20 Things I Learned in 2020
The big lessons that shaped this year.
Gosh. Where to begin? I'm privileged to say that I was able to watch the events of this year unfold from the safety of my health and financial stability. But as you can imagine, as a young black woman, I was not safe from the emotional toll of watching the world I'm about to go into burn down. To see that people are still not sure if black lives matter, if science is real, or if posting a black square on the internet is activism in big 2020.... broke my fragile little heart. But as always, picking up the pieces and putting myself back together made me stronger.
Friends, we've been dealt a shitty hand. Nonetheless, it's all we've got. It's up to us how we play. Here are the 20 things I've learned from this wild ride of a year that kept me sane.
1. I said what I said.
So this is my new motto. After squabbling over the internet with strangers about basic human rights a handful of times, I realized certain arguments are futile. The same way I know my mind can't be changed, I found I can't change others' minds either(in certain arguments). How do you convince someone that people have unalienable rights? Or that a woman's body is her own? At some point, words will always fail you. So when it comes to topics that you don't want to argue about or otherwise just don't have the energy to explain, your reasoning is "I said what I said."
2. It's not an argument.
Similar to my first point, I'm no longer arguing for the sake of it. Stressing over some stupid thing a stranger said online? In big 2020? Couldn't be me😏.
3. The bill always comes due.
In the wise words of Baron Mordo from Doctor Strange, "the bill👏🏽 comes👏🏽 due👏🏽." In other words, "what goes around comes around." This year more than ever, I'm seeing how things come back to bite me. For example, I decided to keep a secret from my mom that ate me up inside. As if that wasn't punishment enough, when the secret came out, she was only hurt by the fact that I thought I couldn't tell her.
Don Miguel Ruiz, the author of The Four Agreements, calls this "sin". To him, "A sin is anything that you do which goes against yourself." This includes when you tell a lie, keep a secret, cut corners, or speak out of malice because it will find its way back to you. Obviously, we make mistakes and bad decisions sometimes, but in general try to avoid things like this because you'll have to pay the price one way or another.
4. It's ok to care... a lot!
I've learned this year that I'm an insanely passionate person. I can't even count the number of times I've cried over things like not being able to meet some of my professors in person, or not being able to figure out a cool idea of mine. But, that's fine by me! It made me realize that I have so much to give to the people that I care about and to the world in general. So much so, that I can sometimes feel strong emotions towards things that may seem small.
At first, I thought this was a negative thing but I came to accept that my passionate nature is a big part of who I am. It makes me want to do big things, and be better every day, which are traits that I love about myself.
At the end of the day, the world only stands to benefit from people who care. So be that person who actively looks for ways to spread kindness and joy. Support local businesses, tip your waitress a little extra, call your relatives, chat with strangers, etc.
5. You are not your feelings.
I know not many people agree with me on this but let me try to explain. Have you ever been hung up on a decision because you feel like you want to do one thing, but you know logically that you shouldn't? For example, when I have anxiety attacks, I feel completely alone. The anxiety tells me that I have no friends and that I'm better off on my own. But logically, I know that's not true. In fact, leaning on my friends and socializing is usually what gets me out of my rut. This phenomenon happens because you and the feelings you experience are separate. You don't control emotions themselves but you can choose how you react to them. Once you adopt this way of thinking, you'll be able to handle your emotions much better.
Don't suppress emotions or force happiness. It's ok to ride out and explore your emotions. When you investigate why are feeling a certain way, it may tell you something about yourself that you never knew.
6. Taking breaks and having fun are necessary parts of being productive.
I think a key feature of productivity is longevity. Are you really productive if you burn out every two weeks? From experience, I'd say no. Of course, I'm not shaming you if this describes you, in fact, we're in the same boat. Unfortunately, I had to learn this the hard way. This past semester was insanely stressful for me and I experienced burnout often. I felt like taking breaks or putting down my work for the evening was slacking off. So, I often worked until I fell asleep at my desk. By the end of the week, I'd feel like I hadn't had a single moment to myself which was so trashy.
Listen, at the rate we're going, we don't have long until this planet goes to complete shite😅. So why not enjoy yourself a little more? After all, we're living on borrowed time; fun should always be our priority. Of course, there are times when we have to get work done, but I think we shouldn't let that eclipse our time to pursue hobbies and just relax.
7. Prioritize people and relationships.
This one. This is a biiiig one. Most of the people in my life know that one of my biggest goals is to buy a house. I have the Pinterest boards and Zillow searches to prove it🙈. But the realization kind of struck me this year that without friends and family, even if I do get my dream house, it'll just be a house. Just four walls on a plot of land. Without people to share it with, it won't be home. Thanks to this year, I also know how terribly draining it feels to be around the wrong people. So from now on, I'm focusing on checking up on the ones I love and making the effort to build strong connections with good people.
8. No one knows what they're doing.
Once you realize this, your tendency to compare yourself to others dissolves. I'm sure we can all agree that as kids, we thought adults knew everything. Now as I enter adulthood, I realize everyone's just out here trying to figure their own stuff out. So, as hard as it can be, don't compare yourself to other people! You have your own goals and dreams, and trials and tribulations that come with them. Just focus on yourself.
