20 Lessons 2020 Taught Me

Written by: Jorinde Berben
Image credit: pexels.com

We’re over halfway through December. The year is coming to a close and I catch myself looking back on the insanity of it with a mix of terror, awe and relief. It was horrible in many ways, but it could have been so much worse, too. And it was amazing in many other ways.

For me, 2020 was a transformational year (as were the years 2017, 2018 and 2019 before that, to be honest.) It was a year of firsts, and some lasts (or so I hope), with many insights in very different area’s of my life. I’m steered clear of Covid (mostly) because I’m saving my reflections on that episode for when it actually comes to an end.

Here are the 20 lessons I’ve coincidentally found to match this year 😉

  1. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
    I quit my translating job as of January 1st of 2020 to make more room for my children, my social life and my own peace of mind. I always had a hard time saying ‘no’ to jobs that paid. But the stress that came with these deadlines wasn’t healthy for me, nor anyone in my life. Working parttime and saying ‘no’ to extra work meant saying ‘yes’ to my family, myself, and my own needs.
  2. Just because you don’t hear about it anymore, doesn’t mean it’s gone.
    2020 started off with horrible news of forest fires all over the world. We had some big storms here too, and a very dry and warm Spring. It seems like Global Climate change has already become local climate change, no matter how hard we wish it wasn’t so. But when Covid dominated the news, these facts didn’t make the headlines anymore. The same goes for hunger, war and social injustice all over the world.
  3. It’s not as easy as ‘Let it gooooo’.
    Letting go of things you don’t want anymore, things that don’t serve you anymore, often takes hard work. Pushing them down and ignoring your own issues is actually easier. It just doesn’t really pan out in the long run.
    Directly facing your issues is the only way to more freedom.
  4. Fear shouldn’t be calling the shots.
    There are sensible decisions to make in every situation, decisions that show we care, we want to help, we want things to change for the better. Many decisions I’ve made over the year, however, have been rooted in fear, and this response always brought along even more fear. I’m slowly learning to find the ‘ignore’ button when fear and anxiety start rearing their ugly heads.
  5. It’s not easy to ask for help, but it makes such a difference.
    2019 was a very demanding year. I had a fulltime job teaching and a side-gig as a translator, on top of being a single parent. It was rough. 2020 was a journey in learning to ask and, even more importantly, accept help. I am lucky to have a partner who not only enjoys looking after us but also has the time to do so. I find myself relying on his help, and even if that still feels scary at times, it’s also wonderful.
  6. Feelings are contagious.
    Joy creates more joy, love more love and, yes, fear breeds more fear. Covid-19, the wildfires in Australia, the protests following the death of George Floyd,… we lived with a constant feeling of threat and even if you weren’t consciously aware of it, the feeling spread throughout society, seeping into many homes. Being aware of the feelings of others allows you to become aware of how they may affect you.
  7. Feelings change.
    On January 1st of this year I was still, mostly, convinced that being in a stable, loving relationship was just proving too hard for me. There were too many challenges to overcome. I would never be able to get over my fear of attachement. To a degree, that’s true. There are still moments in which my avoidant tendencies flare up, but I now know it will pass and feel happy and secure in my relationship.
  8. Physical contact is underrated.
    Not being able to sit next to a colleague for lunch, not giving my students a pat on the shoulder, not hugging my friends… Even for someone who is more of an introvert than a social butterfly, the lack of physical contact was devastating in 2020. I am lucky to have children who love to cuddle and a partner who enjoys giving massages. There are many not so lucky.
  9. Sometimes, you just don’t know.
    In June, we had to decide on whether our son was going to move on to the first grade or spend another year in Kindergarten. We talked about it for a long time, did research and saw some doctors to see if they could help us decide what to do. In the end though, it came down to our gut feeling and what he actually wanted himself. So he stayed.
    I don’t think we’ll ever know if one decision would have been better than the other, but I like to believe whichever path your on, is the right one.
  10. Trust your instincts.
    When it comes to raising my son, it’s a journey that is unpredictable. He’s a little different, and thus my parenting is a little different from how I parent his sister as well. Through the doctor’s visits we did, I found myself time and again reassured that my instincts in raising him, though sometimes not easy to understand for the outside world, are true to what he needs. Even if that means I still dress him for school. Even if that means I cuddle him when he lashes out. Even if that means I still allow him to crawl into my bed most nights.
