Good Lessons Learned from a Hard Year

2020 probably should've been one of the best years of my life. 


I started the year abroad in Madrid, Spain. I got an internship at a summer camp that I'd been dreaming about for years. I'm about to turn 21, which is debatedly the last exciting birthday of a person's life. All signs pointed to 2020 being a year for the books, which it certainly was—just not in the way that I had hoped. 


A pandemic tends to change a person's plans. I was sent home early from my travels abroad, summer camp was a no-go this year, and I am now planning on spending my 21st birthday in the basement of my parents' house. 2020 wasn't a great year for anybody, but it did force us all to learn some important lessons. Here a few good lessons that I learned from this less-than stellar year:


1. Your relationship with yourself is the most important one.

This year brought about a lot of unprecedented alone time. I have always considered myself to be an extrovert, so I was nervous at the thought of spending extended amounts of time quarantined and socially distanced. I tend to seek distractions from my worries instead of confronting them, and forced alone time meant more time spent in my thoughts. I found this to be very healing, and I took it as an opportunity to get to know myself better. Quarantine was a time where my mental state was not very healthy, and I took the time to examine how I was feeling and why. Overall, the experiences allowed me to form a better relationship with myself. 2020 taught me not to shy away from what I was feeling, but rather to embrace it. Feeling leads to healing, and alone time was just what I needed in order for that to happen. 


2. The people you surround yourself with matter.

I have a new-found appreciation for my friends and family after this year. After months of limited social interaction, my inner circle became the most cherished relationships in my life. I am lucky to have a great relationship with my family, and our bonds became stronger than ever during quarantine. I was also able to spend a lot of time with my best friends during that time period. Life after high school brought us to vastly different places, and it was refreshing to reunite with them in our hometown. At times it felt like a time capsule, like all of us were 16 again. In difficult times, it is important to have good people to lean on for support. After this year, I will never again take for granted the amazing relationships that I have in my life. 


3. Boredom breeds creativity.

My favorite part of 2020 was seeing the amazing ways that people became creative. COVID-19 literally changed life as we knew it, and it forced people to become problem solvers. In the hardest months of this year when everybody was forced to stay at home, people became very creative with how they spent their time. Personally, I reconnected with my love of arts and crafts. I was able to explore new artistic mediums with all of my newfound free-time. In a society that stresses productivity, the lack of structure was a welcome change. I have often found that when I have nothing on my schedule, I use my time in interesting new ways. This year served as a good reminder that sometimes clearing your schedule is the best way to get back in touch with your creative side. 


4. Enjoy the simple things.

Never in my life have I looked forward to daily walks. In 2020, I lived for them. Every day, my best friend and I would meet up at a new area and walk. It literally carried me through quarantine. So often in life, we only feel excitement for big, extravagant events. In a year where things like concerts, traveling, and parties were cancelled, our mindsets had to change. This year, I found myself getting excited about sitting in a parking lot six feet away from my friends, just so we could chat. I was excited about learning new recipes, even though I never used to cook. I was excited about FaceTiming friends who I hadn't seen since leaving school. Life, in general, weirdly became more exciting. I found joy in really simple things, and it made a whole world of difference. I was reminded that even the simplest things in life can bring great joy, if we simply allow ourselves to be thankful. Now, don't get me wrong—I still can't wait for parties and traveling and concerts. But after this year, I've found a new appreciation for the simple things in life. 


And for that, I'm grateful.