It’s pretty late at night when I sit at my laptop to pen this. By the time I get myself to hit “publish,” I would’ve debated whether this is something which needed to be said on the internet. But given that it’s a few days until the end of the year, I felt like I needed to just take to my word processor, crack open a beer and just write my feelings.
Well, I think the first thing I need to say is this: 2020 was a s**t show. I hate using that phrase, but what other words can truly describe what we all went through this year? No one could’ve predicted the world essentially shutting down due to an international crisis, and one that would take close to a year before we started seeing glimmers of hope. I don’t know about you, but I sure didn’t think my world would be turned upside down quite so quickly.
Now, there are a plethora of things I could say about how COVID-19 made people feel, and frankly, I don’t think it would serve anyone good. We all know. But here’s my personal truth. 2020 has been a series of crests and troughs, highs and lows. It’s brought many moments of self-worth and simultaneous self-doubt. Above all else, 2020 has been a long stretch of time where I forced myself to just reflect.
Reflection. Dang. It’s a word which stirs up a myriad of emotions within me, especially when my therapist asks me to take a look at where I’ve been (figuratively and literally) over the last year. Sure, for most people, reflection comes in the form of a strategically-posed “happy” selfie which is posted to their social media pages. Unlike most, that’s never been my modus operandi. For me, reflection is when I ask myself a never-ending spiral of questions that have the potential to dwindle my spirits at the worst possible time.
If I want to get technical, I’d say from a professional standpoint, it looked like my year was full of achievements. I was an editorial fellow at a national magazine and worked alongside some of the best minds in journalism. I had the chance to interview musicians and actors whom I never dreamed of even meeting, let alone chatting on multiple Zoom calls with them. Yes, leaving that job at the end of September really took a toll on how I valued myself as a person, but it’s given me some amazing people, whom I can call on (albeit nervously) whenever I need advice.
The personal side of things was a bit hairy. My dad’s cancer came back. My brother tested positive for COVID. My self-worth has taken a nose-dive. There are other moments I could get into, but the result is still the same, as they’ve all left me with a series of questions I constantly ask myself. Did I live my life to the fullest, despite the coronavirus? Have I tried hard enough to keep in touch with those I hold dear to my heart? Was I not worthy of holding a job which I loved with all my being?
But one question stirs in the back of my mind: was I truly authentic? And I don’t mean if I was honest to my friends, family or co-workers. What I mean is if I felt truly at one with myself, putting me first and starting to build the life I’ve yearned since I walked across the stage at my college graduation just two and a half years ago. And truthfully, I don’t think I took the time to appreciate what sets my soul on fire, or what gives me a reason to keep believing in myself. I haven’t truly enjoyed the meaning of curling up with a good book, or taking a stroll with my nearest and dearest. Again, there are so many things I could say about this. But you’ll all get bored, and it’s not the goal with this.
It’s funny. I oftentimes find myself thinking back to a particular moment from an interview I did with a Marvel actor a few months back. When I confided to him amid an off-the-record moment how sad I felt when reflecting on not necessarily accomplishing certain life goals, he gave me some amazing advice. I’ll spare you the details of exactly what he said, but the gist of it was this: replace the word reflection with redefinition.
While the concept of reflection can have sad tinges or even anger associated with it, redefinition is about giving new purpose to something. Essentially, he was saying that although the world is currently living in a state of sadness, there’s still time where people can change their personal narratives and find positivity within the negative.
When he eventually finished giving his impromptu pep talk, it sparked a thought in my mind. Why does life currently have to be seen as sad? Yes, we’re all still stuck in quarantine, and maybe our tinges of sadness could be attributed to seasonal affective disorder. But there’s still beauty within it. The world has proven itself to be resilient and a place where change can happen, if we just let it. And as I logged out of the Zoom meeting, I not only felt a bit better about myself, but also had felt invigorated to make an effort in redefining what makes me, well… me.
To bring it full circle: 2020 wasn’t an easy year for me, but it doesn’t mean there were only negatives. There were some positive moments, like spending lots of family time or exploring different hobbies. I’ve even found myself rocking out to Queen and 5 Seconds of Summer in my living room, a la Tom Cruise in Risky Business. But it’s not about reflecting on the past—it’s about redefining my future.
So, 2021, I’m redefining what makes me happy and gives me value. It’s not about getting the full-time job (which I believe will happen for me) or eventually moving out of my parents’ home. It’s about getting in touch with my authentic self and learning to love every part of me, flaws and all. And you know what? I absolutely can’t wait.