The end of the year always evokes a sense of contemplation for me. What worked over the past year, what went so unbelievably wrong – all of it. This year was…. special, to say the least. Reflecting on 2020 definitely kicked my brain into overdrive when I sat back to think about all that happened (and didn’t, or couldn’t, happen). So, I’m transferring my thoughts to the website in hopes that when I feel stuck in 2021, I can look back and put things into perspective. And maybe you can too. There are certain aspects of 2020 that for sure need to be left behind in the new year – but some things are worth holding on to.
One thing is for certain – as the clock strikes midnight (in our respective time zones, of course), the world will breathe a collective sigh of relief. 2020 is over. Here’s hoping 2021 is the year you are dreaming of.
**I’ve included some personal photos from my life abroad in 2020
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Things to leave behind in the new year
For most people, 2020 was nothing short of the ultimate ass-kicking. We all lost a lot, on a multitude of different levels. People, freedom, comfort…. many, many things. I lost one of my very best friends to his battle with depression this fall and it felt like I’d never stop crying. With loss comes grief and regret – it’s a natural part of the human condition. And while it’s important to acknowledge and honor the things we lost, it’s just as important to not get hung up on them.
Don’t carry with you into 2021 loss or regrets from the previous year. It only turns into extra weight you’re carrying around, and I don’t mean in the physical sense. The start of a new year is the ultimate new beginning, and the perfect time to adjust your mindset.
I distinctly remember a day in mid-March when Romania had just gone into a nationwide lockdown. I had left my home in January with my dog to travel, and got ‘stuck’ abroad, for lack of a better term. For numerous reasons, I decided to stay instead of return home to the U.S. But there was this overwhelming sense of fear that I experienced when the realization hit me that I may never see my friends or family again.
Of course, things have since improved and we are collectively learning to co-exist with this virus (more or less). Still, in the moment it was a crippling fear.
There have been a lot of reasons to be afraid this year. Running out of toilet paper, food, losing friends and family members, important events being cancelled or postponed, fear of contracting the virus or suffering its long-term effects, losing a job or income. But regardless of what happens – even if it’s your worst fear – life will go on.
Things will change (again), and even if you find yourself in the lowest of lows, you can be assured that you won’t stay there forever. Nothing is constant if not change. So acknowledge your fears, say hi (say ‘f-ck you’ too, if you want), and then move on. Continue to live. Take things one day at a time, and keep going.
It was painfully easy to make excuses this year. With the whole world in upheaval, surely it doesn’t matter if I drink that whole bottle of wine, right?? For me, it was an excuse to be lazy, eat and drink excessively, not exercise, be cranky. Maybe you made excuses for different things than I – or, maybe you didn’t make them at all (if that’s the case, good for you!). Whatever it was that you were making excuses for, just stop. Life will resume and then where will you be? In the habit of making excuses.
I belong to a lot of international travel groups on Facebook, and got a lot of insight into the ways people around the globe were coping with this…. ordeal. Many people picked up new hobbies, learned a new language (or two), or finished projects they’d been putting off. And I know that I, for one, felt some guilt that I hadn’t done any of these things. But for some of us, these are just not realistic expectations to carry with us.
No two of us are the same, and it logically follows that we aren’t coping in the same ways. Don’t beat yourself up for still only speaking one language, or never finishing that paint-by-number (ok, I will finish it at some point!). Do what you can and be proud of the fact that you made it through the year of hell. In whatever ways you managed, it’s ok.
Things to carry with you into the new year
This can go two ways – self-respect and respect for others. And, of course, we need to have self-respect and surely need to carry that with us into the new year. But what I’m primarily referring to here is respect for others and, more specifically, the health of others. Wear your freakin’ mask, people. Over your mouth and your nose. Don’t berate employees who request that you wear one – you are also putting them at risk, as well as everyone else they come into contact with. Just follow your local rules and regulations for the greater good.
Respect peoples’ personal space, especially during this turbulent time. Here in Romania, I can’t count how many times I’ve been in line at the grocery store and can feel someone literally breathing down my neck. I still have to figure out the best response in this situation in Romanian, instead of giving a dirty look (with just my eyes, ya know, since we’re all wearing masks).
Acceptance is what happens when we experience something, be it a thought, feeling, or actual event, and are able to refrain from labeling it as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. This is a crucial skill to bring into the new year, considering the fact that things are constantly changing and we aren’t yet done with the pandemic.
Accept your cancelled trip, accept rules and regulations, accept that things haven’t gone as planned. Accept what is and remove resistance to the inevitable. It’s easier said than done, but will save you from a lot of headaches, frustration, and anger.
We have all learned a lot (hopefully) about coping this year. Coping with everything from loss of family and friends, loss of social interaction, loss of holiday celebrations…. the list goes on. We have had to adapt in ways we’d never imagined would be necessary. But, we did it. We adjusted and adapted to new societal norms, new forms of communication, and new rules to follow.
Bring that sense of adaptability with you into the new year, regardless of how the year progresses. It’s from this adaptable mindset that we can learn new things and continue to grow, individually and collectively as a human race.
Despite the fact that your plans may have been f-cked in 2020, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still set goals and get excised for things in the future. I was supposed to travel throughout eastern Europe and already be back in the States by this time, getting ready to head south to Mexico or some other tropical destination. I had at least seven countries planned for my grand European adventure tour, but I only made it to the third. I’m still here. I live here now, with my dog Andre, my fiancé, and a puppy we adopted in August. The latter two are obviously new developments – nothing I could have planned for.
Life throws curveballs, but that doesn’t mean you should toss your plans out the window. I’ve already got many plans lined up for 2021 – which of those will actually happen, I can’t be sure yet. But I’m ready for whatever might come.