In November Comedian Robyn Schall shared her 2020 resolutions she had made in January, before lockdown, Covid and social distancing were part of our vocabulary. “Excuse my looks. I’m just, you know, hitting rock bottom” she begins the video; as she pours herself a glass of wine and rattles off her goals list. That listed included make more money (she lost her job), travel more, be more social and cry less. Hindsight is as they say 2020.
Like musicians who make their best music when going through hard times, we too learn our best lessons when the going is tough, not easy. In a year dominated by a worldwide pandemic, our homes our world and the new normal best described as “always feeling a little off balance, like trying to stand in a dinghy on rough seas, and not knowing when the storm will pass”; lessons were around every corner and what is important became crystal clear.
Feeling reflective, I reached out to a handful of people and asked them to share the best lesson 2020 taught them. Lessons that resonated with a year that has felt like the longest shortest craziest year. As for me, routines have always been important but this year has taught me how important a good routine can be. When everything else is uncertain being able to control parts of my day (even if it’s just the morning) and making sure my daily routine includes something I’m doing just for me because I know it makes me feel good; has made the days better and me feel more grounded.
“EVERYTHING changes. When you strip back your car, your house, your clothes, 2020 has taught us that what really matters is who is at the dinner table with you”.
“Be open to learning new things and embrace change. This year has meant that both personally and professionally I have had to adapt to new ways of doing things and learn new technologies. Professionally we changed how our business operated slightly (as we are already an online company) and tweaked the services we offer to our client to add value. Personally, how I looked after myself changed. I adapted to working out from home which I hate and made sure I was taking time to chill and not be stressed 24/7, because I learnt very quickly that I can’t pour from an empty cup.
I am grateful that I have always been open to new things and new ways, as actively upskilling myself and making sure that personally and professionally I am never stagnated, helped a lot in 2020. This attitude towards life meant that that instead of just sitting back and letting life happen to me in 2020, I was a step ahead and could show new trends, new ways of doing things and add a lot of value to my clients as well as my friends and family who were struggling to adapt.”
“My best lesson this year is that perspective is vital. Life has many, many ups and downs. Life is unpredictable. When tragedy and tough times hit, we must keep perspective, put one foot in front of the other, use the love of family and friends and know that tomorrow the sun will rise again. And when good times abound, we must also keep perspective and know that a lot of what we have is luck and often fleeting. So, live for today, Carpe Diem and be kind to yourself and others. And always know that to whom much is given, much is expected. Make your contribution.”
“2020 has been a year of growth for me – personally and professionally. I am extrovert who loves the outdoors and so going into lockdown, in my apartment – without a garden – was really challenging. The brand I was working for also closed at the end of August, so I went through a bit of an identity crisis and of course started experiencing major stress and fear around income. BUT this year has taught me that we are more adaptable than we think, and that South Africans are resilient, creative, and determined people. So many incredible small businesses have popped up! So many people are hustling their hobby into a career. It’s amazing and inspiring to see. I’m so grateful for the support network I have. I am also working for myself now as a media consultant and recipe developer, with a new cookbook that’s just hit shelves! Opportunities are there – sometimes we just have to create them for ourselves.”
“Watch how many carbs you’re eating during lockdown and make sure that the home exercises you do are greater than the carbs you eat ?.
More seriously, I think my biggest lesson and reminder has been that as much as you can prepare for something, you’re never really prepared for the changes, side punches that you didn’t see coming, and being redirected. It has been a year of adjustment, resilience, fear and some wins, and though we could never have seen it coming, hopefully we come out a little bit kinder (to ourselves and to others), stronger and better able to manage life that at once takes swings at you and lifts you up.”
Sukoluhle “Sue” Nyathi
“The biggest lesson for me in 2020 is not to take anything or anyone for granted. 2020 robbed us of the simple pleasure of walking around unmasked. Now we have to cover up. It is difficult to discern a smile behind a mask. You rely on the expressiveness of people’s eyes to convey meaning which can be difficult considering how many people walk around with a deadpanned look. We have lost intimacy, simple things like hugging and kissing are now taboo. Now we elbow each other in a greeting. We have been forced to navigate life like an arm’s length transaction. It really should be called the new abnormal because there is nothing normal about living with Covid19 in our midst. We must never normalize this. What will become of the world without a little human touch?”
