2020: A Year in Review

Every year, I look back at the year prior usually in the form of photos, but I journal too. I look back to review the life I lived, how I lived it, and who I lived it with. I look back to see if I’ve found my “why” yet in life, to see if I provided any type of positive influence on others. I look back to smile and to reminisce; to find the good in the bad and to see how I can use the old year as a stepping point for an even better one to come.

This type of post is typically reserved for my own self-reflection purposes but I usually like to share it in hopes to inspire someone else to think big. Anything in life no matter how great or small, regardless of a pandemic or not is available to you if you determine that your worth is great enough. It might not be by the way of luxurious travel accommodations amidst a global shutdown but we are all entirely capable of giving it our best; of overcoming even the greatest of misfortunes we’ve faced regardless of creed, country, family, or otherwise.

I’ve struggled putting this years post together because I don’t know what the appropriate balance is between acknowledging the crappy parts about the year and the good. Because both were there and I’m sure most could argue that there was more negative than positive but I really hate looking at life that way so I’m going to challenge it. I’ve read the posts people have shared the last few days condemning 2020 and giving it a royal unicorn fist (a term I learned just yesterday, ha!). The ratio of good to bad is so low, that the few people I did see who focused on the blessings of last year can be counted on only four fingers.

I’ve followed along throughout the year not knowing how to navigate this world in the most politically correct way, as a privileged white woman not wanting to offend friends or peers. Do this, you’re wrong. Do that, you’re wrong. I know I’m not the only one that felt like it was easier to stay quiet not because we didn’t care but because it seemed like there were more people interested in being malicious than joining hands.

I’m critically aware that the pain I’ve personally experienced in 2020 is nothing in comparison to the lives lost to COVID, to their families; to brutality and injustice people have been subjected to, and to heartache. Because of that, I’m not sure I even feel qualified to write about anything. But, I’m going to.

This last year, I learned a lot about the people around me, near and far. I learned a lot about myself. I wondered more times than I can count how unusual it is to feel nothing while everyone around me is feeling something. As a self-proclaimed empath, I found myself feeling little empathy for certain situations that occurred throughout the year. This was usually on a much more grand scale than in my own life but I found myself analyzing the bigger picture more often than not; considering all the circumstances for something to be and watching how the communities I’m involved in, the country, and the world.. reacted. While that happened, I sat still, reactionless. As if a statue, emotionless to it all because to me, no one was listening to one another and it all seemed so pointless.

The masks (at first) seemed pointless. The protests, the destruction. Pointless. The election, omg the election. Point. Less. The isolating “safety” and the drama of it all seemed so pointless. It still does. In 2020, not only did a worldwide pandemic wreak havoc across the globe but millions of people acted out the movie Idiocracy as if it were a challenge between terrorizing entire cities and destroying their communities to causing a scene when the employees at a grocery store only ask you to put on a mask because it’s their job not because they are about you.

I found myself in a deep social media hole, watching friendships literally dissipate over two old dudes who both have questionable morals. Guess what, most of us do too if we decide to take a step back and really check out our own lives instead of everyone else’s. I followed along on more GoFundMe and CaringBridge sites than I ever thought possible in 2020. And I cried a lot. I was reminded that even though I felt so stupidly alone, that we are in this together, apart.

With that being said, there’s no smooth segue to transition to 2020 from my point of view. So, without further ado and because I am a lover of lists, here are TWENTY-ish notable somethings from my 2020. Note, that this isn’t a “top 20” highlight real of all the good things. While most of these are positives, my year was full of learning experiences, affliction, and growth too.

