Goodbye, 2020.

When I set out to write this article, it was titled “top 5 recommendations to fill time in 2021” until it finally hit me: it’s 2021. We’ve finally said goodbye to the wretched year known as 2020; a year marked for its heartbreak, frustration, and isolation.

Or at least, that’s what I thought.

Naturally, I can only speak for myself when I say that the new year did not hold the same excitement as before. Although this isn’t the case for most families, my tradition has always been to gather around the television with my family, watch the ball drop at midnight, and toast one another to ring in the new year. We prefer the safety of our home, so that hasn’t changed

in the slightest. So, why did it feel like a regular day this time?

For starters, a lot of the growth that typically comes from resolutions happened without any of us realizing it: at the beginning of lockdown in March 2020.

Bound to my house, I was forced to spend an uncomfortable amount of time with myself. It started with an adjustment period after courses went fully online right before finals. This led to consistent journaling — seriously, I filled an entire journal. The high of last year was my summer term where I earned my highest GPA in my university career.

I was on cloud 9. 

Girl covering face with book Photo by Siora Photography from Unsplash Until I got lazy — so bored that I eventually dropped everything that kept me happy and productive. The days meshed together, and I was frustrated with everything. The U.S. election came around and I got angry again. I went from my highest GPA to my lowest GPA in the fall semester. It finally hit home last night: with last semester’s performance, it makes getting into law school that much harder.

Not an easy pill to swallow. 

Needless to say, 2020 was a truly transformative year. But it’s also the reason that ringing in the New Year didn’t feel special. I had been growing through periods where I couldn’t see the end.

I made it my mission to figure out what worked and what did not work in 2020. The pandemic encouraged a looming sense of doom, needless to say, I was constantly worried. I was consistently negative (more than usual, at least), and frequently agitated. I missed seeing my friends in person and even my family was growing tired of being confined to our house. I was even more frustrated seeing other people attend house parties, upset that they were the reason I couldn’t leave my house.

Then I started listening to podcasts. Two of my favorites  at the moment are ‘Crime Junkie’ and ‘The Mindset Mentor.’ The ladder is designed to help listeners improve their life by shifting their perspective. After listening to the host, I realized that I was feeding myself negativity from all corners. How could I expect an optimistic mindset when all I could see was death toll numbers? Now, I love politics and staying updated on the news, but I’m also extremely empathetic to the pain of others. So it took a lot of discipline to limit my daily news intake — just enough to remain current but not too much where I went down a rabbit hole. 

watercolor set with paintbrushes and notebook on wooden table Photo by Tim Arterbury from Unsplash

It also dawned on me that my negativity spilled into other areas of my life, including school. Yes, I took difficult courses, but I was so pessimistic from the get-go that I didn’t even give myself a chance to prove otherwise. I had convinced myself that there was no point in trying, so I inevitably procrastinated until the last moment. This is when I acknowledged the significance of journaling. I even set a goal to do something creative for 30 minutes each day to unwind. During this time, I allow myself to do a paint-by-numbers, Sudoku or a word search; really, anything other than staring at this screen all day. I’ve even found myself a workout buddy where we send daily videos proving that we’ve actually done something active.

Then I surprised myself even more: I even took time from March 2020 to present day to truly question my faith. I’ve never seen myself as a religious person, but I’ve also never taken the time to foster a relationship with God. Ironic, right?

This year, I noticed a light in people who were firmly rooted in their faith; there was peace to them that I simply lacked. I spent hours completely stunned at what they did differently than me before it finally dawned on me. I slowly began to make an effort to pray every morning, express gratitude for another day, and have even started to read my holy scriptures.

It’s been maybe 2 weeks at most, but I’ve noticed a shift in my attitude. After combining everything, I’ve seen some semblance of tranquility in myself. Getting yelled at by customers doesn’t affect me as much, minor inconveniences don’t derail my entire day, and I’m far more focused on the task at hand. Again, it’s only been 2 weeks, but it’s incredible to see the shift so quickly. For years, I felt like something was missing from my life. In recent times, I feel a thousand times lighter and I feel so incredibly blessed. 

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You do not need to come out of 2020 having built an empire. A lot of people lost loved ones and struggled — and yes, losing a loved one can include losing yourself too. If you feel frustrated with the way things are, I suggest journaling to understand what might need to change. Need external insight? Listening to The Mindset Mentor podcast by Rob Dial might help put things in perspective. Do whatever you need to do to focus on your health and well-being.

So, the answer to my question? The reason why 2021 didn’t feel different is because I had set my resolutions since March 2020. I just didn't know it at the time.