  11. There are many ways to travel.
    Covid saw many of us reducing our travel plans to a bare minimum. We still had the pleasure of spending some time in France in the Summer, but many other excursions and trips were cancelled.
    On the other hand, I discovered how to travel through my mind, using meditation and other spiritual practices. I travelled back in time through memories and into imaginary stories in books and films. These journeys were, in many ways, equally life-changing as my trips to other continents have been.
  12. There is so much to discover right in your back yard.
    The few times I did travel, it was mostly within the country, and even within the province. We discovered beautiful walks, magical forests and warm and kind people, all within 50 km of where we live. It allowed me to feel so much gratitude for what’s already here.
  13. Insight means very little, if you don’t act on it.
    I’ve been blessed with many insights into my own behaviour and feelings over the past year. And yet, these revelations mean next to nothing if you don’t act on them. With knowlegde comes responsibility, also when it comes to dealing with your own baggage.
  14. Your connection to others is directly correlated with your connection to yourself.
    You can only truly appreciate someone fully, including all their vulnerabilities, when you do the same for yourself. It seems obvious, but it’s not the way we were taught to think or feel. And no, I haven’t fully embraced all of my own vulnerabilities and pain yet. I think that might be a lifelong journey. But I have noticed my relationships getting deeper AND more joyful as I dive deeper into myself.
  15. It takes courage to face yourself.
    Dealing with your own dark side, with the part of yourself that may be cruel, or selfish, or judgemental, it not really anyone’s idea of a good time. It is, however, essential if you want to free yourself from that which no longer serves you. Owning up to those parts of yourself can be painful and it may seem like your putting yourself down. What you are actually doing though, is taking responsibility.
  16. It’s okay to use the G-word, even if you trust in the scientific method.
    For the longest time I avoided using the word ‘God’ to describe my experience of that energy which moves through and connects all of us with the universe in which we live. I thought I’d be deemed less intelligent if I said something along the lines of ‘I pray to God’.
    I’m sure some people still hold that view, but 2020 also taught me not to worry about them so much.
  17. I want to help people relate to themselves and others.
    In 2020 my partner and I led a training session in NVC together. We coached a couple together, and I performed some individual coaching sessions. Feeling the strong energetic pull this work has on me, has made me realise that I want to explore it further in the years to come. My interests of the last decades seem to finally come together in this adding a depth I wouldn’t have had if I’d studied psychology as a university student.
  18. Scaring people into complying doesn’t work in the long run.
    Believe me, I’ve tried. I’ve used so many threats of all sorts on my children (If you don’t …, then you won’t get …), and on some students, for that matter. Sure, there are short-term effects, and sure, I still use these lines more than I’d like, but I know that it does not help the relationship. Nor does it make someone actually want to behave differently in the future. I’ll be working more on this in 2021.
  19. It’s your life, you get to decide and it’s okay to say ‘no’. Anywhere. Any time.
    It took me 35 years to learn that I didn’t HAVE TO be with anyone if I didn’t want to. I didn’t owe it to myself, or my children, or my family. Just because others want to see me in a relationship, doesn’t mean I have to be in one.
    Owning up to this freedom, and living up to it, allowed me to finally choose the life I, myself, want, including my partner and his three adorable children.
  20. What you blog about, you bring about.
    This year, blogging has opened up a new world for me in a way it has never done before. This isn’t the first blog I’ve ever started, though it’s the only one that I’m so consistent with. It’s also the only public space in which I’ve ever been so completely open, honest and vulnerable.
    Quite to my surprise, building up the courage to be this vulnerable has given me more strength than I could have ever imagined.

    And you, my dear reader, have made all the difference in this! Your time, attention or kind words have shown me that this is, indeed, the way, even if it’s sometimes unclear.

I’m nearing 100 followers on this blog, and might get there by the end of 2020.
100 people who get these messages in their inbox or on their WordPress-feed is amazing to me. But even if you were the only one reading this text, I’d still enjoy writing it and putting it out there for you!

Thank you for your time. Feel free to share what you learned in 2020!

P.S. I want to end today with a shout-out to my brother on his 33rd birthday. Happy Birthday Mr. Awesome!

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