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2020 does not need an introduction. It started off like any other year, filled with new resolutions and goals. However, the chaos came raining in and hit everyone hard. Through the many obstacles and hardships, there were several lessons I learned, some of which I hope stick with me throughout the rest of my life.

Embracing the New Normal

This year was filled with many challenges and obstacles, yet there were amazing opportunities that improved our definition of “normal.” From raising awareness for basic human rights (BLM, and the Uighur Muslim lives), to learning new skills such as baking banana bread and making dalgona coffee. I learned that embracing what is happening is just easier than trying to live in the past. I have learned a lot about other cultures through TikTok, and new skill sets such as painting, journaling, and baking. Not only that, 2020 gave me more opportunities such as a chance to be the owner of a small at-home bakery business. Through the challenges, it is essential to learn to embrace the changes.

Making Self-Care a Priority

I always struggled with putting myself before others. It was hard learning the balance between whether I should be happy or make others around me happy. But with 2020 hitting me like a truck, I realized some people just don’t appreciate the effort I made to make them happy, which is why taking care of myself is a priority now. Spending a little more time in the morning getting ready and turning off my phone at night has made a huge difference in my life. Set aside some time for yourself to do what makes you feel fulfilled. Taking care of yourself isn’t selfish, keep that in mind.

Valuing Time with My Family 

We all learned this year that life can change in seconds. I never really appreciated the moments I spent with my family before. Simple things such as taking a road trip or going to a party seem so far-fetched at the moment. Obviously, travelling to see family is just not in the near future for me right now, and it makes me appreciate the memories I have much more. But of course, there are other ways to spend time with family still because distance means nothing when family means everything. I have learned to value Zoom calls and online Among Us games because it is just about spending time together, not just being there physically.

Learning to Slow Down

As a society, we value ourselves according to how much we accomplish during our lives. Yes, achievements are important but it doesn’t always have to be rushed. Take a second and live your life in the moment. Small changes such as waking up slowly, learning to say no, or just taking time out of the day to meditate can help. I can easily get lost in my studies and work, but it has been important for me to just stop and slow down because a couple of minutes won’t negatively affect my accomplishments.

Don't be Afraid to Ask for Help

Mental health is a struggle for many people. Personally, I have always struggled to come to terms with my anxiety, which always leads to overwhelming breakdowns during the day. I learned during quarantine that it is okay to rely on someone to give you advice about how to deal with certain situations, such as how to adapt in isolation or the anxiety you may be experiencing due to online classes. Share your hardships with anyone you trust whether it is a family member, friend, therapist, or a professor. We are living through a global pandemic, I think we owe it to ourselves to ask for help.

My Choices Affect Others Around Me 

One of the most important lessons I learned was that the choice I make will affect someone around me. No matter if it is small or big, it is nearly impossible to avoid the effect it will have. However, we do not have to base our decisions on others, but they should be valued. I learned this lesson during the start of 2020, when people were deciding to hoard months’ supplies of toilet paper, not leaving any behind for others. This led to other people having no access to toilet paper. Some people also made the choice to not wear masks and travel around, knowing that the spread of COVID-19 was increasing. The selfishness of their choices potentially caused others to get the virus, which can lead to death of others, or extreme sickness for them and their family. This is an ongoing cycle just because one person decided not to make the right choice. Due to this, I have decided to take other people into account when I am making a choice.

This year has been filled with many hardships and challenges, but it also opened up other opportunities for me. I learned many lessons that I wouldn’t have otherwise. Through every obstacle, I hope to learn and gain more insight on life. Let’s hope 2021 brings us better news.

Here’s to 2021!

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Shifa Ahad

UWindsor '22

Shifa is a free-spirited student, who spends most of her free time reading a painting. She hopes to publish her own book one day.
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