2020: A Year To Remember

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.

A Christmas Poem

So I’ve been trying my hand at some poetry lately, and I thought as a quick post, I’d write a little Christmas themed poem to share. So here it is:

Christmas is a season

Of peace, hope and joy

As God sent His only Son,

A heavenly baby boy.

We celebrate together,

Joining as family,

Eating with each other,

There’s no place we’d rather be.

Giving gifts to each other,

Sharing the Christmas spirit,

Smiles and laughter abound,

To these there is no limit.

Spending time with those we love,

Who come from near and far,

Making memories with one another,

Sharing the light of the Christmas Star.

As we go through this Christmas season,

Whether together or apart,

May we hope the light shines through us,

Straight into our hearts.

Christmas: A Light In The Darkness

Christmas is probably one of the best times of the year. Family coming together, celebrating, giving, laughing, sounds of joy filling the air. It is a time when many of us celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and remember the very first Nativity. This year more than ever, after all we have been through, we could really do with something to celebrate. But for some of us, this Christmas will be unlike any other that has come before it. We’ll get to that in a moment.

I love Christmas, because it brings a smile to so many people’s faces, no matter what they have been through. A lot of us have been through hell this year. There were the bushfires at the beginning of the year. COVID-19 came along and threw our world upside down and inside out, keeping us from seeing our family, friends and loved ones, putting us on edge. Many would have suffered from mental health conditions due to the constant lockdowns and isolation. It has affected us all in different ways, but I think we can all agree it’s been a really tough year. So, we can all use a bit of Christmas cheer to reignite our hope and bring some much-needed happiness to our souls.

For me personally, I’ve had a lot of ups and downs this year. It’s been a pretty bumpy ride. Although I went through a stage for months where I was in a pretty bad way mentally, in the second half of the year, more from around September onwards, I found my grounding and became more motivated than I had ever been before. My life turned around, and that was truly a Godsend. But I’ll speak more to all of that in my yearly wrap up next week. This one isn’t about me. It’s about you, all of you. Because 2020 has not discriminated. We have all faced many hardships this year, and we all deserve to be happy, if at the very least for a day.

Now this Christmas is going to be different for some of us. While some of us will get to celebrate the occasion with family and friends, having a feast and giving gifts, there are still a lot who will not be afforded this opportunity on Christmas Day. Those who have been affected by COVID-19 in some degree, be it directly, being in an area that has been designated a hotspot and being told to isolate, or having restrictions imposed on them by governments, will have a somewhat different Christmas this year, being unable to celebrate with their family and friends (for some it may be all, for others they may be able to still celebrate with those in their household). In particular in NSW right now, our Christmas is restricted in that we are only allowed no more than ten people to visit our homes on Christmas Day. This is just adding insult to injury after all we have been through this year. And so, I have a message to share that will hopefully bring some warmth and joy to everyone at this time when I know many of us will be feeling deflated.

I know we have all been through a lot this year. And I know many of us are still going through it. But Christmas is a time when we can stop, even for just one day, and consider all that we are grateful for. We can take time to reflect on what good things have come out of this year. As we think about these joyous things, a smile will no doubt begin to beam from our faces, in turn lifting our spirits so that happiness may bubble up inside us, bringing about a warmth within us that brings us great comfort.

Christmas is a time of hope. As I have spoken to before, hope is such an incredible thing. One of the three members of what I call the Trinity of the Heart (Faith, Hope and Love), all it needs is a spark to set ablaze, to come alive within our hearts. Hope nurtures the soul, bringing about a sense of peace in times of anguish. After all we have been through this year, I think we could all use a little hope in our lives. Even now, as all our Christmas plans are thrown into chaos and uncertainty, we need to hold on to those little sparks of hope, no matter how disheartened we might feel. There is a quote from Desmond Tutu: “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” This year we have been surrounded by darkness, but, as I have learnt, just one ray of light, one that may even be unexpected, can guide us out. That reminds me of another quote from Martin Luther King Jr.: “Only in the darkness can you see the stars.” This year has taught me that much is true. Only in the dark times I went through this year did the stars in my life come out to greet me and change my life.

Christmas is typically a time when family and friends come together to celebrate and share in the spirit of the season. This year that might not be possible for many of us. But that should not discourage us from getting in touch with those special people in our lives on Christmas Day. To those who won’t be able to see their family, friends and loved ones on Christmas Day as they usually would, I say this: Spend time on the day contacting and talking to those people you care about. Be it a phone call, text/messaging through various apps, video calls or whatever else, we have the technological tools at our disposal to still spend time with those we care about on Christmas Day, even if we are not able to be in the same room as them.

To put it bluntly, I know it sucks that we can’t all be together for Christmas this year. I’m going to miss seeing my extended family, cousins and all. It’s devastating not being able to have a normal Christmas after all we have been through this year. Personally, I’m going to spend Christmas Day contacting those I care about, because even though we cannot all gather in the same place, I want to feel at least some sense of normality about Christmas. I might be lucky enough to see a few, but regardless, I’ll be making sure to reach out to them on Christmas Day. I’m sure I will not be alone in this sentiment.

To all those who are in isolation over Christmas, I can only imagine what you are going through. It’s something I wouldn’t wish on anyone, and I hope that you’ll still be able to find some hope and joy this Christmas, be it through contacting family and friends, or even through reading this message.

Christmas may look different this year, but we should not let that stop us from celebrating the occasion. We cannot let this virus take Christmas from us. The human spirit is an incredible thing. It can help us to persist, to keep going, even through the darkest of times. Combined with the Christmas spirit, its effects are amplified. We have all been through a lot of darkness this year, but I hope that at this special time of the year we can find the light.

God Bless you all and have a very Merry Christmas.