I'm going to be real with you all. 2020 has been a hard year.
Yes, I know that it seems obvious. It's been a heavy year. It's been a year full of change. It's been a year of loss. It's been a year of finding a new normal. It's been a year of realizing that this new normal isn't so normal, after all. It's been a year of redefining what we once knew. It's been a year of trial and error. It's been a year of grief. It's been a year of confusion. It's been a year of pain. It's been a year of hurt.
For many, 2020 has been the worst year of all-time.
A week ago, I watched a segment on my local news station in which the reporter asked a simple question:
"What was the best thing that happened to you in 2020?"
Many people waved him off. Others laughed at him and pushed the microphone away. Some asked if the question was intended as a joke. While some people gave positive answers, I was overwhelmed by the number of people who couldn't think of anything positive. I remember sitting there, legs crossed on the couch, wondering what happened to people. I reached a simple conclusion: 2020 happened. I've heard many say that 2021 can't come fast enough. I've questioned what 2021 will do when we aren't willing to change our hearts.
Here's the hard truth: 2021 won't change our lives unless we're first willing to recognize how and why 2020 changed us.
Yes, I know that this sounds ridiculous. So many of us would rather remove all the hurt associated with 2020. It seems impossible to learn anything from a year that we so easily dismiss. I'm guilty of thinking like that, too. At the same time, I realize that disregarding 2020 is also disregarding the person that I am today, as well as the person who I'm becoming. That isn't fair to me. That isn't fair to you.
I can't be selective about the experiences that shape me, and neither can you.
I'm often guilty of thinking that 2021 will make everything right. Maybe it will. Maybe it won't. I know that I'm not alone in this sentiment. We all hope for a better tomorrow at some point in our lives. Don't get me wrong. Focusing on the future isn't necessarily a bad thing. However, it becomes a dangerous thing when we use it as a barrier from reflection.
2020 wasn't the year I wanted, but it was the year I needed. Maybe the same is true for you.
2020 has meant a lot of different things for me. I graduated high school. I turned eighteen. I started college at my dream school. I started writing again. I got a new job. I ate lots of ice cream. I drank lots of tea. I finished the semester with a 4.0 and new experiences.
It wouldn't be fair to only share my highlight reel, though.
I also experienced moments of stress and anxiety and fear. There were moments with tough goodbyes. There were moments where I've questioned why. There were moments where I had to set boundaries. There were moments where I've questioned my worth. There were moments where people let me down. There were moments where I let others down. There were moments where I felt like I let myself down.
There were moments where I had to move forward, even when I didn't understand.
Those moments, although frustrating at the time, were wrapped in grace. They've been transformative. I've realized that I can't expect change or growth or much of anything without struggle. I've realized that I can't expect people who aren't happy with themselves to love others well, and yes, that includes ourselves. I've realized that if a person can't choose you the first time, they probably won't choose you the second time. I've realized that there's a difference between giving people grace and enabling them. I've realized that pain often gives way to something much better. I've realized that some of the best moments of our lives are disguised as routine days. I've realized that life is a lot less about perfection and a whole lot more about showing up. I've realized that I wouldn't know any of these things without 2020.
As I say goodbye to 2020, I do so as a different person.
I'm braver. I've started to realize that my worth has nothing to do with a guy or a number on a scale. I'm more resilient. I've learned that I'm often doing a whole lot better than I think I am. I'm more empathetic. I've started to make peace with what I don't yet understand. I'm stronger. I'm worth rooting for in the upcoming year. You are, too. Don't ever forget that.
Call 2020 whatever you want, but don't forget how it changed you.
Call it terrible or awful or the worst of all-time. That's OK. Let yourself feel what you're supposed to feel. Don't feel like you can't be upset because someone else has it worse than you. Feel as much as you need to feel. In the midst of all this, don't forget to celebrate. Celebrate the victories that others can see and the even bigger victories that only you can fully understand. Don't forget to reflect. Reflect on the good, the hard, the painful. Don't forget to remember. Remember the things that you want to forget. Struggle with them, then let them go. Sometimes, it's good to let things change us. Give in to the hurt. Give in to the pain. Give in to the confusion.
Look 2020 straight in the face and know that you're better because of it.
Thank 2020. Thank yourself. Step into 2021 with hope.
You won't regret it. I promise.