For many of us, we can’t wait to not only turn the page on this year, but to throw the whole damn calendar into the dumpster fire of its own doing.
A global pandemic, social injustice, an economic crisis, political unrest… People battled illness, lost their jobs and businesses, and suffered many other devastating hardships.
And then there were the other effects… things that pale in comparison and importance, but added fuel to the flame nonetheless: major life events altered, travel plans postponed, concerts, sports and other entertainment halted, at least temporarily. We were ordered to stay at home, cut off from our loved ones, and mandated to wear masks.
I’ve heard some refer to 2020 as a “lost year” and, while I have also been personally impacted negatively by the reverberations of COVID-19, I don’t think we have to go so far as to claim it as a complete waste.
That’s because there are lessons to be learned in everything. Hence, this adversity is not all for naught if we can learn from it and use it to move forward, to grow.
With that in mind, here are 10 things I learned (sometimes the hard way) in 2020.
10. I’m allergic to wasps.
Not deathly allergic, but allergic enough to have to get a ring cut off of my extremely swollen finger by an entire company of firefighters. From this experience I also learned that a) when you get stung, you should immediately remove any jewelry you might be wearing and b), titanium is extremely tough to cut through.
9. The importance of vehicle maintenance.
When your car is leaking oil on your driveway, you should take it in to the mechanic sooner rather than later. Unless you enjoy large bills and being without a vehicle for weeks at a time, that is.
8. What cats do all day.
Being home a lot more this year afforded me the opportunity to find out what cats actually do during the day. Spoiler alert: It’s the same as what they do at night. A whole lot of nothing.
7. Dishwasher detergent is not the same as dish soap.
There’s dishwasher detergent and then there is dish soap. Even in the event that the bottles bear the same shape and both liquids clean your dishes, these two cleansing agents are not one in the same. And, while, I knew this fact prior to 2020, the real lesson here is to pay close attention to what you’re doing unless you want to clean your entire kitchen floor whilst doing the dishes.
6. New skills!
Without 2020, how else would I have ever gotten the chance to cut hair, experiment with new recipes, learn reiki, power wash, and help build a new porch?
5. We all have too much stuff.
Okay, here’s the part where I admit that I probably jinxed all of us… when we were initially ordered to stay at home back in March, I was secretly pleased. I had just come back from a month-long trip to Arizona and had been mentally preparing for a long baseball season, complete with lots of travel. I hadn’t been home with any semblance of “down time” during that time of year in ages. Thus, I quickly sprung into action by instituting a practice of “quaran-cleaning.” I devised a schedule and each night after work was over, we methodically cleaned the house, one room at a time. This was not your average spring clearing… each room was given a deep clean, and all items within it were subjected to scrutiny. Did they bring us joy? Piles were created: keep, sell, donate, discard. I even went so far as to test all the pens in the junk drawer and count all the cards in the decks.
A major cleaning like that always puts things in perspective (we have way more than we need!) and I at least felt organized at home while chaos reigned supreme outside these four walls.
4. I’m a good teacher.
I think when I was in first grade, I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up. As I got older, I drifted away from that idea because I felt like I lacked the patience to help others understand. I was always a quick learner and sometimes my brain would come up with the right answer, but I really couldn’t tell you why or how I got there. How was I going to explain things to students?
But then a few years ago, I was asked to become an adjunct professor at Marquette University… and I must be decent at it because they keep asking me back! In all seriousness, it stretched me way outside my comfort zone and even though sometimes I think I learn more from my students than they do from me, I’ve really enjoyed that endeavor and look forward to teaching again this spring.
And, because of that experience, I was recently asked to join the staff at Cardinal Stritch and now I look forward to working with their graduate students this semester, too.
Finally, it’s funny to think back to how 2020 began… I started the year in Costa Rica, where I snuck in my yoga teacher training just weeks before the world shut down. I chose to do my training because I love yoga and I wanted to deepen my own practice. With my busy and unpredictable schedule and my lack of patience, I didn’t foresee myself actually teaching anytime soon. Well, it just so happened that the feedback I received from my teacher and fellow students was that I would make an excellent teacher, which made me consider that option a little more. Fast forward through the summer when gyms were closed and home fitness was key. I became nominated by friends to host weekly outdoor yoga classes in my neighborhood and virtual training sessions as well. All of that has led to a new gig teaching weekly yoga and other group fitness classes at a local studio.
It seems like all of the signs keep pointing me to teaching, so I may as well wander down that path a little more.
3. Wisconsin summers are amazing.
Okay, we all already knew this, but I feel like I haven’t been able to truly experience one in a very long time. I remember clearly one Sunday in May. The sun was shining and it was one of the first really warm days we had had so far this year. Neighbors were out working in their yards and playing with their kids and pets. Someone brought out a cooler of beers and we all ended up hanging out (socially distanced, of course) for hours, just catching up after months of being shut inside, made worse with many of us now captive inside our own homes for work, too.
At one point I looked around and said, “Wait a minute, is this what a Sunday is like in the summer?”
“Yes, Cait. This is pretty much what we do every weekend. You’re usually just not around to enjoy it,” replied one of my neighbors. Everyone laughed and I chuckled, too, but it was like a genuine revelation for me.
From that point on, I relished the extra time at home and tried to experience summer to the fullest. We renovated an upstairs juliet porch where I could sit and work sometimes, and I spent so much time in my hammock I felt the sensation of rocking sometimes while standing still.
I went for runs and bike rides as often as possible and rekindled my love for golf. Well, I never lost that love, but I played more golf than in the last several years combined… and my scorecards took notice.
As I’m writing this after the first measurable snowfall of the winter, the thought of next summer is that much sweeter.
2. I am blessed to have the best family, friends and neighbors.
Seriously, though. I already knew this one, too, but sometimes we take these things for granted. And, I also think that sometimes, the toughest times bring out the best in some people.
1. I am tougher than I thought.
I haven’t been immune to some of 2020’s toughest tests; a lot has happened that was outside of my control, but I feel like I have taken it in stride. I’m usually a type-A personality and somewhat of a control freak, so at first, my attitude startled me a little bit. I’ve definitely freaked out a lot more over a lot less in the past. Was I depressed? In shock? Had I become too hardened, too jaded?
Alas, it was none of the above. One of my favorite prayers is the Serenity Prayer and, after reflection on this trying time, I felt like I had finally been granted “the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”
So, while we can’t change the repercussions of this past year, we can choose how we react to them and, as illustrated here, even learn from them. As for those things that are within our control, we can find the strength to enact positive changes moving forward, for we know this too shall pass.
Anyway, those are just a few of the things I learned this year. I’d love to hear the lessons you’re taking from 2020--funny, serious, or otherwise; please drop them in the comments below.
Thanks for reading. Best wishes to everyone for a safe, healthy and happy 2021. Better days are ahead!