It's a new year which can only mean one thing: a flood of declarations to form healthier habits and a promise to leave unwelcome yet experienced situations and events in the previous year. Everything is nicely compartmentalised, ready to be a memory we look back on and say, 'remember when that happened? Crazy!' We look forward to a fresh start Trump is much quieter, hands are much cleaner and loo roll is in plentiful supply.
Well, despite popular opinion and what most people will be doing, I won't be forgetting anything about last year, the events that unravelled and the impact that had on me personally. That's not to say I will be reserving 5 minutes out of every day to reflect on last year's events, but all we faced, I think, is something we shouldn't be so quick to dismiss. Plus, I could spend that 5 minutes watching Harry Styles and Phoebe Waller-Bridge dancing in his latest video which is a far better way to spend my time.
The beginning of 2020 was full of excitement for me, just like it was for so many. The big plan to go travelling around South East Asia was here! I'd saved for two years and it was all finally coming together. The bags were packed, the currency was in the purse, the expiry date on my passport had been checked close to 436 times and then BAM - along came Covid. Major bummer. To say I was gutted is an understatement. However, it was a startling reminder of what I learned in Professor Steve Peters book, the Chimp Paradox - nothing in life is guaranteed. We live in a world now where, whether we choose to admit it or not, we believe we are entitled to everything going completely smoothly when life is completely unpredictable. We are often so quick to forget this fact and, I'm sad to say, our anxiety feeds off that. So, when reality does hit and we are faced with something we did not see coming, anxiety kicks in and our mental health suffers. I'm not saying I'm grateful that my travels were cancelled - quite the bloody opposite, actually - but I am pleased that my more realistic and frank look at life has helped me to deal with situations much better. I think, even if ever so slightly, I am more capable of dealing with unexpected events, as my reaction to my cancelled plan's proved. Instead of being thrown into a state of panic, I'm more practical. That's not something I would have been able to say two years ago, I can tell you that!
Having so many things taken away from us or restricted has also made me incredibly grateful for what I usually have and what I currently do have. I know I'm not alone when I say that. There are so many things I took for granted without realising: the ability to travel, to hug my friends and family, to work from a cafe instead of from home, to go on a night out, to go to a gym class. These are things I'll always appreciate going forward. But maybe it took 2020 to teach me how lucky I was - that we all are. I don't want to fall back into a mindset of moaning or getting upset or angry about what I don't have. I want to preserve this new, more grateful outlook to the very best of my ability.
Being alone is something we all experienced in some capacity last year. When I say alone, I don't necessarily mean physically. You can be in a house full of people but still feel alone, unable to be around those you really need at a time when you really need them. I have made it no secret that I've had my fair share of issues with anxiety and depression and an isolated environment is a pressure cooker for relapse, I've found. I'd be lying if I said that wasn't mine and my family's greatest concern when the lockdown came in. I'll be honest, there were a few bad, darker days and I did end up giving counselling another go, but it proved to me that without all the things I'd usually turn to available to me, I could still find a way to make it through and that it was possible to adapt my coping strategy. You can't begin to imagine what that's done for my confidence. If I forget last year, I won't remember just how well I did and just how far I've come over the years. 2020 will be an important reference for me when or if my anxiety and depression come strutting in to remind me that I can't do something or I can't cope on my own that I, in fact, can. I'll enjoy waving them back out of the door, just like Joe Biden will enjoy helping Trump carry his bags out of the White House (BYE, HUN!)
As I've already touched on, I attended 8 counselling sessions last year to see me through some of the more difficult times where my mental health started to deteriorate. I've had counselling quite a few times before so you'd think there would be nothing left for me to learn. How very wrong you'd be to possess that assumption. Dare I say that my most recent round of counselling taught me more than I've ever learned from a course of counselling - a bold statement, I know. I talked about things I'd never discussed in great detail before, how certain relationships have had an impact on my self-esteem and the importance of improving my sense of self-worth. I learned to love myself and, most importantly, get to know myself more than I ever have done before. As a result, without sounding like Mrs Braggy McBraggerson, I feel more confident than I've felt in many years. And you want me to forget all that learning? Absolutely not, sunshine.
So, I guess what I'm saying is, maybe don't completely erase 2020 from your memory. Think about what last year taught you and how well you did to simply get through it. Is there something new you learned? Has it changed you? Did you gain something? Taking a moment to reflect might help you to realise that you deserve a bloody good pat on the back and there isn't a chance I'm going to let any of you forget to do that. I'm here to hype you up like DJ Khaled hypes up everyone he collaborates with.
I know I'm coming from a privileged position and, VERY luckily, I haven't lost anyone as a result of the pandemic and I haven't lost my business, job or my home. I appreciate that anyone who falls into any of those unfortunate categories might want to forget what happened last year and I can't say I'd blame them at all. However, for me, I'll be looking back at 2020 and recognising how, unexpectedly, it made me a better person and taught me things I may not have learned otherwise. Silver linings, and all that, and my god do we need to find some silver linings after last year's shit show. Am I right or am I right?