When 2020 started, I had some big plans: find more freelance and remote work, improve self-care while serving as my mother’s caregiver, and increase my non-networking social activities. Very few people could have predicted the effect that COVID-19 would have on our lives. Rearranging priorities, adapting to new modes of communication, rethinking our work and job search strategies (or for many, losing their jobs outright). As much as many other “2020 Year in Review” posts will focus on the effect of coronavirus/COVID-19 on our lives, I would like to highlight the five things that I have learned during this pandemic.
- I can have anything I want, but I can’t have everything I want – when I wrote a post about zen-flavored advice several years ago, it was a reminder that having goals is worthwhile, but being able to let go of goals and accept what I have at the moment is also important. This year was going to be the year that I was able to be more present in my own life…and in a way, it did, but not in the way I expected. Lockdown and social distancing have meant letting go of activities like running a coworking meetup, but they have also allowed me to focus on strengthening my current professional and personal relationships.
- Gratitude Can Be a Powerful Attitude – This past year, I was grateful for various work projects, but for really standing still and appreciating what I have. One of the greatest surprises and delights of this year was receiving a coffee mug as an impromptu gift. (There’s a long story to be told at another time). Gratitude doesn’t mean that I settle for less; it means that I am aware that despite feeling like I have nothing, I appreciate the gifts that I do have.
- Compassion, empathy, and respect matter, now more than ever – Even amidst the fear and concern, it is easy to forget that other people deserve consideration and courtesy. With many families affected financially, emotionally, and physically by the virus, showing people a modicum of respect and compassion through wearing a mask can be powerful. (I know four people who have had COVID, and one who had family members affected by the virus). In a year that served as a climax for the previous three years’ dissension and division, 2020 may be the year that reinforces the concept of common humanity.
- Online communication, especially Zoom, can be a tool for connecting: Fortunately, one of my resolutions for 2020 was strengthening and maintaining my current network, and Zoom has been especially helpful. (Like many others, I can found moving from Zoom meeting to Zoom meeting a bit overwhelming). It’s also allowed me to schedule catch-up calls with friends, hold events for Chicago Doctor Who Meetup, as well as facilitate a panel for Chicago TARDIS. As someone who found himself rushing from place to place before the pandemic, Zoom has provided ample opportunities for me to connect and be connected. And finally…
- We are human beings, not human doings: Early in the pandemic, a meme emerged that stated (to paraphrase) “If by the end of lockdown you haven’t learned a new language, started a new business, or some other task, you’re not taking advantage of free time.” Unfortunately, the hustle porn/“crushing it” mentality behind that sentiment can be crippling. (Especially for those who have other responsibilities such as caregiving). As someone who placed much of his self-worth in achievement, learning how to relax, meditate, and focus on the moment has helped me develop a much-needed perspective. As much as I have plenty to do, learning to take time to relax and rejuvenate has been an exceptional use of my time.
Granted, this is not the usual “2020 year in review” post. (And in the past, I’ve waited until January to highlight the past year). But I thought that as the year comes to a close, it was better to provide a more personal perspective over the past year.
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And as always, thanks for reading!