As I write this, Thanksgiving is a few days away, and we are once again called to take part in one of the many annual traditions of reflection. Every year, there is so much to look back on and a lot to be thankful for. This year is no different. In fact, so many of us have a long list of things to express gratitude for—our good health and that of our loved ones, a steady income, food to eat when many are going hungry, a job that allows for remote work, the safety of our homes, and a lot more. As we offer up thanks for making it through the last nine months, it’s time to think about the lessons that 2020 has taught us.
What vices will we leave behind? And what good fruits could 2021 bear? Here are some of my thoughts on what we’re looking forward to in 2021.
Things to embrace in 2021
The art of self-care gets discussed a lot, but it’s been pretty obvious that it’s not practiced as well or as often as it should be. This year, we were forced to slow down, sit still, and focus on ourselves a bit more. Home spa days and weekends spent reading in your favorite chair are a lot more achievable when you’re not constantly juggling work, errands, adequate sleep, and a social life.
In 2021, we should all pledge to carve out time to decompress and take stock of our present before forging forward. It shouldn’t take a global pandemic to remind us to take proper care of ourselves. Practice radical self-care, create meaningful rituals for yourself, and live intentionally.
The new office
One big thing that the collective work-from-home experience has demonstrated is that a lot of office jobs can be done from home. Modern communications technologies like Zoom, Google Drive, Slack, and VPNs make it possible for teams to connect and collaborate without being physically present in the same location.
There has been a huge benefit for the environment too, as fewer people commuting to work or driving to school translates to a lot fewer cars on the road, and thus, reduced levels of air pollution. Home offices also cut down on expenses for things like transportation, some office supplies, and commercial electricity. While a complete pivot to remote work may not be immediately possible, scheduling regular telework for employees could go a long way towards helping the earth recover and infusing a sense of balance into our lives.
A lot of people have been unable to be with their friends and family since the first lockdown began, and as we make our way through another COVID-19 surge, the light at the end of the tunnel still looks more like a pinprick than an actual opening. My fervent hope is for a renewed dedication and effective strategy with which to tackle the pandemic, finally flattening the curve and putting us on the road to recovery. Being apart is one thing, but the constant worry about others’ well-being makes it near unbearable.
It’s the little things
Do you remember the first time you realized how much you had taken the little things for granted? Were you standing at your window staring longingly at the park across from your yard and berating yourself for missed picnic opportunities? Did you routinely blow off your workouts only to realize how desperately you wanted to be in a gym again? When did you start to crave the slightest brush of another person’s skin against your own?
The things that have brought me the most comfort this year have been the things I hadn’t thought of as being that special—being able to hug my friends and family, unwinding with a nice cocktail at a bar on a Friday, eating my favorite cuisines at a restaurant, etc. We should all enter 2021 understanding just how all these seemingly tiny moments can add up to a life that’s bursting with love and contentment, and consider them worth their weight in gold.
Keep calm and carry on
You might not hear this often, but the sheer fact of having made it this far into the year is a thing to be proud of. We were thrown full-force into this situation without warning or preparation, and though it was really difficult (and still is, to be honest) most of us adapted in the best way we could and have managed to make the most of what we have. I think it’s important to carry that resilient spirit into the new year. Know that you are capable of so much even when the opposite seems to be the case.
It shouldn’t have to happen to you for it to matter to you
In addition to the coronavirus pandemic and its ill effects, we have all been forced to reckon with many systematic imbalances and injustices that have been allowed to flourish. It was a lot easier to turn a blind eye to the experiences of marginalized people when everyone could claim preoccupation with their full lives. A number of events this year have exposed the broken system that we live in, forcing many to face their privileges and contribute to the dismantling of oppressive systems. Complacency is no longer an option, and I am looking forward to a future where everyone makes a true commitment to speaking up for those who cannot and fighting for a better world.
Things to Leave Behind in the Great Dumpster Fire That Has Been 2020
Hold up, wait a minute
I know I’m not alone in the discovery of just how many useless things I spent money on pre-pandemic. While the necessity for the purchases of certain items has been eliminated by remote work and quarantining, there are other categories where individual spending has also seen a significant decrease. For instance, we may still be purchasing clothes, but now when we do, we’re forced to consider how much we actually need the items in our cart, and how much use we’ll get out of them, rather than simply hitting “order now” because something looks cute. Basically, just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.
There’s no “I” in “team”
“We’re all in this together” has been the message from the beginning. It’s been emphasized countless times that collective effort is what it will really take to move past mass hospitalization and infection rates and into collective safety. A lot of people have trouble considering others, citing personal comfort when they’re asked to quarantine or wear face coverings. This placement of self over the greater good definitely has to be left behind in 2020, especially when the things that are asked of us are relatively simple. Let’s strive to be better people in the coming year, sometimes sacrificing our comfort for the benefits of others.
Perfect as you are
The next time a photo pops up your feed and you start to compare yourself to the person in it, stop. No one is better than you are because their body is a certain shape or size, because they live a certain lifestyle, or because they own certain things.
A few other things:
- You are more than enough, and you deserve good things.
- Don’t make decisions for your life based on what people might think; living your truth is much more important. In the words of Avril Lavigne, “those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”
- Your body is doing a tough job right now of getting you through each day. If it gets a little bigger, cut it some slack.
- Stop expending energy on things and people that don’t serve you.
- It’s okay to make mistakes. That’s the way we learn.
I hope the coming year brings you good health, the warmth of those you love, and happiness.
What are you looking forward to in 2021? And what are you glad to leave behind in 2020?