The word that I continue to tag this year with is “unexpected.” We can all agree that 2020 had a multitude of unexpected events. When the ball dropped at midnight to begin 2020 I did not anticipate the domino effect of tragic situations that were about to unfold. However, at the same time I tried my best to express gratitude for the blessings I have in my life and for the happy memories sprinkled throughout the year.
Although during this unforeseen year I experienced more emotional lows than I did highs, like the previous years I still wanted to share with you the lessons I learned throughout the year of 2020. Enjoy! ☺️
1. Time isn’t promised, make every day count
January 26th, 2020. The day Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gigi died along with 7 others in a tragic and devastating accident. For three weeks I couldn’t sleep at night because all I could think about was how sad the situation was and I couldn’t stop putting myself in Vanessa or Natalia’s shoes. Gigi was only 13-years-old and she was supposed to have her entire life ahead of her. She was supposed to inspire the next generation of basketball players and help get the WNBA the credit it deserves. Kobe had another half of his life to live but he left behind one incredible legacy and inspired hundreds of thousands across the world.
The lesson here is that our time isn’t promised and we have the obligation to ourselves to make every day count. From that day on I began to think about the legacy that I want to leave behind and how I can use my time on Earth to inspire others, make a positive impact to my community, and support people facing adversity. Additionally, the sudden lose of Kobe made me realize how valuable it is to tell your family and friends that you love them. Ever since that night I made sure to say “goodnight, I love you,” to my dad and give him a hug before bed. Time isn’t promised, make every day a valuable experience for yourself and for others. What will be your legacy?
2. Conversations about racism are uncomfortable but necessary
May 25th 2020 is the day George Floyd was murdered in the street by a police officer. That act of racism and absolute injustice shook the world. I was angry, frustrated, sad, and broken for days. I couldn’t watch the news or even scroll through social media because my entire soul rotted from disgust. George was added to the long list of Black men and women who have been victims of police brutality and victims of racism.
During the “Black Lives Matter” movement my phone was flooded with ‘thinking about you’ messages from my white friends and family. At first I was offended because I felt like they were sending messages for their own gratification of sending a message to their token Black friend, but then I realized that I could use it as an opportunity to inform my friends about racism and white privilege.
The lesson here is that it is okay for white people to feel uneducated about the Black experience, but it’s not okay to sit back and act like racism doesn’t exist. I still find talking about racism to be a touchy subject and makes me feel uncomfortable, but I would rather share my experiences of racism and my family’s experiences of racism in order to inform others.
3. Look for the highlights
2020 may not have included the joys we anticipated at the beginning of the year but I’m sure you can find some highlights that made you happy none the less. When beginning 2020 in no way did I expect to have to spend months away from my family, friends and significant other. However, I try to smile and remember the days and nights that I realized how blessed I am to have amazing friends and family even if we were experiencing distance.
Although we couldn’t physically be together as much as I hoped, we were able to do Zoom calls and FaceTimes throughout the year. Later in the summer when cases were decreasing in Southwestern Ontario I was able to visit with (limited) friends and family. It was even nice to eventually have in-person driveways visits, restaurant patios drinks, and an evening sitting on a rooftop talking about life. The lesson here is to consider rebranding 2020 from being “the worst year ever” and change your mindset by reflecting for some of our (safe) highlights instead.
4. Let the world see your talents
“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, I used everything You gave me.” Those wise words were spoken by the late actor, Chadwick Boseman. Again, the death of Chadwick, The Black Panther, shook me in 2020. Chadwick kept his cancer diagnosis to himself and his close circle of people he trusts, while he continued to grace the rest of us with his talented acting until the very end.
The lesson I learned from Chadwick in 2020 is that we must pursue our passions and use our talents. He didn’t let the diagnosis decide how he should spend his life but instead he decided to live his life to the fullest potential, continue to act and utilize his talents. The reality is that everyone’s clock is ticking, diagnosis or not, and we could do as Chadwick by choosing to put our energy toward the passions we enjoy and live a purposeful life.
An example in my own life is when I decided to start my own balloon business, Balloons By Olivia. I began my business when I was unemployed and had extra time on my hands due to the pandemic. Design and creativity have always been talents of mine and so I gave it ‘my all’ toward growing a business and creating a job for myself admid a global pandemic.
5. Lead with compassion
I had many friends utter the words “2020 is the worst year ever” and proceed to share their first world problem that the pandemic ruined their plans to go on an all-inclusive vacation, to see their favourite artist in concert or to host the big party they were hoping for (I will admit that I’ve complained about missing some of those luxuries too). Missing those opportunities is unfortunate but I tried to encourage friends to be mindful that other people and other families are going through much worse than missing out on a concert.
With the pandemic has come a lot of loss. Millions of people worldwide have died from the coronavirus. Hospital systems are being stressed. Nurses, doctors and hospital staff are risking their own lives to take care of others. Thousands of people have been laid off from work, people have lose their family owned businesses, and there are thousands of people who can no longer afford rent. Lead with compassion. Feel sympathy for others who have been struck by misfortune rather than focusing on your own missed opportunities.
What I learned during the year 2020 is that you never know what someone else may be going through and it is important to lead with compassion, and be mindful of what you are complaining about because the other person may be experiencing worse.
I hope if anything you were able to take away at least one lesson from my top 5. I wish you a Happy New Year and all the best for 2021!