We can all agree that this year was incredibly difficult. Even time didn't seem to exist anymore as the year went from March to September to now December so suddenly. I usually do end of semester and end of year blogs talking about highlights of the year, good times, and achievements but I'm just not in the mood for that this year and doubt you would be in the mood to read that.
I do think it is important to celebrate all the moments in life no matter what else is happening because we deserve to celebrate all our little accomplishments. I'm not sure how to frame that usual blog post in a way to truly capture what the year was like so instead I want to talk about the lessons I learned throughout the year and my hopes and goals for 2021....
2020 taught me I need to learn how to cope
One of the first things 2020 taught me is that I cope with difficulties with avoidance, in particular, I avoid my problems by focusing extra hard on my work. This is probably one of the reasons why I was able to achieve a 4.0 GPA in my spring, summer, and fall semesters which I am proud of....but as the year went on and the stress accumulated I learned that I can't simply shut out the difficult things in my life and it was time to start processing, feeling and actually coping.
For example in March when lockdowns first started, I couldn't handle having a week of extra spring break with nothing to do. I could feel my anxiety climbing and so I filled my schedule with baking, working out and reading an immunology textbook for fun. Again - these aren't bad ways to cope per se BUT I realized I had this fallacy of productivity being equivalent to my success and happiness. Could I allow myself a day to do absolutely nothing....and feel no guilt?
I would say 2020 helped me to do that a lot more and if you read my previous blogs then you know I talked about this already. By the last few months of the year, I felt so tired mentally all I wanted to do was stop and do nothing. I don't like that it took me reaching to that point to be able to turn everything off and take some true breaks but I am glad it happened because I have seen the value in rest without feeling any guilt. I did this more in Fall 2020 and still ended with a 4.0 GPA which is proof to myself that I don't have to be working all the time and can still achieve my goals.
As far as processing and coping, I found I got better at this too. I got better at opening up with those close to me and turning to God. As I go into 2021 one of my goals is to address parts of my life I want to see improvement and take the steps to get there. I have become increasingly interested in starting therapy so I can learn what coping techniques might be best for me. I also want to work on my spirituality and religion and really spend some time getting to know God and his plans for me.
Growth is hard
I can truly say I grew a lot in 2020 and that growth is really hard.
To me growth is about finding out who you really are, then discoving who you want to be and making the gap between those two people smaller.
I am nowhere near to the woman I want to be but I am getting closer to her every day by trying to live by the values that are important to me. 2020 was a catalyst for me to discover these values because of all the changes we faced these years. I always knew family was one of my top values but between lockdown with my immediate family and not being able to see my extended family, my appreciation for family grew more. 2020 left me with more time alone which allowed me to reflect more and spend time with myself. I've been learning that I don't need to share for an experience or accomplishment to be real.
I know that the woman I want to be is one who has a positive impact on others in her life, I was able to strengthen this through my experiences as a tutor and co-president of CRD. I realized that it is easy for me to put others or an organization's needs above my own and while this is a good value for leadership I learned that when I went too far - I was unable to meet anyone's needs. Like all things in life, I had to balance this characteristic too.
Growth also means forgiving yourself and forgiving others.
We all make mistakes in life, it is part of being human. And as I grow older I realize that an adult is nothing but a kid with responsibility and experiences. At 21 years of age now I still feel 15 or 16 some days I've just learned from mistakes along the way and that turns into wisdom and maturity. So how can I continue to grow without making more mistakes?
With 2020 being a hard enough year on its own, it actually helped me to be less hard on myself. It is something I am still working on but I am happy with the progress I have been making!
Protect YOUR peace
In 2020 it feels like we faced polarization like never before, from anti-maskers, anti-vaccines, anti-BLM, the election - like every day was something new on social media and it was freaking exhausting. There is something about posts like that which make it so hard not to comment or share out of disgust and while of course I think it is important to share your thoughts and educate others there is also a time where it just gets too much. This year really brings this point home and I learned I needed to protect my peace not only on social media but in real life too. What we went through this year was draining and I learned to put my mental health first.
The truth is, only you know what you are going through and how you are feeling. Other people don't know and so I learned to be more honest with myself and with others on when I needed to take a step back, take a break, or if I needed some grace.
2020 taught me to give myself grace!
Celebrate the little moments
With such a rough year, I honestly felt guilty celebrating anything knowing all that was going on in the world, but I realized that our little accomplishments and good moments are what help keep us going so we can try to make this world a better place. I want to take this energy into 2021 as well, oftentimes I don't give myself enough credit for what I'm doing and instead, I'm always thinking about what is next for me to do. By celebrating the little moments I can be more in the moment and appreciate all parts of my journey
In 2021 I hope to take these lessons with me and more, to continue to grow, learn, make mistakes and love myself for who I am. I want to focus on my physical and mental health such as working out more again (quarantining and MCAT studying made me stop), eating healthy, and finding more balance and wellness.
After 2020, all we can do is take 2021 one day at a time. And that is what I plan to do.
Love you all and I'm wishing you a very Happy New Year!