  • Faith: Oh hey, God. It’s me. Faith has always played some sort of role in my life to varying degrees. The last few years I’ve really found a good community of people and in 2020, I did everything I could to maintain and build an even deeper relationship with God. The year started out with a goal to read the entire Bible in 2020. I made it 128 straight days of consistent reading before it began to feel like a chore and I didn’t want God to feel like a chore so I shifted my thinking. This year, I was fortunate enough to join IF:Gathering with like-minded women around the country, I led a Launch table pre-Covid and a virtual Grow Group at the height of the pandemic. I was invited to be a part of a BEMA study group which has seriously opened up so much in terms of understanding scripture, I’ve explored online churches from around the country, studied world religions, and I’ve learned to truly rely and trust in both God’s plan and His timing.
  • Hawaii: 2020 marked year five of mother/daughter trips and we found ourselves in Hawaii this year! We even invited my dad along to pre-celebrate becoming an old man (60, holy smokes)! I learned how to snorkel, that my dad and I are not suitable travel companions, and grew to appreciate the island life in a way I didn’t expect. Read about it here!
  • Emmalita: Emma turned F O U R this year, graduated preschool like a boss, jumped on the biggest of trampolines, decorated pumpkins for Halloween, baked birthday cupcakes, had awesome auntie/Emma sleepovers, and taught us all so much about feelings and compassion for others.
  • All the Loves: My middle brother got married and so did a few really incredible people in my life. Babies were born and engagements were announced! I know the events of the year didn’t pan out how everyone had hoped and many weddings or showers were postponed but love is love and still worth celebrating!
  • Isolation + Depression: Read about it here because I don’t want to trigger my lil’ snowflake self rn.
  • Montana: I dared to leave my dark and dingy apartment and venture off alone in search of mountains, fresh air, and glacier water this summer. I determined that mental health was just as important, if not more, than physical heath so I made the controversial choice to travel in a pandemic. I’m a lazy bones so I haven’t totally transcribed my journal entries (because there is no reception in the mountains, who knew?) but part of that series is up, the rest should be by weeks end!
  • Navy Bean: This year, I found myself spending a bit more time with one of my favorite girl cousins, Navy. The year started off with a hot cocoa crawl and ended with a haunting in the woods of Leonard, ND; long nails, dinner, lots of laughing, and tubing were sprinkled in between. I hope to find ways to make even more memories in the new year with her.
  • Kittens: Bodhi got a sick lion haircut this year after watching Tiger King and Aggie dared to let another human pet her this year so I’d say between that and their mom working from home, they’ve had a pretty fabulous time.
  • Netflix + Chill: I wish the streaming services had an end-of-year wrap up like Spotify does. Who wants to swap stories on who can binge watch something for the longest period of time? Because, I’d win. P.S. This summer, I video chatted with my brother and his now-wife to watch a show together just to feel less alone. Is that weird?
  • Art Therapy: In an attempt to pull myself out of a late-spring situational depresh due all the isolation fun, I dove head first into projects with no rhyme or reason. I taught myself how to embroider, tried my hand at keeping succulents alive for the entire summer, started to learn Italian, made wedding bouquets with my SIL, and painted a cute little pumpkin to look exactly like the vintage camper I don’t have but definitely need. Art, in any form, is good for the soul.
  • Tik Tok: Whether you’ve found yourself on the darkside yet or are still watching the best videos on Facebook two weeks later, I think we can all agree that TT has taught us more in the last 9 months than any of us learned in primary school
  • Boss Lady: In 2020, I worked on a really big entrepreneurial idea and put pen to paper to take the steps into making it a reality. At this point, I’ve read a handful of books, done a buttload of research, and made appointments with business advisers across the region to make my dream become a reality. I cannot wait to share more as 2021 gets started. And also, I’m really freakin’ scared so #prayersplz
  • Family: My family has been instrumental in being the reason for survival in 2020. After isolating for what seemed like an eternity, I went to my brother Nick’s house and will never forget the hug he gave me or the road trip to the drive-in theater in Warren with him and Katie. For the messages of love Logan has sent me when he can hear the sadness in my voice from 125 miles away or showing up in Fargo because he’s bored. For my mom knowing I’m not okay without me even saying a word and for my dad for just being his sometimes oblivious and always hilarious self. For my aunts and my cousins, and my niece. Family really is everything no matter how cliché that sounds.
  • Mental Health: This takes up a few spaces in my 20-ish list because it’s SO FLIPPIN’ CRUCIAL to address mental health. At the start of 2020, I started therapy because after two years of single-dom, I felt like I still had a lot of work to do on myself. You know the whole “love yourself before others can love you” type of thing. I went for a little bit, then Covid hit. At a time when I should have dug my nails in and stuck with it, I didn’t and instead allowed myself to sink into a deep ugly hole of really crappy feelings. I eventually jumped on the therapy bandwagon again just a couple months ago and have given it 110% to do better, be better, and feel better. I still cry more than I’d like to admit and there are so many days that I feel useless to the people around me in this world but I’m working on that. I’m indulging in self-care via solo pedis, Thursday night face masks, and silencing my phone. I’m writing more on here and working through the traumas of my past. I know the road is long but some of my very favorite places have taken the longest to get to. Please address your mental health if you haven’t yet. Anger, abuse, body shame, sadness; outwardly gregarious but internally broken.. Fine but also, not really that fine, stuck, meh.. Those are all reasons to ask for help and there is absolutely NO shame in doing so. The days of therapy being taboo are behind us, please don’t let an old way of thinking prevent you from finding peace.
  • Physical Health: To round out a really interesting year, I did more for my physical health than any other time in my adult life. I’m pretty sure I know every single crack in the sidewalk within a 2 mile radius of my apartment and I said YES to a 16 week boot-camp program! I’ve been doing a whole lot of snackin’ + slackin’ since that ended and need to push myself to start up again. While I didn’t see much progress in the mirror throughout the year, I gained confidence, strength, and community by making myself a priority.
  • Letters: I wrote so.many.letters this year. In December, I took the challenge to write a letter a day and it’s officially run over into the New Year! #scribblewin But the letter writing began far earlier than that. This spring, I wrote a letter a week to various people for a month or two, I started writing letters to “my future husband” back in September and left notes on post-its along my walks for random people to find in hopes to create unexpected smiles this summer. 10/10 it’s not that weird.
  • Good People: I could dedicate an entire post to the good people in my life and how blessed I feel to be surrounded by them. From co-workers turned friends to check-ins from parishioners at the start of quarantine to gym-mates, and new people with incredible souls that I’ve met only recently.. There is so much good in people if you choose to surround yourself with them. It took me a really long time to differentiate between healthy and unhealthy when it came to inviting others into my life but I’m so glad I’ve had the opportunity to meet and grow in community with some really special humans this year!
  • Writing: At the risk of sounding like a broken record, writing has been a huge aspect of figuring out my crap this year. I’ve written in my travel journal, in my prayer journal. I’ve spent time writing poetry and filling out self-help workbooks. Here are a couple of my favorites from this year that haven’t already been mentioned in this post:

