2020 isn’t a year that ranks highly for most people in the world. It was a year that started off promising thanks to the deceiving coolness of its symmetrical number arrangements, but has left many of us frustrated and confused, amongst other emotions, for a good chunk of this year. The nickname “The Lost Year” surfaced from a NYT Sunday Magazine article with the same name, and Forbes had officially dubbed 2020 as “a lost year for travel.”
Interestingly, I was in Malaysia in January (the first trip out of many that I had for the year) when the news about COVID hit Asia. While it didn’t impact my trip much at the time, I did remember watching Euronews on live tv on the flight back to NYC and wondering what was in store of us in the upcoming months…
Little did we know that COVID would spiral into a large pandemic, causing hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths, unemployment to soared across the world, shattering many businesses along the way, and causing much destruction on some industries, such as the greatly impacted travel-industry, that many places depend on economically to thrive.
Nonetheless, like the ENFP that I am, I always try to look at the bright side of things. More recently, Joe Biden’s victory has given Americans (and the world) a sense of renewed optimism, and with the COVID vaccine rolling out, thankfully the end of the pandemic is finally in sight.
What seemed that a lost year now has so much promise.
Looking back on 2020, I think we can take something meaningful from this experience.
With all the downs, there’s always the ups that make life special, and with every cancelled plan and dreams put on hold, there’s always the excitement of making new plans and pursuing new dreams.
With that said, here’s 6 ways we can look at 2020, not as a lost year, but one that’s full of enriching moments. It’s not too late to make sure your 2020 as meaningful as it can be!
1. Make deeper connections with family and friends
Like many travellers and expats, I love meeting new people and making friends wherever I go, so it has definitely been difficult living a much more isolated life this year, and being in a “quarantine bubble” with such a small social circle.
Me and Yann were living in New York City when COVID hit the city back in March. Admittedly, it was a pretty scary time when it felt like cases and deaths skyrocketed really quickly, and all of a sudden, all eyes were on NYC as it was dubbed the world’s leading COVID hotspot during that time (which is definitely not a recognization you would want).
At the same time, messages from family and friends quickly came in to check in to see how I’m doing. It was great to know what despite being physically apart, I have a great circle of family and friends from all over the world. I think the beauty of social media these days that it’s been easier than ever to keep in touch and keep meaningful relationships stronger than ever.
Someone had said that the struggles of the holiday season during COVID is an interesting one because it’s a struggle that many long-term travellers and expats go through every year — as we don’t always have the luxury of seeing our family every year nor without a lot of advanced planning.
At the same time, I was appreciative of all the moments where I did see my friends this year, whether it was meeting up for dinner, or going on a weekend road trip, it really made a huge difference in my overall happiness. And while I decided not to go back home to Canada this year to see my parents, that’s definitely something to look forward to in 2021!
Rather than seeing this year as a year of missed potential, let’s think about it as the year of rebuilding stronger ties to the people we know and love.
I feel like once the pandemic is over, the months subsequent will just feel like one continuous, giant party. I know I’m ready!
2. Get involved in supporting our community
Walking around NYC, I was really saddened by all the closed restaurants and shops I saw at the start of the pandemic. While many of these places are fortunate enough to be open and thriving, not all are as lucky. The pain is definitely real, and a lot of my favourite NYC staples have also been casualties of this pandemic.
Forbes has predicted that 61% of restaurants across the US will be closed permanently as a result of the pandemic, which is very alarming news indeed.
Near the beginning of the pandemic in NYC, a Kansas farmer had mailed an N95 mask to New York Governor Cuomo to donate to a healthcare worker, after hearing about the hospital medical supply shortages, despite only owning five masks himself (full story here). It was so heartfelt, and the belief that the people with the least to give, are usually the ones to give the most, definitely felt true here.
I think some people are scared to volunteer or donate because they don’t feel like their contribution will make a difference. Whether it’s an hour of your time spent at a beach clean up or a $5 donation to a non-profit, small actions add up, and something that feels insignificant to you can mean the world to someone in need.
As a thought-starter, some ways I’ve been getting involved in my community include volunteering some of my free time to help design a website and create social media assets for an organization called Send Chinatown Love, to support restaurants and shops in NYC’s Chinatown. I’ve also signed petitions, donated to causes that I believe in, cooked and donated hot meals to local organizations for the homeless.
There are endless ways to help and all it takes is a simple google search to see what causes are in need in your community.
3. Find success in our career aspirations
With life being quieter and with much less things to do on a daily basis, this extra free time is perhaps a much needed moment to reflect and think about our passions in life.
