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  • Writer's pictureOdd Bird Out

Lessons Learned - 2020 Recap

2020 has been a learning curve for all of us. We've had to find new and creative ways of moving on with our lives amidst a once-in-a-lifetime worldwide pandemic; from our everyday routine and interactions, to how we work, how our children are schooled, how we shop — you name it, basically everything has changed. While reflecting back over this year, as I do before each new one, this one required a few deep breaths and a stiff drink. Here is a look at some of the lessons I've learned this year. I challenge you to reflect and make a list as well; I think you'll be quite surprised to see just how much you've grown this year.

To Adapt

This will likely be on the top of everyone's list, even though adapting is something we are all doing constantly — we rarely notice it because it is happening so slowly. The adaptation we've had to come to terms with this year however, happened suddenly and with little warning — making it feel like we're round pegs being shoved into square holes. It has not been comfortable or enjoyable. Even worse, some of us may have gotten sick and or even lost loved ones - a tragedy that will likely take us a considerable amount of time to work through in our own ways. But at the very least, we all witnessed the chaos and fear, the panic and pain; maybe we even succumbed to some of it - and that's ok. There are very few people left in the world that have ever been through anything of this magnitude before, and I'm sure even they would tell you, this one is a doozy. We all had to adjust and adapt to a new world; one that will likely be changed forever. Rest assured, just as in the past, we will find a new "normal" on the other side of all of this, and we will be so much stronger and wiser for it.

To be Creative and Resourceful

If you're like me and so many other people this past year, then you learned to make some kind of bread. I, personally, learned how to make sourdough from a starter which was really frustrating and satisfying. Likely a task I wouldn't have taken the time to learn, had it not been for having just so much time on my hands. But I did it - it took me weeks to get the starter right, but once I had it, I was making so much bread like that single act alone was going to cure the virus — I was a bit out of control. That being said, it was something productive that kept me focused and my family very happy every time I pulled a new, warm loaf from the oven — so it's a win-win in my book.

In 2020 we didn't just learn how to bake, we also made masks and hand sanitizer to keep our families and friends safe when those items were so hard to find. I, personally, was able to make large batches of masks, thanks to supply and financial donations, to a local maternity ward when they were running low on supplies. Keeping myself busy with helping others was a very helpful way to not become overwhelmed with all the change and fear going on in the world. I knew I couldn't make a huge impact, but I also couldn't stand idly by and do nothing, so I got to work — while rewatching the entire series of The Office (of course), twice over, while sewing into the wee hours of the night.

For those of us that like to really infuriate...I mean challenge ourselves, we learned how to garden. This was by far the most difficult and personally rewarding thing I've done all year. I had to learn all kinds of things from how to deal with hornworms (whom I still harbor so much hate for), to zones and what should and shouldn't be planted together, to soils, pH and fertilizers, how to cultivate each vegetable and plant for their own specific needs, and so much more. When I would harvest something I would have the most rewarding sense of pride - I did that. It was incredible to me to know that I took something from a seed and I was now using that harvest to feed my family.

This has definitely been an incredible year for personal growth and I intend to utilize and enjoy the skills that I have garnered from it for many years to come.

Self Care isn't Selfish

Self care probably looked different than our norm this year, mainly because we likely needed a little more of it, or different kinds given our unprecedented situations. In previous, years I spent so much time making sure everyone else was doing ok, often to my own detriment. This year I knew that had to change — I wouldn't be able to help my family through this difficult and weird time if I didn't first help myself. Much like the whole airplane oxygen mask scenario; you have to secure your own first before helping someone else with theirs. I'm just not wired that way, but this year really forced me to see the value in it.

Self care was a variety of things for me this year - running was a big one to help curb my anxiety and stress, sewing, reading in bed, exploring and expanding my skincare regimen, a good bourbon and some classic jazz, cooking new meals, bike rides in the woods, learning how to roller skate again (and yes, I jumped on that nostalgic train with both left feet), falling asleep in the hammock in my backyard on a sunny day, journaling, and most importantly I got a new therapist.

When you get past the idea that self care is just self-help books, massages and bath bombs, you can really tailor the act to suit your individual needs. Something that helped me quite often this year when I felt guilty about the time I spent on myself, or not doing the one hundred things on my to-do list was to repeat the mantra "Secure your own mask first". It was simple but it really helped correct my frame of mind to appreciate what I was doing for myself and ultimately my family.

The grass is greener where you water it

It's very easy in our modern day world with all of its' distractions, that we forget to be present in our relationships. If 2020 has taught us anything it was the importance of strengthening the relationships with the people in our lives that mean the most. For some of us that looked like FaceTiming with parents or grandparents, sending text messages to friends more regularly, game and movie nights with our kids, date nights in front of the fire place or in the backyard with our significant others.

Prior to 2020, I found myself upset quite often that my kids were changing and growing up so fast and I felt as though all of our daily routines were not allowing me the time I wanted to enjoy — the last little bit of their years at home before starting lives of their own. This year gave me a silver lining to be able to reconnect with them, learn more about their changing personalities and who they are becoming as young adults and man, am I one lucky mom. Prior to 2020, my husband and I were going through some tough things, big life decisions and changes. This year didn't change any of those circumstances, but what it did do was allow us the time to slow down and put things into perspective and prioritize. We also started a set date night once a week, and while it was usually just having a takeout pizza, beer and watching The Fresh Prince of Bel Air while sitting on the floor and chatting in front of our fireplace, it helped us reconnect.

In the future, even when all of this is over, I will continue to make it a point to cultivate the important relationships in my life. Relationships take work and the grass is truly greener where you water it.

"Don't delay happiness"

This by far, has been my overarching mantra all year. This year truly showed us just how fleeting life and "normal" can be.

I have spent a lot of time in my life second guessing the importance of my own happiness. I've always considered myself a realist; understanding that sometimes things are necessary, difficult or painful and not everything in life is meant to make you feel warm and fuzzy. On a granular level, I got really good at also convincing myself that I didn't have the time or the means to do things I'd always dreamed, or that I was too old, too out of shape, too insignificant — you name it, I've convinced myself of a lot of nonsensical garbage. This year however, I worked hard to slowly chip away at that.

I planned a solo trip abroad I've always wanted to take, that ultimately got cancelled, but that's not the important part; the important part is that I planned it and I plan to follow through with it when I am safely able. I loved skating as a child, so this summer I bought a pair of roller skates and did haphazard laps in my cul-de-sac while listening to Styx. I always wanted to start a blog, so I finally stopped talking about it and just did it. I wanted to get in front of the camera again and regain some of the confidence that I had once lost, so I taught my daughter how to use our Nikon D4 and we now go on photo adventures; that one was a two birds, one stone kinda thing— time with my daughter, teaching her a skill and having fun and being creative together. Ever since I was a child it has been my intention to learn to play the piano, so a few weeks ago I started watching YouTube tutorials and thumbing through a chord book and I've practiced nearly every day, even if just for a few minutes.

All of that to say, if there’s something that you’ve always wanted to do or try or be, no matter how big or small, stop making excuses and just do it already or at the very least, start making a plan. You deserve to live the best and most authentic life you can dream of. Most importantly, don’t lose hope; you woke up this morning, you get another chance at this life thing. As I’ve said before, this too shall pass, the good, the bad... it may pass like a kidney stone, but it’ll pass none the less - just be sure squeeze more good out it before it’s gone.

I wish you all the best in 2021. Cheers, babe.

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