When I sat down to write this piece on Monday of this week, it was meant to be about 'the biggest lesson I learned during an insane 2020'. I had a very clear idea of what to write. Then, on Tuesday, the horror of a mob storming the U.S. Capitol trying to stop congress from certifying the votes from the Electoral College unfolded on my news feed. Suddenly, I did not know what to write anymore.
So, I sat with it for a couple of days and decided, there was no single, big lesson learned, rather there were many lessons learned. I learned from the lessons of others and I learned a few of my own. if you will indulge me, I will share a few of them with you.
From the Mouths of Babes
This lesson comes from my dear friend and fellow mom and her 2nd grader, working and schooling remotely.
“Selfcare is not a luxury but a requirement to replenish your energy. It is so important to take breaks and set boundaries especially when lines are so blurred nowadays between work and home life.” - H. Kim
This lesson came to her when she got this note from her seven-year-old, she shared it with me, and they allowed me to share it with you.
A note from a 2nd grader to her Mom working from home like so many parents in 2020 reads: "Mommy, I'm getting kinda concerned about you. You're working to hard." Photo Credit: H. Kim
James Baldwin should be Required Reading
This lesson comes from another dear friend of mine, an artist that spent most of 2020 caring for his ailing mother until she left this world just before 2020 came to an end. He posted this advice on social media:
“2021 is your time to begin evolving or the ghosts of the past will always haunt you. Think of your environment and work with it. It will mold to your desire.” - W. Difranco
He said he was just sharing what we are all thinking. I think he is partially right, but I also think this spoke to those who needed a little nudge to move on from the disappointment and devastations of 2020 and hit the reset button. In other words, 'follow your heart', 'chase your dreams', 'find your bliss', 'just do you it', etc. Honestly, I can think of no better time for one to reinvent themselves than after a pandemic and four years of intense political divide, can you?
It came with a quote from James Baldwin, the American novelist, poet, playwright, and activist. If you haven’t read James Baldwin’s work, I recommend reading "Notes of a Native Son" and "The Fire Next Time".
“There is a moment in any novelist’s life, in any artist’s life when you’ve done something you can’t do anymore. Any artist knows. This is a private thing. (As an artist) there is no way I can translate this to you. But there is a crucial moment when you can either keep on doing what you have done or you can make a leap which looks like death. Into things you have never done before but you are not sure you can do. It’s an either, or. If you don’t try to do things that you never done before, you could survive on your reputation for the rest of your life. But you’ve effectively stopped writing (your art) and no one in the world will know it but you. But you know it. And anyone who is trying to write (trying to create art) ALSO knows it and this can destroy you.” - James Baldwin
Author James Baldwin photographed in Hyde Park, London, 1969. Photo Credit: Allan Warren via Wikimedia Commons
Look for the Silver Lining
This lesson is still a bit in progress. I found something like a silver lining in 2020, amid the chaos of the pandemic and the deep division in the country. I was certainly anxious, but I was also, somehow, hopeful.
I was with a dear friend yesterday; we were breaking down this period of major transformation she was undergoing in her life both personally and professionally. She was taking a radical and fearless leap of faith into the unknown and was never happier or surer of herself. I was awestruck and a little envious, but so happy for her. This lesson sort of dovetails with all the lessons before it, here it is:
A silver lining is precious, even if it presents itself with a bit of tarnish, you can still polish it back to its brilliance and in doing so, it may shine even brighter.
This past year I have watched as the business I built over the last 14 years come to a complete standstill. I struggled with friends and loved ones over political differences. And I watched the world and the people in it become something I hardly recognize.
On the flip side, the silver lining is this:
I had time last year to be present with the people that matter most in my life and the space to think about what is important to me. I realized I can disagree with the views of others and I do not have to accept those differing points of view. I can, however, accept the person in my life if they are willing to accept me in the same way. I started looking for things to renew my faith in humanity instead of only seeing the things that test it.
This year, I will continue exploring new things, remove the limitations of my fears and believe in myself because that is freedom. I will be confident in my ability to learn new things and resist the urge to rely solely on what I already know because that is courage. I will learn to appreciate not knowing it all or having all the answers because that means I am open to knowledge and wisdom. I will forgive myself when I make mistakes and stop demanding perfection from myself because that is growth.
I do not have a master plan; I do not have the answers and I am ok with it. For me, this is a big deal. I typically need to control everything, know exactly where I am going and when I am going to get there. Instead, I will allow all the demands and expectations I place on myself fall away and trust myself to find my way, in my own time, on my own terms.
Be a Better Human
If I had to choose 'the biggest lesson I learned during an insane 2020', I think this t-shirt says it all.
"As I continue to 'shelter in place' at home in San Francisco, this t-shirt is, for me, a reminder of what we can all take away from 2020...'Be a Better Human'." Photo Credit: Johanna Miyaki
Happy New Year everyone!
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