What I learned in 2020

Since we started this blog, we’ve intentionally not mentioned the big C word. COVID. The reason for that is because we felt like everyone deserved a bit of a break from it. I personally felt that at every socially-distanced Zoom catch up, it was all that was ever talked about. How many cases there were every day. How people were coping with restrictions.

Both Tess and I live in Melbourne, Australia, which to date has been one of the hardest hit states in Australia. We were in lockdown for almost three months, where we weren’t able to leave a 5km radius of our house. 

That being said, I count us among the lucky ones. You look at countries like the US and places in Europe with thousands of cases, and deaths a day. A few months of lockdowns and less than 1000 deaths (in Victoria, Australia) to date sounds amazing by comparison.

Once the vaccine is generally available there will be a lot of healing to be done the world over, mentally, physically and financially. Both Tess and I consider ourselves to be incredibly lucky to have kept our jobs throughout this year. 

As I said, this blog was designed to be a break from the COVID-19 discussions – but it would be remiss of me to pretend that 2020 didn’t happen. It has changed so many lives, some for better, some for worse.

Be accepting of change

The world in 2021 is not going to be the same place that it was last year. Professionally, my role has changed from an in-office employee to being purely remote. Working from home is my ‘new normal’ as people are so fond of saying.

Personally, I’m buying a house with my partner in regional Victoria. With both of us working remotely, living in the city doesn’t make sense for us anymore. At the start of this year, living in regional Victoria would not have been a concept that would have crossed my mind. I’m also aware how incredibly lucky I am to be in position to take that step.

The reason I’m telling you about things that have changed for me, is because one of the biggest things I’ve learnt in 2020 is that you need to be agile and flexible to change. I’m sure that no one included COVID-19 in their five year plans. It definitely wasn’t in mine! Buying a house also wasn’t on the cards for at least another year or so. But here we are.

If I’d stuck to my five year plan, 2020 would have just been a big gap in the plan. I needed to rework it and be accepting of change. I also needed to acknowledge the fear! Change is scary, especially when it’s outside your control. Embrace change, don’t resist it.

Don’t overdo it

Another thing that I noticed come out of the pandemic, is this tendency to pressure people to ‘achieve something’. This was a trend during the lockdowns. For me personally there was a period of great mental lows, where I didn’t want to leave the house or get my 1 hour of exercise out of the house. Acknowledge that sometimes you need to give yourself a break, or your body will do it for you.

The Career Queens blog was my ‘thing’ to make myself feel like I had achieved something while I was stuck at home during the lockdowns. What I learnt is that unhappy, tired people don’t write very interesting or informative blog posts! I’m at my most creative and productive when I give myself the time I need to recover.

Learn to be with yourself

As a result of the lockdowns, I spent a lot of time at home without the normal distractions of catch up with friends or netball or other social activities to entertain me. I ended up getting really into puzzles, mostly because I think I exhausted Netflix and was sick of staring at a screen. That kind of activity is also a great time for self-reflection. It allowed me to check in with myself and my own mental health during this time. I feel like when I am staring at a screen I’m able to avoid my negative feelings, which is not healthy.

Tess spent a lot of time during the lockdowns reading to help her relax. Find what your relaxing reset moment is (away from a screen if you can), and see if you can keep that habit even when things open up again. Book time for your own self-care, otherwise you’re no good to anyone.

Out of crisis emerges the best of humanity

One of the amazing things that have happened this year is seeing people helping each other. A really great place to observe this has actually been LinkedIn. People who have lost their jobs have been posting on LinkedIn asking for help, and it has been great seeing the response from strangers to assist those people in finding jobs. I encourage you to get active on LinkedIn, if you’re looking for a job or if you just want to help others find one.

Finally, I want to acknowledge all the people who have struggled or may still be struggling due to the effects of COVID-19. Please take the time to look after yourself and your family. Congratulations on getting through 2020, and 2021 can only go up from here.

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