2020 has been a very challenging year for most of us. I think we can all agree it has really left its mark on us all to varying degrees. We have faced many trials and tribulations. The world has become a different place in the era of COVID-19. Over the course of the year, in particular over the last few weeks, I have heard a fair few people say that 2020 is a year to forget, that we should just write it off and hope 2021 is better. But I have to disagree with this sentiment. I think 2020 is probably one of the years we must remember most. Yes, it has been nothing short of a nightmare at times, but it taught us many valuable lessons that we should carry forward into the rest of our lives on this Earth. Each year I usually do a wrap up of the year, be it personal or otherwise. This year I will be combining the two and going over some of the lessons I have learnt that I think we can all take heed of in our own lives.
2020 started with fire. The fires that ravaged Australia left us all living alongside a haze of smoke that seemed as if it would never dissipate. For me personally, the fires led to my Pop coming to stay with us for a couple of weeks. During this time, we all spent some quality time together, watching shows, playing pool at my uncle’s place, and having many a memorable conversation. Not long after he returned home to the South Coast, Pop had a fall and ended up in hospital. Just a few weeks later, at the end of January, he tragically passed away. I was there in the last couple of days of his life. Seeing him as he was in his last days, it really impacted me. It had a major effect on me on those days, and the days that came after his passing. As I have mentioned before, I don’t think I realised just how much of an impact it had on me, particularly from a mental standpoint, until a few months later. But that is for the next lesson. This tragic event in my life, despite its harshness, taught me a truly valuable lesson that I will remember as I continue forth in my life: We should always value the time we have with our family, friends and loved ones. Life changes fast, and so we should always make the most of every moment we have with the people we care about. Because we really don’t know when we’ll be spending our last moment with them. Make good memories with them that you will always remember fondly. Those memories can be such an incredible source of comfort in times of sorrow. I sometimes find myself thinking about my Pop, wishing he was still with us to celebrate special occasions, to talk to. But I just remember the memories we made, and I am so ever grateful for them.
This year has been a real test for our mental wellbeing. COVID-19 has led to lockdowns and isolation. As human beings, we are social creatures, so isolation can have a significant impact on our mental health considering we do not have those physical, face to face connections that we so enjoy. Many of us have experienced life-changing circumstances throughout this year. Most of us have probably been on a mental rollercoaster ride, having to deal with far too many ups and downs for one year. So, the next lesson 2020 has taught us is this: We must always take care of ourselves. This year in particular has reflected the importance of looking after our mental health. For me, that meant getting help when I was in a pretty bad way mentally. About a week or two into May, my anxiety had built up again, and had led to a sense of depression because of how anxious I was. As I’ve explained in a previous article, I ended up consulting a GP and then starting sessions with a psychologist. While I began the process of recovery and figuring out ways of managing the anxiety in particular, I decided it would be best for me to take another three months off from university (that’s one study period for me). So, my three-month break that had started after the conclusion of a study period in February turned into a six-month sabbatical. This turned out to be a necessity. If I had kept studying while I was trying to get better, I don’t think I would have truly been able to. I needed to have my mind focused entirely on that recovery at the time. I knew this would mean my studies would take a bit longer to complete, but I needed to put my mental health first and get my head right before I could continue. It was a difficult decision, but it was the right one. To anyone who is struggling mentally, I would encourage you to take heed of this particular lesson that 2020 has taught us. Look after yourself. Do whatever you need to do to ensure that you can maintain good mental wellbeing. Don’t be afraid to talk to someone, to get help. Because that can make all the difference.
2020 has also taught us that we cannot take things for granted, especially our freedom. If the age of COVID-19 has taught us anything it is this. Having endured lockdowns and restrictions on our lives that have changed them, inducing fear in the population, we must all awake to the reality that freedom is never a given. Our movement has been limited. Who we are permitted to see has been limited. What we are permitted to do has been limited. Many of us have allowed politicians to control almost every aspect of our lives. We took our freedoms for granted, and those in power took advantage of that. So, if we are to learn one thing from the harsh reality we have faced and continue to face, it is this: we must never take such a thing as freedom as a given. We must recognize that the freedoms that we should value so much are easily able to be stripped from us if we do not defend them from power-hungry, controlling individuals who will seize any opportunity they can to take more power than is given them. COVID-19 has given them the excuse they needed to take power under the guise of keeping us all safe. We have been told that life will never really go back to what it was before the virus. While it is easier to roll over and accept this, it is much more beneficial in the long-term to push back and ensure that we can live as free a life as possible.
Now to probably the most valuable lesson I have learnt this year: In the darkest times, an unexpected ray of light can enter your life, changing it for the better. 2020 has been especially dark for me, as I’m sure it has for many. Looking back, that darkness really started to consume me from May, putting me in a position where I needed to get help. But even after getting help, there was still darkness. There were still times when I wondered if things would ever really get a lot better. I still wasn’t really motivated. I still struggled to work up the resolve to get things done all the time. I would still put things off, telling myself they could wait until later. I still had periods of anxiety, albeit more manageable than they were before, but I suppose I felt as if I wasn’t really where I wanted to be just yet. In fact, that didn’t happen until later in the year.
In mid-September, that unexpected ray of light shone through the darkness surrounding me, guiding me out of it. My life changed. I became more motivated. I started writing again. I worked ahead in my university studies. I got back into an exercise regimen. I felt happier. All of these things have continued from that point forward to this day, and I am so incredibly grateful for that ray of light. As I’ve said before, sometimes the most incredible people come into your life when you least expect it, their impact profound. This is the very reason I cannot just write off 2020. Because even though 2020 has been one of the most taxing years, it has brought me some of the greatest things in my life. It is those amazing connections in life that turn up when you least expect it that make the biggest differences, the greatest of impacts.
2020 has been a wild ride, but it has been a necessary and meaningful one. Sure, there has been a lot of bad news this year, and sometimes it is difficult to see past that, to find the good in the world. But we cannot write off this year. We cannot just forget it. 2020 has brought with it important life lessons that are of great value to all of us moving forward. If anything, I feel like this year has helped me to grow significantly as a person, and to become a better version of myself. I am grateful for all that this year has taught me and brought me, and I’m looking forward to growing even more in 2021.
As I round this out, I would just like to thank everyone who has followed along on this blog over the past year. I appreciate all the support, and I hope you have all enjoyed what I’ve been publishing. This is my last one for this year. More to come in 2021.
A Happy New Year to all of you.