It's no lie that the year 2020 has been, well a dumpster fire, to put it lightly. There has been much more negativity this year than I ever remember from years past, what with this pandemic, racism, presidential election stress, and overall prejudices. Plans have been forced to cancel and many have had their own fears and hesitations about seeing their own friends like they normally would and that's only part of it. However, despite all of this, 2020 has been a true eye-opener, teaching us all some very important lessons to learn and hold onto forever; some that we may have forgotten about or taken for granted at some point. So, what exactly could this year be trying to tell us?
It's completely fine to take a break from social media and other forms of media and technology. Take some time to have a breather and be present in other ways. This is the perfect opportunity to go for a walk, be creative, or take the time to do another activity you enjoy that does not involve screens. I personally took up more time to get back into reading and journaling and even gave painting a try as well. It was easy to feel trapped when you couldn't really go anywhere you normally would or overwhelmed with the amount of work professors have thrown at their students this semester to make up for not meeting in person, so being able to switch off from the devices that have been bringing these stressful tasks to you can feel really great! No to mention, switching off can bring you much closer to your family or whoever you live with and will allow you to even get to know them better as well.
Conversations Are More Important Than You Know
There have been so many big things happening this year, a lot of them overwhelming and hectic. While constant news of the elections, pandemic, prejudices, etc have become part of reality and daily life, it's become a source of people turning to what they know to have a conversation. You may wish to turn a blind eye to it all, but these conversations can actually be beneficial in a way (in moderation of course) since it might help you realize different perspectives you may not have thought about initially or can also provide the perfect opportunity for yourself or someone else to vent about fears and anxieties. Simply talking things through can make a world of a difference.
Your Feelings Are Valid
There have been numerous times throughout this year that I have been nervous to express my own fears or anxieties about something happening in my life or to share how I feel. It was easy to compare the situations in my life to the far worse situations happening all around the world, which made me feel like my problems weren't that bad at all. The reality is that whatever you're feeling, even if it may not be as bad as it could be, is still valid and important. If it's making you feel bad or making you worry, you have every right to still feel that way and talk to others about it. No matter what, your feelings shouldn't be cast aside or compared to everyone else in this situation. If you're scared, sad, or worried, then that's how you feel and you shouldn't feel like you can't express this to others.
It's Okay To Take A Break
As a full time college student this semester, I felt more overwhelmed by my workload and courses than I have before thus far and the fact that we mostly had online learning did not help the situation at all for me. I often felt like I didn't have the time to do anything extra or to focus on something I actually enjoyed doing and instead found myself spending way too much time on my schoolwork and only a little bit of my time on something fun. It was a rough start to the semester for sure, but overtime I realized more and more how important it is to step away from a bit and take a break. I was beginning to feel a little crabby and unmotivated at times while also feeling like I was stuck in the same cycle everyday, so if it weren't for the breaks I finally built into my busy schedule and my friends making sure I had those breaks and times to myself, I would probably still be in that same slump as we speak. Your mental health is important and if you don't build in some time to take a break from the difficult and demanding tasks you face each day, you'll only continue to become burnt out.
You Are Still Capable Of Great Things
At the same sort of token, while this school year may seem more impossible than ever, you are still able to achieve great things! The transition to online learning was a lot to adjust to and personally made my life a bit more difficult as someone that prefers learning in the classroom. There were multiple times that I felt like I wasn't learning a thing and was just submitting assignments to meet a deadline. It was like a game of blindly following the leader and not actually grasping anything, and it was easy to believe that good grades would not come as a result. However, it all comes down to the routine that you establish and the one that works best for you. At the same time, even if this semester or school year wasn't the best for you, it isn't over and it definitely isn't the end all be all. You are not defined by a number, ranking or grade, and you are capable of so much more than this year allowed you to accomplish. You have a brilliant mind and are amazing just the way you are and the fact that you're still trying says a lot. Even if you didn't do as well as you would have liked, you are still great!
