As we near the end of January I’ve decided to reflect on the year that’s passed and consider what life lessons I’ve learned from the crazy year that was 2020! The first half of these Life Lessons involve me letting a lot go, the second installment will hopefully show you my more mindful and positive mindset! So, grab a cuppa, get comfy, and tuck in to this longer, insight-filled post with lessons 1-5 from 2020!
ONE | Community is Everything
I think we can all agree that having a support system is incredibly important. Looking back on 2020, I think it’s fair to say that the world had been shifting, and very much in the wrong direction. People had (and in some ways still have) become obsessed with likes, followers, “friends” – essentially, being seen to be popular/liked/good enough. Having deleted social media near the end of 2019, I found myself naturally stepping away from that “followers mindset” and I found myself realising just how neurotic we have become as a society.
As an introvert, I’ve always shied away from too much contact with others. I’d spent so long in life trying to fit in to that social extrovert mould without actually understanding that it didn’t fit me. I’d seen friends constantly connecting; meeting up, going on nights out, and having a constant online presence and I tried for so long to be the same; foolishly I thought that was how I was meant to be. Throw in some counselling and a self-discovery journey and I figured out that everything I’d been striving for had been literally draining me of my energy and happiness. I’ve now learned that in order to preserve my energy I needed to take a step back from the constant busyness of social gatherings and plans, from the many different Whatsapp groups that were constantly pinging in my pocket, and the need to be seen to be ‘doing.’
Having lived through almost a year of Covid-19, and three lockdowns to date, I think I’ve really come to learn the importance of community. Not an online community, but real life, meaningful interaction with other people. I’m not dissing the online community at all here – I’m just saying that for me, in-person communication has taken on a whole new meaning. I’ve got a pretty big family, with most of my cousins living in the same town as me. We’re close-knit and I love that about us. My friendship groups have become smaller, and whilst before that would have been a scary thing, I can maturely acknowledge the importance of this. I believe that it is better to have a few really good friends who trust, love, and respect one another than it is to have a wide circle who aren’t really bothered. I’m lucky enough to live quite close to one of my friends and when I get out for my little daily walks, it’s lovely to wave in the window when I pass her house, or bump into her when I’m strolling around outside.
I’ve learned the beauty of true human connection. Zoom and FaceTime are no replacement for real life, face to face interaction. We are social creatures by nature and need one another to survive. Even though technology has made it so much easier for us to stay in touch with one another, I don’t think I will ever take in-person meet ups for granted again. I can’t wait to spend quality time with my people, my support system, my community.
Just quickly, another thing I’d like to note, is that the coldness of the 21st century is glaringly obvious to me. I remember days when people used to say hi to one another in the streets, or on walks, showing genuine smiles and simply being friendly. That is a rarity these days and is something I would love to see return to our interactions. We need to be kinder to one another and move away from the ‘every man for themselves’ mindset that has come with the onslaught of technological advances! It is my firm belief that we need to go back to basics.
Image Source: via Pinterest
TWO | Health is Better than Wealth
There’s an old Irish saying that goes “Is fearr an tsláinte ná na táinte.” This means that health is better than wealth. I don’t think its a far stretch to say that if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s how important it is to take care of our health – both physically and mentally.
For many of us, life has become incredibly materialistic. We work to make money, and use the money to buy the latest gadgets, newer cars, and keep up with the Jones’. We’ve placed a lot of glorification and value on being busy. The busier you are, the more of a martyr you are, the more we believe we are valued. This is in fact the total opposite of the truth. We are the only people that can look out for ourselves. We are responsible for taking care of our own health – now so more than ever before, and whilst the numerous lockdowns have led to some people facing temporary lay-offs, and in turn financial difficulties, we need to remember that money cannot buy our health. Sure, it can go a long way to helping us to take care of it, but at the end of the day our money won’t keep us alive, smiling, and able to spend time with the ones we love. We’ve started living life thinking that money and materialism is the be all and end all. I’ve found myself craving the latest iPhone, laptop, a newer car, a bigger house, expensive make up, fancy holidays – but all of these things provide merely fleeting moments of happiness and satisfaction. What really matters is being able to move our bodies, to be there for our friends, our families, and our children.
When Covid hit, I made a very conscious effort to protect myself and my loved ones. I’ve followed the guidelines and have tried so hard to make sure that I have not been the reason for any of my loved ones becoming ill from this horrendous infection. I know many people who have suffered massive financial losses, people who have been let go from their jobs both temporarily and permanently and I can’t imagine how difficult that must be to go through. All I know is that this past year has put things into perspective for me. I’d rather be here and be healthy, than be sick and be wealthy. Life is simply too short to live for sole purpose of money.