“2020 felt like a decade rolled into a year when it comes to lessons learned. And looking back, I honestly am grateful, even though I didn’t handle every lesson and difficult moment with the grace that I would have liked to. That’s the human experience for you! Here are things I learned this year, that changed not only my present, but definitely how I go into my future:
1. Trauma isn’t only stored in memories; it’s stored in the body.
Whether you experienced trauma with a big T or a little t, trauma is trauma. And so many of us only deal with the mental and emotional aspects of trauma not realizing it is also stored in your body. At the beginning of the year my body was sick and run down even though I was a Health Coach, drinking green smoothies daily and taking care of my body. I went on a journey to discover my Nervous System was weakened by trauma and began releasing it through movement, breathwork and yoga practices. It was life changing! Not only does my body feel different, but the stuck emotions that were released helped my emotional and mental health too. I would not have been able to get through 2020 in a more graceful way had I not released stuck trauma in my body. Fact! Here is some more information.
2. We live on a polarity planet. Make peace with it.
We have hot and cold, night and day, rain and shine, and that’s just Earth. So of course we will experience both, ALL THE TIME. So many times this year I wanted it to just ‘be good’, to just ‘be happy’, but I realized that I had to allow myself to experience both, simultaneously. It sounds simple, but it’s a powerful mantra to practice. On tough days I would repeat: ‘I live on a polarity planet, it’s just Earth.’ to myself 100 times, and it helped look at situations differently and with more acceptance.
3. When you’re feeling helpless, help someone.
I heard this quote in a Yoga class sometime ago, but never have I seen the effects of it practiced like in 2020. It’s not simply a nice quote, it’s an opportunity. Try it, it’s life-changing.
And if you’re sitting here reading this, still feeling the effects of 2020 and thinking that you didn’t learn anything, you didn’t have one profound moment of insight, it was just hard, and difficult for you, I want to tell you THAT’S OKAY! You survived. And that’s enough too.”
“Focus on what you can control, and it’s never too late to try something new.”
“This year I have learnt a lot. One might initially think, how is that possible? We were confined to our immediate surroundings for over half the year. Well, the answer is that this time gave me some space to reflect on some of the decisions that I had made and evaluate how I had been making them. One of my biggest learnings during 2020 came in the form of a recognition that small pieces of change, while they might not initially amount to much, over time they are far better than no action or change at all. The conversations we have and the more we spread the narrative of change the better. I will remember 2020 for many things, both the good and the challenging, but primarily as a year that forced us to remember how connected we truly all are as humans.”
“The best lesson I learned in 2020, is that I don’t really need all these “frills in my life ” what matters most is the life. Like Leo Babauta – says” Simplicity boils down to two steps: Identify the essential. Eliminate the rest. I looked into my closet and saw all colours bags, all colours shoes and lots of clothes that I have and asked myself, do I really need all these things? When I compare how much we spend for our monthly groceries shopping now to when we were financial stable. I realise that, living a simple life makes one choose healthier options and cut down on all the frills”.
“It’s an age-old saying but I’ve never been really good at adopting it – “Don’t sweat the small stuff”. I am a bit of a control freak and so, when we all pretty much lost control of our lives, in some form or another, in March this year, it was really hard for me to adapt. It’s a work in progress and I often tend to fall back into old habits but I am getting there.
The biggest lesson I learnt was how fragile and resilient we are at the same time. It all depends on your threshold and what you are able to handle. If you’re not able to deal with as much as the next person, that doesn’t make you weak. We are all so unique and we need to judge far less and instead have more empathy and express kindness. When my sweet, kind, warm and loving cousin took his own life in August because the empire he had built was crashing down around him due to Covid, my world went dark. He was literally the last person on earth that we thought would take his own life, yet he did, and it left me asking so many questions about life; about our fragility; about the world we’re living in. I really hit rock bottom and my health took a serious knock but I had to drag myself out of that hole and look at the “smaller picture” vs the “bigger picture”. That it’s my little family (Ryan, Max and Thandi) that ultimately matter and that I can’t have the ugliness of the larger/bigger world ruin my outlook on life. The world has become a very complicated place filled with a lot of “bad stuff” but I choose to live outside of that world. I don’t watch or listen to ANY news – it’s mostly all bad. If anything I focus on positive stories and news like those told on the Good Things Guy. Ignorance is bliss they say… and it is!”
“In Edith Eger’s book, The Gift she has a line that really stuck with me. “It’s very dangerous to put your whole life into someone else’s hands. You are the only one you’re going to have for a lifetime. All other relationships will end. So how can you be the best loving, unconditional, no-nonsense caregiver to yourself?”
Investing in yourself is hard work but when you do, you build true resilience and happiness that is impenetrable by outside influence, opinions and events. This year really highlighted that things, people and the world around you can fall apart but if you have yourself together, you can get through anything and come out stronger.”
What was your best lesson of 2020?
Zissy is the co-founder of Nutreats. She likes to make things, do things and wear things.