What 2020 Taught Me

I know all of us want to put 2020 out of our minds for good. It was one heck of a year. From the pandemic to social unrest to political foolery…it has simply been too much. I remember when 2020 was about to begin, and everyone was talking about the year of vision and being clear. I don’t think any of us knew, though, how clear we were going to be able to see things. Talk about the things that this county has truly exposed. Sure we knew things were always there, but man, those little things that were lurking in the corners, turned up for real in 2020. As with anything, there are lessons learned, and while we want to forget 2020, I don’t believe we ever will. Some things don’t disappear because a year has gone. I hope that the chaos that reared its ugly head in 2020 has taught us, grew us, and put us on a path for 2021.

I can definitely say that I learned not only so much about the chaotic world we live in, but I also learned a lot about myself. Things that I needed, and I was forced to take a look at it and begin making changes. Now that 2021 is here, I am aiming to move forward and release the things that have hindered me. Though it took a year like 2020 to figure these things out, I guess that is what 20/20 vision is for.

Here are some lessons that I learned in 2020 that I will never forget, and I hope you’ve also learned some things to move forward with your life.

1. My introversion was really a code for depression: I can say that I am an introvert, and I do enjoy being at home and alone than going out. It hasn’t always been that way, but it’s definitely preferred. But things were slowly changing for the worst for me. I wasn’t even happy about being at home and alone. I realized that I would go days without even getting outside for some fresh air. My desire to want to be in the house also was more of me turning inwards. I wasn’t sleeping well, constantly having negative thoughts. I was overeating (well, except for that month during the “lockdown” when I thought that we would have to ration our food). I lacked the motivation to do basic things, but I was like yeah, girl, I’m an introvert, and I'm fine with being at home. No, ma'am, I was sinking into depression and also losing myself in the process. I had to learn the difference and do something about it quickly. Truth be told, I’ve always struggled with depression, but 2020 let me really see it so that I can deal with it.

2. My anxiety was trying to control the uncontrollable: I had a full-blown panic attack. I don’t wish panic attacks on anyone. That was one of the worst experiences in my life. Here I am in the parking lot of a grocery store trying to go in with this N95 mask on. My heart was racing, and it seriously felt like it was beating out of my chest. Why was I worried if I had a mask on? I was struggling to figure out if I had it on correctly. I was already struggling with my breath. I remember sitting in the car, ripping the mask off and crying. I think I sent a text to my husband telling him that I was losing my mind. The worst experience ever. Thankfully, I did muster up enough strength to do what I was set to do in the first place. But that experience will be one that, unfortunately, I’ll never forget. My anxiety level can get pretty high at times, but 2020 really showed how severe it could be. I was trying my hardest to maintain control over my life and my family’s life, but 2020 taught me that the reality of the situation was that I didn’t have any control. In fact, no one did. This was truly a God moment in which I was reminded with a racing heart, shortness of breath that God is the only one in control over the situation. He gave me some authority over a few things, but I was trying to control things above my spiritual level, and that won’t it. He kindly and gracefully put me in my place and had me make a shift in perspective. Won’t He do it! Now I realize the things that I have control over, and that’s me and my responses. Nothing more.

3. Community is necessary: Again, I thought that I was an introvert that could handle not talking to anyone and being alone. I found some moments back in 2020 that really were like; I don’t want to talk to anyone. Please leave me alone. But also, I realized that it was the depression talking. In fact, the moments that I was able to talk to others via zoom, phone calls, group chats were beneficial. It brought me joy. I realized how much I missed my friend groups and wanted to spend time with them. I missed out on so much in their personal lives, and it was sad. But we found ways to share in each other’s lives, and that was truly special. I don’t think that I’ll ever have the capability to take my friendships/community for granted. They have been essential during this time.

