Oh, 2020. What can I say? You've been good to few, difficult to most, and memorable to all. But, with all of the obvious bad, you, oxymoronically enough, gifted us opportunities to learn and grow. You taught us that nothing can ever be taken for granted. That we are strong and enduring. That we're better together.
You taught us what is most important—each other.
For me, like many of you, 2020 will be a special chapter in the story of my life. I left my first job out of college to pursue a dream that is Helium Books full time. I had the fortune of meeting so many amazing, inspiring, selfless people. I (for some reason) ran a marathon. Yet, more important than these individual "accomplishments," there were three key lessons that only 2020 could impart upon me that I'll be carrying forward from 2020 into 2021 and beyond. Here they are...
2020 will forever go down in infamy—for obvious reasons. Over 1,500,000 people have tragically passed away from the COVID-19 pandemic. If nothing else, this (hopefully) once in a lifetime event not so subtly let us know that life is fragile, short, precious. I'm incredibly lucky to have not lost anyone I love to this disease; however, this message has not been lost on me.
So, what do we do with this information? For me, the answer is quite clear: We live. To the absolute fullest. We never know when it will all end, for us or for the people we love, so we have to make every day count. Now, I want to avoid clichés like this; instead, I want to be 100% real with you. We have to stop living in fear. Fear of taking a chance. Fear of being even a little bit uncomfortable. Fear of reaching your actual potential. Why? Because, as I hope you never find out, the truth is that when we look back on our lives, we regret our inaction. We ask ourselves why we didn't go for it—why we didn't try. As 2020 so emphatically showed us, life can be stripped from us in an instant, without warning. So, what are you waiting for? Go pursue your dream. Take it from me, an unemployed college graduate with student debt...going after something you truly care about overwhelms any sacrifices and discomfort with immense fulfillment and purpose.
In line with lesson number one above, lesson number two—responsibility—struck me as a result of unimaginably terrible circumstances. Over the summer of this year, racial tensions surged as numerous Black men and women were senselessly murdered by law enforcement officials. Throughout the past few years, as I've grown into an adult and been witness to these inexplicable events occurring with far too much regularity, a need to educate myself enveloped me. Yet, it wasn't until this year, and this summer, that I was "pushed" over the proverbial edge into self-education. I was, like all aspiring white allies, to learn the root of racism in our country and understand how it rears its vicious head in today's society.
Reading books such as, How to Be Less Stupid About Race by Crystal M. Fleming, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi, were profound and enlightening experiences (to rent any of these books through Helium, click here). There wasn't a page to go by in which I regretted the decision to take responsibility for my own education and racial understanding.
I urge you, if you haven't yet done so, to not only read books to expand upon your thoughts and beliefs regarding these matters, but also to remind yourself that you are not entitled to having these issues, and their solutions, brought to your attention. We all must take it upon ourselves to be the best people we can be. We must all take responsibility for the role we want to play in society. If you want to be better, and that's a goal we should all share, then go get better. But, it rests on you and your willingness to be accountable to yourself.
3. Energy Matters
While the first two lessons were heavy hitters, this third lesson strikes somewhere on the other end of the spectrum. Although, it's not as dense, I think it's still a crucially important takeaway. How many of us, while holed up in quarantine for what seemed to be multiple lifetimes, found ourselves dragging, low on energy and motivation? I'm raising my hand high, are you? It's hard when life gets completely turned on its head in a matter of days—expecting to adapt immediately is simply unrealistic. Yet, if you're like me, the adapting took longer than it maybe should have...
I found myself sleeping in later than usual, never really excited to start my day and that subdued attitude perpetuated upon itself, leading to unproductive, non-inspired days and weeks. Only after a month, maybe a month and half, did I realize that the problem wasn't the circumstances (touching on lesson #2—taking personal responsibility), but the problem was me. I had to flip a switch I knew I was capable of flipping. I had to be intentional about the energy I was bringing to each moment.
We've all heard the saying, you get what you give, right? We'll that not only applies to helping others, but also to how we carry ourselves. Why would I expect to get energized by my day when I provided no energy? Seems obvious now that I put the question to paper, but it's something that I, and perhaps many of you, had to learn the hard way. The good thing is, the solution is rather simple: make the choice to bring energy to all that you do. It's made a world of difference in all aspects of my well-being, and, if you struggle with this as well, I'm confident that consistent effort in this area can be a true difference-maker for you, too. Be peppy. Be lively. Be your full self.
Alright. Now, to unwind a bit...
More than anything else, 2020 taught me these three things—the fragility of life, the need to be fully responsible for yourself, and the impact energy can have on our happiness. What did 2020 teach you? Engage with me and others in the comments below so we can all learn from each other!
To wrap this post up...this year has been dark, but enlightening. Divisive, but unifying. Brutal, but toughening. I urge you to think about what you will carry with you from 2020 into 2021 and beyond—because there is certainly something that this infamous year exposed within you that can be of value going forward.
Here's to a more tame 2021, but full of even more lessons to be discovered. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year! Talk to you next year.