Looking Back Without Carrying Bad Vibes
For most of my life, I didn’t readily reflect on the past year and set intentions for the coming year. When I was in my teens and early twenties, I lacked self-improvement tools and avoided reflecting on decisions and events that I now consider reckless or questionable. A lack of self-esteem meant I felt little control over my life, and I doubted my ability to change that. Revisiting the past twelve months without clear hope of making changes wasn’t an attractive option. Who wants to revisit years of disappointment and hardship? As I have aged, my perspective has changed.
With Age Comes Wisdom
At 50, I am grateful to be in an entirely different place in my life. Being further along in life’s journey gives a person time to develop coping skills and take ownership of your life. Live long enough, and you start to see hills and valleys. The more challenges you have faced, the better you are equipped for what comes after them. That doesn’t mean you will enjoy tough times, but you can survive them with the right perspective. Relatively calm seasons in life should be celebrated as a respite for seasons of struggle, with struggle ultimately leading to growth.
Age and a willingness to learn makes you more aware of the world’s history. I question the notion that what we are living is worse than at any time before. In fact, I am pretty sure humanity has been through worse on a national and global scale. The Civil War, World Wars, and plagues in a time where vaccines could not be rushed to market come to mind. Staying aware of the news but not dwelling on situations out of your control keeps negative emotions in check.
Being forced into a slower pace of life is a bittersweet blessing. I have the good fortune to be married with three children. I have a built-in network of people I can still get close to. Like many other families, we have had more family dinners and the opportunity to reconnect because we suddenly had fewer commitments. Still, we wrestle with how often to visit our older parents in case we expose them. I long for gatherings with good friends, travel, and dining out. But, I have a new appreciation for a quiet life and won’t be returning to a life of multiple commitments. Being more intentional with my time and talent is a gift I plan on keeping and nurturing. Time better spent can be paid forward more meaningfully.
Concentrating on efforts to better me and those I interact with personally and professionally gives me hope for the future. Since I am a teacher, volunteer, and business person, my sphere of influence can ripple out in a wide circle even when I am not fully aware of it. While I still tend toward negative self-talk, it gives me great pleasure to encourage others and share my knowledge with students. Learning to change the dialogue in your head unlocks the ability to share your gifts with the world.
Developing a habit of gratitude allows me to be thankful for the good things in my life. It still hurts to skim my social media feeds and see first hand how many people are coping with illness or the loss of loved ones to Covid in 2020. When seeing the profiles and stories of beautiful souls who are no longer with us, I choose to be thankful they were here. I recognize my good fortune to have them in my life for a period of time. Choosing gratitude allows your mind to accept the loss and continue to love.
Bright Spots in a Year No One Wanted
Since March, a steady stream of helpful people and organizations have emerged in my life. I happen to live in a smallish Midwestern city where civic-minded people regularly step up to help others. In our town, community service is a local value that is celebrated and worn as a badge of honor. A significant number of friends and acquaintances have used social media to check in with others, to offer assistance to those who are hurting, or encourage sharing the good things that did happen in 2020. Some are leading community efforts to help small businesses or displaced workers. It is a testament to the resiliency we have as humans. Chances are pretty good you have seen and heard stories of everyday heroes. You may be one, be married to one, or have one in your family or circle of friends.
Area organizations with proactive leaders have added new assistance programs, helped people connect with resources, encouraged residents to support local businesses, and provided easy ways to shop local. While programs at the federal and state level are slow and stilted, the process is helped along and pursued more feverishly at a community level. Looking around your neighborhood and local government, you are more likely to find leaders who are passionate about your particular community’s welfare. They are willing to find creative ways to help without the exposure of a national stage and the slow grind of government gears at the top.
There is hope on the horizon as vaccines come to market, and we learn how to manage the COVID-19 disease. Brilliant, dedicated people have moved mountains to find a solution. Our expertise and scientific knowledge are growing exponentially. This could not have happened so quickly at any time before. Our future is brighter armed with scientific advancement.
Tough times are shared experiences. When I look back at the past year, I know that I have not been alone in my thoughts and feelings. In fact, you and I have more in common with people around the globe than ever before. The entire population of earth is facing a common enemy during the pandemic. We are united in a genuine, painful way. That is a lesson we can carry forward when the next challenge arises, and it will.
No, 2020 didn’t bring me down. It made me stronger, more resilient, and more aware of what is important. It made me a better person. I’m glad it’s over, but I know I am better for having lived it.