THREE | Self-Care is More than just a Trend
Self-care has become a really big trend in the last few years. I started looking into self-care back in 2009 and it’s been a huge part of my life ever since. With 2020 being the shit-show that it was, a lot of people started to realise that they needed to be doing more to take care of themselves. People have openly scoffed at the idea of self-care, thinking it was overly indulgent (again, people glorify being busy far too much.) Nowadays however, people seem to have become far more aware of the importance of self care and doing things that ground us, things that help us to relax, and things that allow us to re-center and find balance. I think it’s important that we all come to learn that self-care is something that is essential to our well-being. I could write a million posts on the benefits of taking care of oneself – but I’m very much aware that there are already a million out there. Just do what you need to do to feel good, to unwind, and feel energised by life.
FOUR | I Don’t Live to Work
On the topic of self-care, well-being is a word that is bandied about hugely within the Irish education system. The department rattles on about the importance of well-being and while we as educators all agree on it’s importance, the well-being of teachers has been well and truly neglected. At the moment, we’re all working from home, and being slated openly by our “leaders” in education. We’re doing the best we can for our students, working ridiculously long hours, and are being openly bashed about the place in the media. It’s disgusting. Unfortunately, this is not a new phenomenon, but it is being amplified greatly by the current lockdown and people’s apparent dissatisfaction with having to keep their children at home to bring down the infection numbers and stop the spread of the disease. Despite the fact that I’m only teaching for about 9 years – I feel like I’m ready to pack it in. It’s a thankless job that is extremely stressful and, when I am off I can’t help but notice a drastic change in my levels of happiness. I often feel like teaching can be compared to a slow release poison seeping into my veins, causing me to get more and more cynical and annoyed with the state of the education system in our country. Teachers are supposed to be all things to all people and it’s getting beyond ridiculous that we’re being expected to carry the slack of our government on this front.
I don’t know how many times I have caught myself saying that I hate my job. And I’m not going to lie, there are days when I really, really do. It’s intense. However, I’m kind of feeling like I don’t have much of a choice but stick with it. With a mortgage to pay and a baby on the way, I’m no longer in a position where I can abandon ship and start afresh. Not right now anyway. On the flip side, there are also days that I do love teaching – it’s the extras that come with it are insane. We’re expected to be a Teacher, Nurse, Counsellor, Parent, Psychologist, Occupational Therapist, Speech and Language Therapist, Literacy and Numeracy experts, Well-being Advocates, and everything in between – all because our government won’t provide the services that our kids need. Our ministers have stated that they are on the side of the children, but being on the ground and regularly seeing the government denying these kids of the help and support they so vitally need says the complete opposite to me.
2020 has taught me that I have not been put here on this planet to slave away at a job. It has taught me that I am only human, I’m only one person, and I can’t carry that much weight any more. I can only do what I can do and let go of the rest of it. I no longer feel guilty for not being able to be all things to all people, for saying I can’t handle what’s on my plate, and for asking for help. Enough is enough and, as stated above in #2 and #3, we need to have balance, we need to have a job so that it provides for the life we want to live, and that we were not meant to live for work.
FIVE | I am Stronger Than I Think
2020 was crazy. In every sense of the word. But as crazy as it was, I learned about how strong I am. In 2020 I:
– Learned how to teach online without any training
– Fought to get a mortgage that the bank didn’t want to give because of Covid-19
– Moved into my house with my OH and survived the “teething problems” stage of living together
– Decorated an house with no access to any shops due to lockdown (and did a pretty good job I think!)
– Lost someone extremely close to me
– Started to do more things ‘for me.’
– Conceived my first child
– Learned to step back from things that don’t serve me
– Learned not to lose sleep over the dwindling of friendships
– Learned about who and what matters
– Kept me and my baby safe
– Started a blog to help with releasing thoughts and feelings, which I abandoned after a painful loss, but have since returned to because I really missed writing.
– Recognised that I don’t have to be doing something all of the time
– Learned that despite being an introvert, I do need people and interaction with others.
– Learned how to save more money
– Gave up alcohol (due to the pregnancy, but it’s still a pretty big deal!)
– Learned how to be kind to myself.
– Learned that nobody actually cares – in both the positive and negative sense: 1. Nobody thinks about you as much as you think they do, so your anxiety surrounding people/events never needs to be as high as what it is. 2. Nobody will advocate for you as much as you might need them to – you’ve got to look out for yourself.
I really believe that you don’t learn something without some kind of a challenge. The list above show only some of the things that I’ve learned, or learned from, in 2020. There was a lot of learning taking place for me. I’ve grown up in so many ways and have become confident in advocating for myself, and for my unborn child. I’ve learned to navigate the ups and downs of mental health within a global pandemic. I’ve learned to (and am still learning to) deal with the difficulties of being pregnant in a pandemic. I’ve learned so much about myself. I’ve always thought of myself as being a relatively sensitive person, but I now know that I can be a strong, bad-ass woman when I need to be. I never realised I was so strong. I’ve never been more in awe of my body; I’m so in awe of what it is currently doing. I honestly just feel like 2020, and 2021 in it’s midst, will both be years of intense growth and transformation for me. And I am loving who I am becoming.
So there you guys have it, 5 of my 10 life lessons from 2020. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading through these and return to read the second installment which I’m hoping to post in a few days. I’d also love to know what life lessons you’ve learned from the past year – let me know in the comments below!