2020 was a trying year. What started off as a year of hope and excitement quickly escalated to a year filled with grief and hopelessness. Although the majority of the year was spent feeling lethargic, I know one day you will bypass these negative emotions to allow these experiences to positively permeate your life. While it may not be obvious now, the lessons and habits you’ve adopted in 2020 will greatly impact your future and approach to a better life.
COVID-19 took millions of lives away. Although it drove you crazy being home 24/7, you chose to follow orders and shelter-in-place to minimize risk. You realized the importance of health and our healthcare system, and that sickness goes beyond one’s own health but the health of others. You will take more caution whenever sick, to prevent the spread of germs. The importance of mental health also became apparent. Being a generally optimistic person, mental health was something you often overlooked. It wasn’t until you had several weeks of feeling down that you realized how important mental health is and the battles that can occur in someone’s mind. Your depth for compassion grew, and you realized why it’s difficult to be happy if you yourself are not in a good mental state. You learned to not judge anyone because you don’t know what they might be going through, and to not take other people’s feelings or actions towards you personally.
In 2020 you learned a lot about relationships. You learned that placing full burden on your husband to be your romantic partner, best friend, therapist, photographer, etc. is not fair nor healthy. When all your in-person interactions dissipated due to social-distancing, you relied on Josh to become your partner for everything. You two balance each other well because you’re quite opposite. Josh is an introvert and you are an extrovert. When you relied on Josh to be as extroverted as you it drained his energy. This is why you have friends in different areas of your life, and why it’s never fair to place all responsibility on 1 person. Luckily, all your friendships remained the same and in fact solidified. Despite rarely seeing your friends, you built stronger relationships proving how deeply rooted your relationships are. Your relationships are not surface-level and that is a blessing. You are lucky to have a number of friends you can have hour-long insightful conversations with.
You realized how lucky “Asian-privilege” is and how your parents protected you from racism by raising you in a diverse town where Asians were the cool kids. You built empathy towards African Americans and took the time to understand how much society disadvantages them for their skin color. You learned that staying silent is not an option, and you can partake in fighting systematic racism through small, but repeatable acts. Supporting black-owned businesses, speaking up when you see racism, and educating others and yourself will profoundly affect the way you once viewed the world.
In 2020, you worked the most hours you’ve worked in your career and tested your limits by not setting boundaries. Although you knew working 60+hour weeks was not sustainable, you chose to do it because you love your job and because you were bored. It paid off because you got promoted and your work was seen by billions. It came at a cost though. You got burnout and realized that getting promoted wasn’t as fulfilling as you thought it’d be. You exerted so much mental energy into work that when work was over you barely had mental space for anything else. This made you question how you should utilize your energy and how important it is to preserve mental space for other things in life that bring joy. Life is about balance and finding fulfillment in various aspects of your life.
All the free time you had allowed you to adopt and revisit a lot of hobbies. You dug deep in your childhood and re-visited talents you abandoned because of your adult social life. You appreciated all the classes your parents put you through in elementary school and were shocked to see how one could easily pick-up lost skills years later. Although you think 2020 was dull, I hope you remember that this was the year you grew your skills in piano, tennis, video games (particularly Tetris), and got back into crafts. You even revisited your college degree and ignited your passion for interior design. If it wasn’t for shelter-in-place, you likely would not have gotten the opportunity to do interior design consulting. This could be the start of that business you’ve always wanted.
For the first time in your life, you experienced a global pandemic where everyone in the world went through the same situation. When you strip away all the distractions in the world, you start to see the world for what it really is. You’re forced to breathe and re-evaluate your time, energy, and life. I don’t know what it is yet so can’t write on it, but I think several years later something profound is going to happen from all the lessons that came from 2020. You’re going to experience moments that will make you recall 2020. It’s going to affect your decisions, thinking, and shape the next decade of your life. Forgive yourself of your past, don’t be so hard on your present self, and know your future self is going to one day thank 2020.