2020: Reflecting with kindness

I ended 2019 in New York City, surrounded by the Big Apple’s city lights, endless stream of people and an ocean of honking yellow cabs. Despite the smoking potholes aggressively spitting sewage water at by-passers, and that one guy standing in the middle of Times Square shouting about the second coming of Jesus, I couldn’t imagine a better way to start the new decade.  As strangers locked lips all around us and the sky burst into a million colors, I remember looking over to my boyfriend, Shane, whose hand I held. Like many others, I said, “This is going to be our year, I can just feel it.” Then, he grabbed my face and passionately went in for a kiss. What a way to start the year. 

I had just three resolutions for the year:
  1. Get OUTSTANDING exam grades.
  1.   Enjoy my youth: Up until that point, my life had consisted of books, piano practice and endless hours of studying. A mixed result of my “Good Girl Syndrome”, a term donned by my teachers, and a nagging imposter syndrome meant that my success was measured only by academic results. If my ambitious mother was Achilles, I was Neoptolemus; vigorous, almost brutal in my wish to succeed, to immortalize myself by planting my name in books. I’m not going to lie; it was a tiring façade to keep up. 2020 was going to be the year where I would stop torturing myself, to just enjoy being young. After my exams, I would have almost 5 months of nothing but teenage dreams; long summer midnight drives with the windows down and Frank Ocean blasting on max, loads of parties, and skinny dipping in the nearby lake.
  1. Have fun, party and travel more. Turns out that the mysterious virus that occupied the news was getting a footing in the world. Suddenly it was in Europe, and before I knew it, in Norway. I was furloughed from my job, but I had just moved to a new apartment when we were all forced inside, so I busied myself with decorating and studying. Then, my exams were cancelled. That’s okay, just scrap my first resolution, I still had two left. After all, this couldn’t last forever. The next few months weren’t what I had imagined, but I knew that when I got to the UK, I was really going to live. 

Yeah, that didn’t happen. I’ve been here for almost half a year now and have been out with my course mates a total of two times. No parties.

The couch, my bed and Morrison’s home delivery have been my best friends this year. Before I sat down to write this, I was sure I was going to have so much to write about. 

Then I sat down to reflect. What have I actually achieved this year?

Good exam results? You need to sit exams for that. The whole perks-of-being-a-wallflower-enjoying-yourself thing? The adventures? Unless trips to Sainsburys’ ‘oriental’ aisle counts, then no. 

I think it’s important to realise that this year is a different year. You can’t go to your local Aldi, attend uni lessons on campus, or even go outside like you did a year ago. Without a doubt , your annual reflection will also differ. Scrap the resolutions you made pre-Covid, don’t ask yourself those questions. Here’s a list of questions you can ask yourself when you reflect on the year:

  • Did you try something new?

Knitting? Learning the guitar? Cooking? If you discovered a new hobby, whether you liked it or not, good job!

  • Have you done things you didn’t have time to before? 

Perhaps read that one book?

  • Did you remember to take care of yourself? 

Even if it was just eating, talking to someone, or opening the window?

  • Have you remembered to celebrate the little successes? 

Achievements are achievements, no matter how grand. It was a difficult year for us all; some days I couldn’t get myself out of bed, some days I spent six hours playing the piano. Most days I spent on the couch, tirelessly scrolling and wasting away. But I ate. And I read. And I sometimes did my skincare routine in the morning, hell, sometimes even in the evening. And though I didn’t see sunlight or breathe fresh air for almost three weeks straight, I eventually went to the shop (even if it was for a tub of ice cream). 

I celebrated New Years in my apartment with my boyfriend and my dog, Bear. There were no colorful explosions soaring across the night sky, nor were there thousands of cheering strangers locking lips, brushing hands or drunkenly bumping into each other. Still, I won’t regret saying it was our year, for better or for good. Collectively, we’ve loved, laughed and suffered together, some more than others. Try to see 2020 as the five-minute break you take in the marathon that is life. It’s okay if you wasted away in bed. It’s okay if you weren’t okay. Even if you can’t name a singular achievement, you made it to the new year, and that in itself is a success. 2021 might be similar to 2020, but don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re only taking a short, needed break, so treat yourself with kindness. Don’t burn yourself out yet, there’s a long way until the end line. 

Header image credit: We’re Not Really Strangers