in 2020

Lesson 3: Sometimes existing is enough.

You barely notice that something is wrong with your mental health: you have no time for it. And if you do notice, you have no time to fix it, except for putting on a facemask, taking a selfie and adding the hashtag ‘self-care’ as a caption when you post it. At one moment, we stopped everything we were doing. It happened during the first week of quarantine. That is when we had nothing to do but to notice that something was not okay with the life we were living. We put tasks first, putting off mental health for a later time that will never come. We normally strive for better grades, even though it requires two all-nighters. We pick up projects to have a better CV but then do not manage to maintain any kind of social life. This was the first year when we were told that existing was enough. That we could be proud of it. That we did a good job by choosing to wake up. If you feel like your life is falling apart or that you cannot finish a single task, it is okay. Existing is enough.

Lesson 4: Little things can make a difference.

Our world has plenty of busy and active people; always keeping their minds full of ideas, with new projects to do, moving around. 2020 has forced everybody to act differently though. With the feeling of time having stopped, there has been a worldwide opportunity to slow down and enjoy other things around us that even though we previously knew they existed, certainly some people never fully paid attention to them - until today. Who would have said that the smell of roasted coffee in the morning or the taste of a delicious meal while slowly enjoying it could give us such satisfaction? No one would. Who dares to deny how vital quality time with our beloved ones and on our own is or to savour ephemeral moments like these ones? There is some luck in being able to do that, to have a full life in front of us to enjoy apparently trivial things the way we may do so from now on. You know, sitting by the chimney while reading a good book, enjoying a sunny postcard day, having deep and fulfilling conversations... just small pleasures of our daily lives that can make a difference.

with a cup of tea in bed
credit: Allison Christine

Lesson 5: We are stronger together. 

Many constitutions contain the phrase ‘any form of discrimination is forbidden’. Slavery is over as well. Black people even have a right to vote! So where is the problem? The answer is: in society. Even though we do have a utopian society on paper, de facto it is non-existent. People are still being judged by the colour of their skin, the shape of their eyes or their accents instead of their abilities. It is not only about the system or government. It is about racists who you see in the comments under BLM posts or people who protested against BLM. It may even be your relative who likes to make inappropriate comments on family dinners. 2020 served as a reminder that racism is still present in our society, no matter where you live, but it also helped us realise that we can all help make a difference. Keep learning. Keep signing petitions. Keep donating. 

three girls hugging
credit: Gemma Chua Tran

Yes, it has been a tough year for many of us. And yes, we will still have to hold on together as the pandemic is not over. But now that this bumpy year has come to an end, we can look back at the lessons we may have learned from it. Whether we are next to our family, our friends, or on our own, it doesn’t matter, life will always be full of experiences, moments and sensations which will help us to become the people we are. Let’s just enjoy everything great that may be surrounding us. Never forget that, despite what we may do, the world will always move forward, times will change and evolve, people will still be people. Respect each other. Recognise each other’s rights. Start providing solutions to make the end of discrimination something real and not only an insight into a simple willingness caught forever in the chapter of a history book.

This year could be wrapped up in many different ways. But following popular wisdom, it is said that if it did not work out, it is a lesson learned. Considering how many things did not work out in 2020, you can glimpse back on how many lessons we have learned.