12 Important Life Lessons from 2020: A Letter To My Pre-Pandemic Self
It’s me. You. Whatever. You don’t know it yet, but 2020 is not going to be your year. It’s not going to be anyone’s year, if that makes you feel better. You’re going to lose two jobs, cancel a few holidays, and lose someone you love. There’s going to be a global pandemic; that means for over two months you’re going to be stuck in the house and not able to travel more than 2km from your house. Sound like a dystopian novel? Yeah, it does a little bit. And at times it felt like it too, but you’d be surprised how quickly you become accustomed to the new normal, and how quickly you become accustomed to people saying annoying phrases like “the new normal.” And “unprecedented times.”
But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel so to speak. I’m currently in December 2020, the final chapter of a year that no one could have predicted, on the verge of 2021, and things look like they’re maybe getting better. There are several vaccines about to be rolled out. Now, there could be a future me writing to present me, as I am future you to the present you, telling me DON’T TAKE THE VACCINE WHATEVER YOU DO, but I’m not to know that, just as you’re not to know what I’m telling you now. To learn the lessons you’ve got to live through the mistakes. But I thought reflecting on the past year may not be such a bad thing.
Life Lessons from 2020 #1: Zoom calls are the worst, but keep in touch with friends
You’re lucky enough to have several of your closest friends within your 2km radius, but this does not mean you will be able to see them during the Lockdown (lockdown and quarantine are two more words that are going to bounce around a lot). One friend lives not even five minutes up the road, and the best you can hope for is that you’ll randomly run into her on a walk. So modern technology will attempt to save the day with zoom calls, virtual meetups. Spoiler alert, you’re going to hate them and be filled with a weird anxiety every time you have to do one, even though you like the people you’re speaking to. Make sure to stay in touch with them all, even if you can’t handle another zoom quiz.
Life Lessons from 2020 #2: Banana bread is good, but you don’t need to bake every single day
Baking everyday is not sustainable, nor should it be. Instead of making a banana bread loaf every few days, please use the time to learn to cook other things. Healthier things. You are not going to fit into some of your jeans at the end of this lockdown, and that’s okay, but you’ll appreciate learning new recipes far more than another overly indulgent baked good. Also, you don’t want to ruin banana bread for yourself.
Life Lessons from 2020 #3: You’re never going to be a runner, but you can run 5km
So someone is going to nominate you to run 5km. Luckily for you, you’re already going to have begun couch to 5k – unluckily, you’re finding it very hard. Your running times are appalling and you return to the house after each run worried a lung is going to come up. You’re comatose for hours after said run, and nearly weep at the thought of the next one. But you can do it. You may hate every second of it, feel like you’re dying, wonder how all these people putting Instagram stories up are able to do it, and do it so fast, but you can do it. It is a nice thing to know you are able to do something you never thought you could.
Life Lessons from 2020 #4: If you don’t want to run 5km, you don’t have to (but do still donate to the charities)
Running the 5km is a nice thought to get you up and out, but if you can’t think of anything worse, or hurt your ankle through your attempts (not badly, you’ll be fine) then at least donate to the charities.
Life Lessons from 2020 #5: There are worse things than staying at home
You know you’re lucky with your life. You’re going to be made redundant, and have a new job taken away because of this pandemic, but you have a house to live in, and a good family that will only, at the odd time, drive you up the wall over this period. While there are days you’re going to want to scream about what’s happening, how unfair it is, please remember there are much worse things than staying at home, at least where you are concerned. So remember to be grateful of your position during these few months, and try not to get swept up in the sadness too much. There are people who are suffering greater battles, people whose worst nightmare is having to stay at home for some horrible reason, and staying grateful that this is not you is important.
Life Lessons from 2020 #6: Stay productive (even if you stay in your pyjamas all day)
You’re not going to be productive every day. You’re going to take long naps, begin rearranging your room and then stop, begin getting ready each day and then wonder what the point is. But you do manage to finish your novel, all 100,000 words of it, and even though some days you’re bleary eyed, and unable to get dressed, unable to get out of bed, you read through it, and then redraft it for the third time. You, in a strange way, have been given a gift – no job, no way of getting a job, and ample time to do that one thing you’ve always wanted. Write. So please, after the first few weeks of playing Animal Crossing and rearranging your bedroom, just write every chance you get. Already writing your fiction is beginning to get hard when doing an internship and being able to meet with people again.
Life Lessons from 2020 #7: Everyone is having a hard time
Don’t get annoyed when someone hasn’t listened or replied to your voice note in days. Your reasoning may be, what else are they doing, but the truth is, you don’t know. You don’t know what mini battle they’ve dealt with that day, just as you never let on what mini battles you’re dealing with. Maybe they just can’t cope with the thought of catching up via Zoom or WhatsApp, maybe they just want that real human connection, and nothing else will do. The imitation of this connection is sometimes too much to bear. Try to accept this, and don’t take it personally. You’re going to have a few of these down days yourself, and you wouldn’t want anyone thinking badly of you for it, or that it’s personal.
Life Lessons from 2020 #8: Use the time for what it is
Watch Netflix. Watch movies. Read books. Spend time with the people you love. Think about the future. Reflect on the past. You won’t ever get this time back. When you’re back working full-time, you’ll wonder what you did for the past nine months. Enjoy it when you can, give yourself some breathing room.
Life Lessons from 2020 #9: Don’t beat yourself up
I’m still trying to achieve this. About being unemployed, about having lost two jobs in the space of one year, about not spending enough time with those I now cannot see, and some of which I’ll never see again. I’m not going to give you the cliché line of “I don’t believe in having regrets” because I don’t believe that’s how life works, or indeed, how regrets work. But try not to let them consume you. Try to upskill, to find joy where you can, to take pride in what you have achieved. One day this will all be over, you will find a job, you will get to do the things you want to do.
Life Lessons from 2020 #10: Stick to the rules and what you’re comfortable with
It’s going to get irritating when you see people you know going out and such, as if there is not a global pandemic occurring. It’s going to annoy you that you’re stuck inside, unable to travel to see family, or see friends, while some people don’t comply to the rules, particularly in the first and hardest lockdown, where there’s no end in sight. When you feel like giving up on the rules, remember, it is worth it. It is important to still follow these rules. It is the people sticking to these rules that have kept the numbers from being much worse.
Life Lessons from 2020 #11: Go to The Globe one last time
It’s going to shut down to make way for another hotel. Before the middle of March, please go there for a boogie.
Life Lessons from 2020 #12: No amount of time is ever enough
Be grateful for the time you spent with Nanny. She was never going to live forever, and being in different parts of the country, indeed, one being in the north and one being in the south meant that it was actually against the pandemic rules (of which there were many) to visit her. Keep remembering the last day you spent with her, how much better form she was in, how you got to celebrate her 86th birthday with her, and remember she is in a better place now. And something I wish you could read, is insist on standing up at her funeral and saying something. Nothing sucks more than a funeral during Covid-19.
As you can see, I’ve made it out of this year alright. A little more cynical, a little more angry, but I’m getting there. You will make it through this; some days it’s going to be really hard. Some days it still is. Even as I wrote this passage, a few hours later I was back in bed and feeling inexplicably anxious and low. But you’re resilient, and there will be a day you get to meet with your friends when the first lockdown lifts, a day you can go out for a meal, or travel (if only to Dingle, but you get to see Fungie (who is going to go missing, I’m sorry to break it to you)) and it’s going to be okay. And for my final lesson, two pieces of advice for when things feel especially terrible – this too shall pass, and some of the best days of your life haven’t even happened yet. So hold on so you can get to them.