9. If you could've done better, you would've. You did your best so don't sweat it!
I'm always that person that beats themselves up over "shoulda coulda woulda" things. An affirmation that has helped tremendously with that is "if you could've done better, you would have." With that, I remind myself that I'm trying my best, and that's really all I can ever expect of myself.
10. Growing pains will persist throughout your life, and that's ok.
I remember at 17, finally settling into myself and my personality and thinking that I had a good grip on life... Then bam! Life threw me into college. Then pow! I was stuck at home for a global pandemic. Now I'm coming to terms with the fact that my relationships with certain family members are just not as close anymore. I've come to accept that life is going to continue to throw curveballs at me. Luckily, I've survived all of the things that I thought would kill me so far! Change is painful but inevitable. We gotta learn how to survive discomfort and roll with the punches.
11. Follow the things that excite you!
One of the best things to come out of 2020 for me was this blog! Blogging is something I've always wanted to do and I couldn't be happier with how my website turned out. I didn't know it at the time, but my blog would later help me get a job(!!!) and help me determine that what I wanted to switch my major to (Accounting--> New Media Marketing). I promise you, if you just follow what excites you, you'll figure out a way to turn it into something.
12. Sometimes material things do matter.
Obviously, it's not good to go overboard in terms of placing importance on material items, but the things on and around you can affect your mood. I've learned that making my spaces aesthetically pleasing makes me so happy! Even if it does cost more😅. In fact, one of my goals for the new year is to gradually swap my wardrobe for clothes that I like better and are more sustainable.
13. Perfect your habits.
Next year I'm turning 20 and it's making my mind explode🤯. It was just yesterday that I turned 17 and got my driver's license. Time is creeping up on me for sure! I'm very aware that as we get older, habits only get harder and harder to change. So I'm committing to creating and maintaining habits like going to the gym, eating healthier, reading, and learning new things while it's still relatively easy to pick them up.
14. Mind your business...especially online.
Yeahhhh this one took me a good 19 years to figure out lmao. As I got older and could better recognize how we behave on social media, I derived that social media would be a much better place if we all just minded our own business. Whether online or in-person, we never have the full picture of someone or their character. Therefore, we should be extremely wary of making assumptions about people, and even more wary about actually leaving hate comments under posts. Although making assumptions are our brains' way of trying to figure things out as fast as possible, they're usually not accurate! So it's best to avoid them if you can. Overall, minding my own business makes me happier and my skin clearer, so I'm sticking to it🤷🏿♀️.
15. Giving advice is often futile.
This might be an unpopular opinion, but hear me out. I started to realize that I never take my own advice🤣. I'm so quick to tell my friends that they should stop talking to that guy or that they should cut off that toxic friend. But when I actually started encountering those situations myself, I realized they were much harder than I thought, and of course, I didn't heed my own advice🤦🏿♀️. The hypocrisy smh. But also, oftentimes advice just doesn't translate. For example, I recently gave some advice to my cousin and her response was, "yeah but my pride won't let me do that." We are fundamentally different people, therefore the solution that was so obvious to me was quickly ruled out for her. This is not to say that all advice is trash, but I'm definitely going to cut back on it, especially when it's unsolicited.
16. Google is fast and free. Use it.
I hate seeing people spread misinformation online. We have all the means to be informed and to get information quickly via google! It's fast. It's free. Hence why I google and fact check everything I see online. Skeptical about how vaccines work? Google it so that you have your facts in check🙃
17. Lead with compassion.
Nowadays I feel like everyone is trying to prove how cutthroat they are. And to each their own, but personally, I've noticed that I'm happier when I show compassion towards others... even to the people who I seemingly wouldn't like or agree with! I find it leads to richer relationships with people and that good karma comes back around to me. This is also important because people are already hard on themselves as it is, and as I said before, everyone is going through things that we don't know about. So there's no need to add negativity or stress to other people's lives.
18. Things in motion tend to stay in motion.
I realized that being inside all day only makes me feel lazier and more tired (in other words, things at rest tend to stay at rest). If you want to have more energy you need to get up and get moving. For me, that means going for a walk, run, or swim. After I get moving I usually feel happier and more energized.
19. Individualism is a lie; a chain is only as good as its weakest link.
The pandemic has really shown how all of our lives are interconnected. The practices of people on the opposite end of the world can end up affecting my everyday life and that of others globally. If all of humanity is one chain, we are only as good as our weakest link. This is why I think we should focus on helping those who need it and trying our best to elevate humanity as a whole, not just our own nations, communities, or social circles.
20. Your dollar is a vote for what you deem acceptable in society.
Remember when Ben & Jerry's stood with black lives matter by supporting grassroots organizations, denouncing specific oppressive systems, and openly sharing their plans for hiring diverse employees? I am not spending a dime on ice cream unless it's Ben & Jerry's. Period. On the other side of that coin, I don't care how good Chic-fil-a tastes, I refuse to spend my money at an organization that harms the LGBTQIA+ community. I said what I said.
If you're in a position to, keep your money from organizations that make the world worse off.
Thanks so much for reading (or scrolling) to the end! It means the world to me💖 I'd love to know if any of these things resonated with you or if you would add something to this list! You can comment here, send me an email, or dm me on Instagram (@ariels_view)! Here's to hoping 2021 is a little nicer to us🥂