At the end of every year, I dedicate a blog post to the life lessons I've learned in the past 12 months. Even though this has become a familiar routine for me, writing this annual recap felt as different as my go-to outfits recently. Sneakers and loungewear have replaced my usual heels and blazers. I have worn my everyday pair of jeans a hand full of times. My beloved designer handbags have been collecting dust on their dedicated shelves. 2020 managed to turn everything upside down and make day-to-day normalcy feel like something from a romanticized past life. So damn, what a year 2020 has been. It was supposed to be the best chapter of my life. Having a fascination for numerology, 2020 seemed like the perfect numerological year - especially for someone born on 10/10. Instead, this year became one of the toughest challenges I've faced. Looking back at everything that happened has made me shed some tears. I have not felt this much anxiety, loneliness & sadness since battling depression in high school, a dark chapter I'm not particularly eager to revisit. 2020 was a tough teacher, and her strict methods and hard wake-up calls will be remembered forever. But it is that often these tough moments end up teaching us the most valuable of lessons. Now more than ever will this annual recap work as a personal catharsis. I am letting go of the pain that 2020 has caused, and only taking the life lessons with me to the next year. So let's revisit this dark chapter for the last time, and reflect on the wisdom it has taught me, together.
MY GOALS FOR 2020
1. Life is outside our control, but how you respond to it isn't. 2020 was supposed to be my year. The year that all my hard work would finally pay off. A brand new adventure was waiting for me in Los Angeles. It took so much to get to this point, and I couldn't believe it was really happening. The realization I actualized my deepest desires left me feeling overwhelmingly happy and fulfilled. The tough part was behind me, and everything would change; it did, just differently than I expected. Instead of 2020 being the year my dreams came true, it was the year that left me and my dreams shattered. My new chapter in LA turned out to be one of those flashback episodes you prefer to skip over rather than read, because nothing new happens. I spend most of my time here feeling lonely, isolated, and questioning my decisions. I always told myself I wanted to pursue full-time social media content creation, to see where it would lead me.
After juggling it with law school for years, I just wanted to give myself the freedom to focus on one thing only, and have a great time doing it. However, being a full-time influencer left me feeling not as fulfilled as I hoped for. For the first time in my life, I felt stuck and not in control of life. What do you do when your hard work for your dream life did not bring you the satisfaction you hoped for? It took self-reflection, conversations with loved ones, and philosophical reading to realize that even though I might feel stuck, in reality, I am not. Yes, we are in a worldwide crisis, and that has definitely made things challenging. Yes, it sucks when things don't work out the way you wanted them to. But even if life is outside your control, your response to it isn't. You have the power to do something about it. If you are unhappy with your life, you can change direction. The path you are walking will never be a straight line, and sometimes it takes a while to figure out which way it is supposed to go. 2020 showed me that even though I am not happy with where I am in life, I can do something about it. I'm excited to see what the future has in store for me. I am letting go of feeling scared or afraid, and opening myself up for new opportunities that bring me happiness.
2. What comes up, must come down again. The idea of life being both good and bad, yin and yang, is a philosophy I grew up believing in. This year was a not-so-gentle reminder of that. Life gives and takes away - and if you try to gain without losing something else you are trying to cheat life. Even the best cheater can’t out-cheat life, or rather death, itself. It's impossible to manifest a perfect life without pain, sorrows, or losses because life itself is not interested in perfection. Life is unbothered about you living your best life, what you deserve, or want so strongly. Life just is. And in its being, life will perpetually try to find its equilibrium: to find peace and balance in an existence of opposing influences and forces. So it's not about manifesting the good and avoiding the bad; it’s not about always winning and never losing; it’s about finding your inner peace and power, to experience life fully, and to learn how to deal with both the ups and the downs. 2020 was a year that reminded me of this concept.
3. It's ok to feel lost and confused. In life, it’s often the most simplest truths that are the hardest to accept. For example, the truth that you will win in life, and you will lose in life. Sometimes, you will feel like you have everything figured out; sometimes, you will feel like nothing in life makes sense. Nevertheless, we focus on only depicting half of that truth; the winning part. From winning a competition, passing that difficult test, or getting a promotion; we all celebrate our wins. We feel proud, successful, and full of purpose. We celebrate our wins, yet we do not like to admit our losses. It doesn’t matter if we lose a friendly card game, our wallet, or our job; losing is something we all try to avoid. We feel sad, ashamed, and embarrassed when we experience loss. But how can we be ashamed for something that is inherently part of our existence? It’s these simple truths that we find the hardest to accept. We focus all our energy on winning to try to avoid losing altogether. But no one can never lose; because no one can ever out-cheat life. 2020 showed me that it is ok to feel lost and confused. When we let go of the judgment, fear, and shame that surrounds loss, and accept that losing is inevitable, we make space for equanimity; to be balanced, and to feel undisturbed by both the positive and the negative experiences of life. You win some, you lose some. Having the strength to accept both the good and the bad times is what truly makes someone honorable.
4. Taking a step on the same spot is essential for growth. I don't like the phrase "taking a step back", and I spend quite some time researching a proper translation for the Dutch phrase een pas op de plaats, which means a step in the same spot. For someone who is a workaholic and is always pushing herself to do more, taking a step back almost feels like failure. But if there's one thing that 2020 has taught me, it's that taking time to reflect and re-evaluate where you are in life, what you want, and how you will get there is not taking a step back. Rather, it's taking a step on the same spot to make sure you can take a leap forward when you are ready. 2020 has taught me to switch my focus from being productive, to being present in the moment.
5. Don't focus on what you don't have; focus on what you do. 2020 has made it incredibly easy to focus on everything you cannot have or are missing out on. I miss being able to go to my favorite yoga studio near my house and unwind after a busy day. I miss working at my local coffee shop while sipping on a fresh oatmilk latte. I miss spending time with my best friend, talking the whole night away while eating Ben & Jerry's ice cream back home in the Netherlands. Even though 2020 made me miss things and people I hold dearly, it has also showed me all the blessings I did have. I am grateful for having met the most amazing man I can call my boyfriend. I am grateful for being able to continue to work and provide for myself during this challenging time. And I am grateful that my family and friends are doing ok. This year has taught me to be practice gratitude, even in difficult times.
If you would like to see a visualizer of my life lessons of 2020, check out this YouTube video on What I've Learned in 2020.
Cheers to 2020 for being a transformative year. You won’t be missed. I'm excited to see what the future has in store for us. 2021, I am rooting for you and all of us. My hopes for the future of 2021, were best described in 4th century BC by the Ancient Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi: “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.” I hope your 2021 will be filled with love for self and others, with an abundance of peace and mental clarity, and the strength to endure both the great and the not-so-great moments. And with that, my annual catharsis has come to an end. Thank you for reading, and feel free to share your life lessons and thoughts with me in the comments down below.
WHAT ARE YOUR LIFE LESSONS OF 2020?