Your Cancelled Plans Can Still Happen In The Future
I remember talking to some friends, new and old, (over the phone of course) before the school year even started about what we would typically do at school or the activities they wanted to try as they started out on campus and for quite a few of us, it was easy to be upset by the idea that we may not be able to do these things and to feel like we would never be able to do them. While that may have been true for this year, it does not mean that you won't ever get to do what you want to try out in the future (maybe next year hopefully). Those school organizations, places around the world, opportunities, etc will always be there and will continue to wait for you to get there so don't ever give up on your dreams. Despite the high probability of this not going through, I decided to still attempt to apply for a study abroad program through my university since it was required for me to do so as a member of the International Honors College. While there were a lot of unknowns for obvious reasons, I still tried because I was hopeful that the current living situations might change positively by that point and I wasn't going to let the present suffocate my chances of possibly grasping this opportunity in the future. I even managed to get accepted into a school, but of course was not able to travel since the borders were closed and my program had to be cancelled. Even still, I learned what the application process was like and what to expect, and the fact alone that I got accepted to travel to my dream country felt amazing even if I wasn't meant to travel in the beginning of 2021. I can still try again for 2022 as the opportunity is still there waiting for me just as your golden opportunities are still out there for you. Don't ever give up on your dreams if you can't accomplish them right away, and hold firmly onto them because there will always be an opportunity to try again.
Little Victories Are Just As Important As Big Victories
It's easy to feel like the only worthwhile accomplishments to report anymore are the major tasks that you got done during the day, however, I quickly learned that this is not always the case. Given the state of the world that we have all unwillingly familiarized ourselves with, it's hard to find the drive to do anything major, but the desire to get something done might still be lingering somewhere inside you. So, even if you're stuck at home often without any motivation, a task as simple as making your bed and taking care of yourself can feel just as good as getting something major done. Hey, you made your bed nice and neat and managed to clean yourself up as well! Those are already two steps in the right direction and even if that's all that you do one day, that's perfectly alright.
Your Voice Matters And You Can Make A Difference
This year has also given way to plenty of advocating and raising awareness of important conversations that the world has needed to have for a very long time. Between the government as a whole, the rights of the black community and other people of color and minorities, the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, and more, social media platforms have been very busy raising various points and arguments about these hot topics. We've been dealing with a very stressful election, a lot of hatred, and an ongoing desire to let love, understanding, and acceptance in. There are billions of people in the world and on social media so it's very easy to feel like you won't make that much of a difference trying to make a positive change since you're just one person, but I can promise you that your voice matters more than you think. Every person that joins in on advocating is someone else added on to the signed petitions, the outreach and more, and is also one more person spreading the news to their loved ones and their community. You may start off or think that you are one person, but your actions help create a chain to help build a better world. Your voice matters and can always be used to make positive changes. Never let your voice be silenced and never allow your spark to burn out.
Don't Overlook The Basic Things In Life
Sometimes it may be easy to take things like clean water, a home, food, etc for granted and some of us don't take a moment to imagine life without the basic necessities. Even this has been tested as well as panic grew and threw all of us for a loop buying out grocery stores and leaving very little for others to take home to their own families. I can't even begin to remember all of the people I witnessed buying far more than they actually needed and would get to before it expired (unless you're donating some of the cartons to shelters or other family members, do you really need four cartons of milk?), and let's not forget about "The Great Toilet Paper Crisis of 2020" in which finding one roll was like finding gold. It really makes you stop and think about what's really needed in life and about the people that do not have access to the basic necessities that we do. It served as a reminder to be grateful for what you have and that you really don't need every shiny new object that gets released to the mass markets. Cherish the things you have because there are so many out there that aren't able to access them. While you're at it, consider helping them out in any way possible as well.
Make Your Love And Appreciation For Your Friends And Family Known
I'm a sensitive and emotional person so this one definitely reins true for me, but especially in this rollercoaster ride of a year. Just like everyone else, I've lived through a series of drastic and unexpected turns, some of them feeling a bit like a nightmare. A couple of them even involved my own family, which was not very settling. I've spread this sort of love to my friends as well, never forgetting to let them know how much I appreciate them. I answer every message, check in often, and I don't rest until I know that they are happy and doing as well as they can in a year like this. I can't stress this enough: let people - your family and friends- know that you love and appreciate them and never stop doing this. You truly never know what could happen in the blink of an eye.
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