2020: The Lost Year?

December 31, 2020  •  2 Comments

As another year comes to an end, I can't help but reflect on the world. So many comments getting thrown around about 'good riddens 2020', 'may 2021 be better', 'what a waste of year', '2020 is our lost year', etc. 

It's been a tough year all around.

So is 2020 the lost year? I think we all initially would say yes -- we missed a lot in 2020.  We missed vacations, celebrations, time with our extended family and friends.  We missed events, concerts, plays, graduations. 

I, like everyone else, really struggled with all the things I was missing.  I lived halfway around the world from my loved ones.  I missed one of my best friend's wedding.  I couldn't go home even if I wanted to due to travel restrictions. I cancelled vacation after vacation - one being highly anticipated and devastating when we had to make that call.  I have been locked down three times now with many months to go.

On top of that, the entire community of HR professionals had to step into shoes we had never worn before.  Not only did we not ask to go through a pandemic personally, we now had to figure out how to keep our employees safe so our organisations could continue to function -- closing offices, trying to keep everyone engaged, concern for overall mental heath all while transitioning all business as usual tasks to remote work environments. Then trying to bring our employees joy during this very unusual time.  Exhausting, but not feeling worthy of being exhausted -- I'm not on the front lines. I am not saving lives in the hospitals, or working the grocery store check out line, or being exposed every day.  But nonetheless, exhaustion is the only way to describe it.

I know that life could be significantly worse and is worse for many, many people right now. My husband and I have had no impact to our financial situation, we both have stayed employed, we have had very few close family or friends who have been affected, anyone we know with a positive diagnosis has had mild symptoms (thank goodness).  Overall, we are okay, and my heart hurts for those that are not.

However, we are also surrounded by an onslaught of messages telling us to take this time to rest, learn something new, find success, etc.  Depending on what part of the world you are in, you have had up to a year of this so far.

Did anyone really accomplish anything in 2020? For those ambitious people who did learn something new and did find success, I applaud you. Well done. You were able to overcome and take advantage of this year. I am not one of those people.  I do wish I had been able to focus long enough to accomplish something -- I thought maybe I could soar through my reading list, develop my painting skills, or even be as bold as to work on my own novel.

Instead, I watched a lot of tv (A LOT) - mostly reruns.  I did a fair amount of cooking - my waistline can tell.  Slept a lot. Watched baby ducks grow up over the spring/summer when we were allowed outside. Worked a lot. Walked some. Drove my husband crazy being in his space constantly. Watched a bit more tv - more reruns, in case you were wondering.  Literally nothing worth talking about or worthy of being considered an accomplishment.

I was too focused on all the things I was missing, and I could not find joy in anything I used to love. 

What a year.

But that's not why I sat down to write. For anyone who truly knows me will likely agree I have two (probably annoying) qualities - in hard situations, I am often the voice of reason in the room.  My voice is somehow calming and deescalates whatever is happening. And secondly, I can typically turn any situation into some kind of positive.  Now some (or many?) find these two qualities annoying because they just want to shout and be angry, and that's okay.  I'm just not one of those people.  I share the first, because if you've not heard me speak before, this will hopefully help set the tone to hear my voice while you are reading. I share the second, because that is the main purpose of my writing today.

Early on in the year, the positives I found felt superficial and I began to just annoy myself.  With less commuting, the environment was healing.  We saw stories of dolphins swimming in the canals in Venice for the first time in years. I'm sure environmentalists are scurrying around trying to determine the effect on the ozone layer - and I hope that there is good news. Sea life are not choking on soda can rings, because humans aren't littering the beaches. Food delivery for the front line workers.  These are all really positive things, but it was hard to focus on that.

I still could not 'get over' everything I was missing. Selfishly, I could not see the positive in my own life -- I could only see the 'supposed to's'.  I was supposed to be travelling, I was supposed to be exploring, I was supposed to be at home for Easter, I was supposed to be at my friend's wedding, I was supposed to be [use your imagine to fill in the blank]. 

And then out of nowhere, I met Mo Gawdat.  Okay... 'met' is a bit exaggerated, he doesn't know me, but I was introduced to his mission.  I'm not going to give you his history (you can google it or click here), but his methodology and ideology really made a lot of sense.  He is an engineer by trade working in transformational roles inside Microsoft and Google.  He had everything you think you need to be happy (money, family, career, etc), but he was miserable.  Then the Happiness Equation was born -- Happiness is greater than or equal to your perception of the events in your life minus your expectations of what you thought life should be.

Such a simple concept, yet makes perfect sense. Key points I've pulled from him:

  • Happiness is your default state (happiness equals content, calm, peace)
  • We often confuse the difference between fun and happy
    • Fun can either be a drug or a happiness supplement.
    • If you are using activities to bring you happiness, you are using it as a crutch. Happiness should not be dependent on an activity. Happiness is a feeling.
  • If you align your expectations to reality, then you will be happier.

Okay, okay... I know. Ultimately, I'm not unhappy nor was I 'seeking' happiness. But my state of mind in almost all of 2020 was off. I was focusing too much on the 'fun' I wasn't allowed to do.

So how did this actually help me?  I read Mo's book 'Solve for Happy' (okay, not completely, I'm still working through it -- see above lack of focus..), and in one of the early chapters, he asked me to remind myself of what makes me happy. Create a happy list and revisit this to remind yourself.  If you take nothing else from this , I encourage you to think back to the times that you truly felt happy and write that down.  I'll start...

I feel happy when:

  • I wake up to ocean waves or am near the ocean
  • I explore somewhere new
  • I cook a new recipe and share it with loved ones
  • I help a friend in need
  • I teach someone about other cultures
  • I watch the sun go up or down
  • I spend time with loved ones
  • I watch baby ducks grow

So -- is 2020 the lost year?  It's not a year that any of us expected, but I am no longer thinking of it as lost. Merely different.

Cause you know what? .... I was able to do all of the things on my happy list in 2020.


Tim Henry(non-registered)
Brilliantly spoken and speaks by heart and mind. Thank you.
Thank you for this. It has been along time since I have been happy. Now I have an idea on how to do this.
No comments posted.

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