4. My relationship with God had/has absolutely nothing to do with the church building: at the beginning of this pandemic, I was so disappointed that we had to do church differently. Going to church was something that I enjoyed, but we had to utilize wisdom to keep each other safe. I realized that I depended a lot on being in the actual building to have an experience with God truly. But obviously, that is not the case. There have been many times in which I was in my house or car, and I had a wonderful experience with Him there. I had to remember that my relationship with Him wasn’t behind four walls. I had/have the luxury of having Him anywhere. Now, did I struggle with maintaining the bond with Him that I had before, yeah? But I found my way repeatedly, and I’m so appreciative that I can do that without the building. But for real, I can’t wait to go back, though. Again, that community of folks worshipping together in one place is an amazing experience. I can wait until it's safe!

5. Navigating life with your family 24/7 hits different, but it’s worth it. It got to the point where my kids would tell my husband and me to “stay gone for a long time” when we needed to run errands. I’m like, kids, it’s just the grocery store, lol. We have definitely grown closer together as a unit, but we have also had moments where we were completely over each other. There is nothing like a stay-at-home order to figure out how to bond. We have had some memorable experiences that I’m certain would not have happened without 2020. I've learned, you have to be creative, lenient, and show some grace with your family that you have to be in the same house with for long periods of time.

6. Working nonstop without proper rest is not advised: I learned the value of taking care of myself this past year. It’s still a work in progress, but I definitely understand why it’s necessary. I thought that because I’m working from home that I needed to go extra hard because why not. But I had realized that I worked for nearly 5 months without a single vacation. That’s not responsible, and it was showing in my motivation to work. I had to learn to listen to my needs so that I could effectively do my job. Does it continue to be a struggle? Yes, but I’m more in tune now.

7. The innanet is either going to entertain you or trigger you: Listen, the internet can be a powerful tool that, sometimes, you have to take in doses. In fact, I highly recommend taking it doses. There were things in 2020 that I wished I had never seen. The repeated videos of violence were something that was very triggering for me. I had to learn how much I could take, and I quickly learned how to scroll past or remove people that didn't understand proper etiquette with the internet. There were definitely moments of ke-kes and giggles, however. Between commentary on everyone's daily struggles to hilarious memes, I did find some joy from the internet. One thing about black folks, we will find humor in a situation that has zero humor. And sometimes, we probably should have kept some of those things to ourselves. It was always interesting, though, to see how many of us have the same thoughts, and there was that one brave soul who decided to tweet it or post it so we all could agree.

9. Go to therapy, hunty…it works! Now therapy is not going to fix you, so if that’s why you’re going, then you may want to re-evaluate. But what I learned with all of the things that happened in 2020, I needed to talk to someone who would help me reflect and do introspection. I appreciate my therapist so much. I was already carrying a load, but 2020 just added an extra layer of baggage that I could no longer handle. Me trying to therapize (I think that is a word) was not helping. I needed help, and that’s the best thing that I’ve done thus far.

10. Be intentional about your life. I’ve found that I’ve done so many things just to be doing them but didn’t have a purpose. 2020 showed me that I don’t have time to waste. Never did, but the amount of death in 2020 really made me rethink how I was living. So I decided that I would make each moment as intentional as I can. It hasn’t been easy with feeling depressed, but I’m working on it. I want to be the best version of myself, which means that each step has to be intentional and purposeful towards a goal.

11. Last but not least, if you didn’t do anything other than survive 2020, you’re the real MVP because honey 2020 tried it. I hope that you didn’t fall into the trap of I need to be doing x, y, or z because you were at home. Just getting up to live your life (however that looked) was good enough. There’s always a push in this society that we have to be doing things to be productive, and people tend to make you feel guilty if you’re not. I’m here to tell you that 2020 was an extremely stressful year, and if all the strength you had was to survive each day, then you were very productive. Don’t try to measure up to what someone else is doing because you can only be you.

May 2021 be a great year for you, after reviewing what vision 2020 brought. As always, I’m rooting for you!

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