2020 hit different. The year of perfect vision bailed on it’s optometry appointment and so much of life got cancelled in the same year that cancel culture was used to such an aggressive degree. It’s really easy to go on and on recognizing the sorrows of the year that shall not be named in an attempt to validate some of the good but sometimes that’s old news. Sometimes, we need to keep moving forward, keep trying for a better tomorrow instead of wallowing in the pain of today. As Stephan Furtick so boldly said: You can’t receive new miracles with old mindsets.

Preach.

This year many people, myself included, just tried to survive. In the moment, I felt that so much. In the sadness and the suffering; the endless “God, are you there?” questions wondered aloud.. we did so much more than survive. I dare you to take time to really evaluate the year you had. Acknowledge the shit parts and celebrate the incredible moments, even if they are few.

If 2020 really did suck the life out of you, I urge you to use last year as a stepping stone as you venture into 2021, don’t toss it aside as if it wasn’t important because it was. It’s another bit of the framework that makes you, you. Dare to thrive in 2021, not just survive. <3

When you start to feel like things should have been better this year, remember the mountains and valleys that got you here. They are not accidents, and those moments weren’t in vain. You are not the same. You have grown and you are growing. You are breathing, you are living, you are wrapped in endless, boundless grace. And things will get better. There is more to you than yesterday. -Morgan Harper Nichols

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