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As December begins and the year enters its final few weeks, I’ve started reflecting on the last few months of 2020. This has been a tough year for everybody. It’s been traumatic, depressing, isolating, and fear-inducing. We’ve learned to adapt and live with these circumstances despite that ongoing struggle.

But what’s come out of it? It’s been a sucky year but surely there must be some takeaways. Maybe this is just me being an idealist who reads too many stories, but I can’t help but dig for ways these challenges have contributed to my personal growth — to seek out the lessons between the lines.

Turns out, this year taught me to value a lot of things I’d taken for granted back when life and the world as a whole were operating as normal. Here are the biggest ones:

Supporting Small Businesses Online

With all of us stuck at home and stores across the world closing their doors for an indefinite amount of time, this left a lot of people seeking alternative modes of shopping to satisfy their itch for some much needed retail therapy. In the midst of all the chaos, small businesses were definitely hit the hardest.

I’m someone who adores the charm that small businesses have. Their vibe is so unique and leaves you feeling giddy whenever you find something perfect for you to buy. More importantly, the difficulties of 2020 ultimately made supporting small businesses all the more meaningful. This is because not only are you purchasing something touched with hand-made love, but you’re also contributing to that business’s survival.

In the last few months, I’ve raided Etsy for adorable little items to bring some light to my day. I’ve got a new metal bookmark with Swarovski charms hanging off the edge, reusable bamboo cotton pads, colourful quilted socks for my mom, and so much more. 

My favourite part? The personal hand-written notes saying thank you. Maybe this is cheesy, but it felt like it was just as much a gift for the business owners as it was for me.

My Family

I’m a notorious introvert. Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you I’m definitely one to choose a night spent in solitude instead of with company. But soon enough, with everything that was going on, I gradually came to a point where reading for hours alone in my room wasn’t good enough for me anymore — I was starting to crave human interaction.

With everyone on lockdown, this meant I turned to the closest thing I had in reach: my family.

So many loved ones were lost to 2020. We are approaching holidays that will see many more empty seats at the table than we could have anticipated. This makes spending time with my family matter more than ever before. Rather than holing myself up in my room, I’ve started invading my sister’s bedroom for study nights and poking my head through my brother’s door to have routine insult-exchanges.

I’ve even grown closer to my mom, who’s been an amazing source of comfort in the middle of everything that’s been going on. Sometimes I come downstairs and find her stretched out along the couch nibbling on some snacks as she watches her favourite TV show, and without thinking I go to lie down beside her for a much-needed cuddle. I may be turning 24 in a month, but nothing could ever beat the feeling of quietly lying down with my mom as she absently strokes my hair.

My Friends

You didn’t think I’d miss this, did you? I don’t know about you, but 2020 has done nothing to keep my friends away — if anything, my phone has never dinged more!

The amazing thing I’ve learned about the way people work is that they will never stop seeking each other out. Even if they are all locked up in their homes and haven’t seen each other in months, they will always find ways to come together. For me, it’s been through places like Zoom, Netflix Party, Discord, and yes, even Among Us.

It’s really true that absence makes the heart grow fonder. And while I miss seeing my friends in person, especially those I’m used to seeing on campus on a weekly basis, I know this will make coming together again that much more exciting. Not only that, but can you imagine how amazing the parties and nights out will be once this all blows over?

My Passion

My one and only true love for years now have been stories — and lately, writing them.

For the last few years, I’ve always been too scared to explore my skills as a writer. It’s like that thing where you can picture a painting so vividly in your mind and then you start to draw it only to find you’ve completely butchered it. I couldn’t bear to butcher the stories I was writing in my head, because this would mean any hopes I had to pursue it would be killed.

Enter April 2020, when the lockdown was in full effect and the winter semester had come to an end. Without work or school, I had nothing left to do, nothing to fill my day. Namely, I couldn’t hide behind my usual excuses not to write. So I finally bit the bullet and gave my imagination the chance to manifest itself on paper — and the story took on a whole life of its own. What was supposed to be a short drabble grew into a full-fledged world of fiction I had absolutely no hopes of containing. I was giddy and having the time of my life. 

I had to put the story on the back burner with the start of school, but I know it’ll sit there waiting for me once classes wrap up for the holidays, and I can’t wait to spend time with my characters again.

Myself (duh!)

Let’s face it, it felt like the end of the world for a hot minute… and by hot minute, I mean the past eight months. This means the rules for the normal world don’t (and shouldn’t) apply.

What I’m referring to is our productivity, in work and in school. We’ve been taught to value ourselves according to our success and what we can get done, and honestly, it’s toxic. In our current circumstances, we shouldn’t prioritize arbitrary duties over our own mental health and peace of mind.

Now stay with me here. You might be thinking, “easy for her to say, she can’t really say those things without certainly speaking from a place of privilege.” Trust me, I get the struggle. I live paycheck to paycheck and I’m a scholarship kid — my survival relies on productivity and success. 

But what kind of life will I have if I’m not healthy? While good grades and work ensure thousands of dollars can go to my future, I will never allow them to come at the expense of my sanity, especially in a world where people are getting sick and dying en masse. Sometimes you just have to shut that laptop, put on your coziest jammies, and snuggle into bed with a tub of ice cream and your favourite comfort movie. You earned it and more than deserve it.

This year may have been a difficult one, but I’m so grateful for the lessons it has taught me. As I take them into the new year and into my future, I can only look forward to more growth and better things — for myself and for everyone around me. I hope this piece helped you think about the small things to love in a world that feels like it’s falling apart. And remember: be kind to yourself! We’ll get through this.

Rawan is the former President and Campus Correspondent for Her Campus Carleton's '21-22 school year. She started out as film student before pursuing her passion for storytelling at J-School. When she's not reading or writing, you can find her fawning over cats and splurging on things she absolutely shouldn't be.
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