Although the majority of the world economy has staled and unemployment seems to be at an all-time high (all very scary facts), perhaps this scare is something we need as a wake up call: do you love your job? are you living a life that your younger self would’ve been proud of?
Luckily, I can sincerely answer yes to these questions, but if you don’t feel like you’re living your full potential in life, this pandemic can be a great time to discover what actually makes you happy.
For those who are able to work remotely, the extra time saved on commuting can be a great opportunity to take online courses to bring new insight to your current job, or get extra credentials to aim for a more senior position at work. With most educational institutions offering online learning right now, it’s also an easier time to pursue a new degree or certification to switch into a different industry.
The extra time can also be great for pursing a side hustle. I’ve seen many people start their own freelance venture during the pandemic, or sell their art, music, book etc online.
For those who are still in school, this is a great time to use online resources like Linkedin or even Instagram, to make some meaningful connections with people in your industry. On the other side of the spectrum, with more time on their hands, many industry professionals are more willing to set up time to chat and offer advice on entering the industry.
I have had quite a few aspiring designers connect with me on Linkedin, and have done my fair share of portfolio reviews for those who asked. The creative industry has always had a reputation for being notoriously difficult to break into pre-pandemic, so I’m sure the pandemic has made things much more difficult. I’m always happy to offer tips and advice when I can!
4. Be the healthiest you
I say this both physically and mentally since there’s nothing like a global health crisis to make you painfully aware of your own personal health. Ironically, about a month into the pandemic, I had weighed myself and noticed that I was 6 pounds heavier. I literally thought my scale was broken and bought a new one — only for the new one to also display the same dreadful set of numbers — 126 pounds.
Having just moved back to NYC a few months prior, an accumulation of eating out too much, drinking, and all the holiday parties had really added up and the pandemic proved to be a great wakeup call in losing those extra pounds I had gained over the course of a few short months.
With gyms closed, I hit the park, and committed to a combination of running a 5K four to five times a week, and spending the other days either doing 30-minute HIIT workouts, a one hour bike ride, and I also walked A LOT (probably 3+ hours a day because hey, what else is there to do?).
As someone who has always lived an active lifestyle and as an avid runner, this pandemic really intensified my love for the great outdoors. Running along the Hudson River or in Central Park, I saw plenty of other runners with the same drive and motivation which I found deeply inspiring.
There’s no limit to what we’re able to achieve, and that ultimately starts from within.
5. Do some deep soul searching
While I love NYC, I also find it strange navigating through this corporate world, especially since I had spent a bit over four years living a very chill, unstructured life that was filled with spontaneous travelling in Europe. It’s definitely a huge contrast between the two worlds and it definitely takes awhile to adjust to a 9-5 work schedule!
I think this pandemic has made a lot of us question what we really want in life and as a result, many people have made some life changing decisions which they otherwise might have put off making — or perhaps not at all. I’ve heard of people making career changes because they finally realized what they really wanted to pursue. Others have moved to another city, to more naturey places, or to a different country altogether.
There’s been new romances, break ups, marriages, people giving birth, and everything in between. If you don’t take advantage of the pandemic to look into your inner self and do some deep soul searching, when will be the right time?
6. Make new plans and dreams
I try to never make detailed plans in life because I feel like it narrows your mindset and trap you into a specific path. The best thing about life is the beauty of spontaneity and something that this pandemic has shown us is how fragile life can be, and how often, life works in ways that are way beyond our control.
The saying if one door closes, a new one opens, couldn’t ring more true this year. All things considered, some cancelled travel plans really isn’t the end of the world, and we can always find new ways to get creative with our adventures, despite the limitations.
Since my company is allowing us to work from home until next summer, I decided that it would be the perfect opportunity to escape winter in NYC, and spend a few months living in some places I’ve always dreamed of but couldn’t for various reasons — LA (due to my hatred for driving) and Honolulu (for its lack of relevant design jobs in my field).
All of a sudden, this pandemic got rid of the obstacles I’ve had — I won’t need to commute (LA), and I don’t have to worry about finding a job since I’ll already have one (Honolulu). It’s definitely a win-win situation, which has been great in being able to spend my off-work time being immersed in nature, and enjoying the sun and the great outdoors, despite being winter at the moment.
In the upcoming posts, I’ll be posting more about my time in LA and Honolulu and what I’ve been up to. In the meantime, I encourage everyone to find fun (and safe) ways to end 2020 in the most inspiring way you can!