2020 threw a curveball at us all. On an individual, societal and global label we have been challenged in whole new ways, ways never before experienced by humanity. Our everyday activities which we took for granted were taken away from us – being outdoors, exercising, socialising and working. Our careers completely transformed, halted or even collapsed. Businesses closed, friendships put on hold and weddings cancelled. It has been a shock to the system, one none of us saw coming, and I for one want to take a moment to look back on the lessons I have learnt from the most turbulent year in recent history.
I am adaptable.
My life changed a lot this year, going from a lifestyle of extensive travel, regular socialising and a chaotic work schedule to quiet months spent inside my home. Surprisingly, I stayed calm, level headed and positive through it all, which is of course in part due to my privilege of having the financial security during this time. That being said, I am still surprised at how quickly my mindset shifted, I found a new routine and created a new lifestyle. All of our emotions are valid and all of our struggles are context dependent and I am not going to pretend that COVID has been easy for anyone, so I am proud of my adaptability and resilience through this pandemic.
Nature is the one constant.
Time started to pass at weird paces, flying by at certain times and trickling by slowly at others. I started to lose track of the days, weeks and months during lockdown, but nature was the one constant and the seasons were the reminder of time passing. I found so much comfort in the outdoors, in seeing the flowers come into bloom, the wildlife raising their young and the leaves emerging, growing and falling. No matter what we are going through as humanity, nature continues on its course.
Human connection is essential.
I always thought I enjoyed my own company, but being stuck inside my own home for months at a time taught me otherwise. I am a fiercely independent and self-sufficient woman, but damn I need human connection. I need picnics with my pals, country walks with my parents and nights in with my neighbours. I miss the days of big dinners with friends, laughing loudly and shouting across the table. I miss parties with overflowing drinks, beer pong and poor quality costumes. I miss weddings, dressing up for cocktails and huddling close in the cold outside a bar. I miss the little small snippets of socialising that you don’t realise are so great until they’re gone. Don’t get me wrong, I am so grateful that we can meet in small groups but I cannot wait for the day when I can go to a gig, throw myself into the crowd and lose myself in the energy of those around me.
I belong outdoors.
Ant and I always planned on moving house in 2020, but we thought we would actually move further into London and just get a garden. However, in lockdown we soon discovered that we needed more space than we realised. We craved rolling hills, leafy woods and fresh country air, which you can’t quite achieve in a busy capital city, so we looked further afield. I am so pleased that we ended up moving to Surrey, within weeks I felt a noticeable difference in myself. I was less stressed, more connected with nature, my headspace was clearer, I was sleeping better and even my breathing was improved. And the most important thing? I felt like I belonged there, I felt at home and I felt truly happy. We might have moved out of London 6 years earlier than we expected, but I will be forever grateful that we did.
I need to maintain some of the balance I have found.
This year is the first time in my adult life that I have truly had a pretty good work life balance. I have stopped working every weekend, I have started taking evenings off and I even go outdoors for walks during the day. This might not sound like much but it is incredible progress for me, as I am someone who definitely gets sucked into toxic productivity behaviours. I place my worth and value on how many items I get ticked off my to-do list, and I feel guilt and shame if I don’t achieve enough. It isn’t healthy. However, this year has shown me the joys of a slower pace of life and despite the fact that I think 2021 might be a bit busier, I have every intention of maintaining some of the balance I have established this year.
Authenticity isn’t consistency.
“You’ve changed” is often used as a criticism, and it’s a criticism I have received in the past, but the truth is that it isn’t authentic to stay the same. To always enjoy the same things, to stand by the same beliefs, to have the same preferences. Yet people get criticised or labeled as “hypocritical” for changing their mind. The reality is that we should change our minds. Authenticity is growth. It is questioning ourselves. It is learning. It is change. Imagine if instead of criticising people for not fitting into a box or reflecting our expectations, we celebrated their evolution. Wouldn’t that be beautiful?
I am sure there are many more lessons I have learnt over the past twelve months, but these ones stand out to me. Let me know if any of them resonated with you by dropping me a line or tagging me on social media @zannavandijk.