2020 Has Changed Me

2020. Wow, it’s finally coming to an end. It feels like somehow 20 years has been condensed into one year with everything that has happened, but nope it’s been one year. Personally, 2020 has been this rollercoaster where the highs were some of my highest highs and the lows were some of lowest lows. I never realized the amount of emotions I could feel that were so polar opposite from each other, but here I am today. With all of that being said, 2020 has been an extremely transformative year for me. I am not the same person leaving 2020 as I was entering it, and I am grateful and appreciative of that.

The biggest life lesson that I learned in 2020 is that things will always get better. It may feel like the odds are stacked against you and that everything sucks. It may even feel like life will never get better. That’s not true. Life will always get better after rough times. It is natural for us as people to go through peaks and valleys. The way I think of this is I compare it to a night going into a day. The nighttime is dark and scary, but at the end of every night there is always a sunrise in the morning. That sunrise is a sign of a fresh start and better times ahead because better times are always ahead. The nighttime might feel like it is lasting forever, but it’s not, I promise. When going through the nighttime, you have to be patient and kind with yourself. Just know and have faith that it will get better. A lot of moments in 2020 were rough for me, and I struggled a lot. Some of the pain and confusion that I have felt this year are feelings that I never want anyone to go through, and it was brutal. I shed a lot of tears, and I stopped journaling for a long time because it hurt so much to get in touch with my emotions. Then at the end of the way was a really positive time for me. I got into my dream grad school, I got to spend every Sunday with some of my favorite people on the planet (love you guys and your hugs), and I got my highest GPA ever in college and in my academic career. Things got better for me, and they will for you too, trust me.

As I was learning this life lesson, I had to acknowledge that the rough times were rough. It was hard to think about the future and that life will get better because sometimes I had to take things day by day. When I was taking things day by day, I focused on the silver linings. A big silver lining for me was that I got to be home for 7 months this year because of this pandemic. I will likely never spend this much time with my family for a while, and I got free good food for 7 months. I got to spend so much time with my dogs and they are the cutest things to exist. As you're getting through those hard times, it’s important to try to find the silver linings until things get better. That is what is carrying me through this pandemic.

Adopting that mindset has made me a lot stronger, more mature, perseverant, and resilient. I thought I was those things before, but 2020 has shown me what it truly means to be strong, perseverant, and resilient. This year has further amplified a lesson that strength isn’t always physical. Sometimes strength is getting up in the morning after a hard day, and just getting through the day with a smile. Sometimes strength is strength is knowing that you have to take things day by day, and that it is okay for life to be that way. Other times strength is being the bigger person and acting with integrity, even if it is the last thing you want to do.

The biggest skill that I learned in 2020 was being mindful. The act of being mindful is all about becoming present in the moment. Mindfulness helps a lot of people who struggle with anxiety like me, and it can mean a lot of things. It is not just about breathing, although that is a big part of it. Mindfulness can be incorporated into nearly everything, writing, conversations, your professional life, schoolwork, and the list goes on. One thing that I struggled with this year is getting in touch with my emotions. I didn’t want to deal with them, so I tried bottling them up and shipping them away like a package. My mindset was to dive into work and to only think about work and what made me busy. As a result, I never addressed my emotions, and I forgot what it was like to properly handle them. That made me not able to be present. Practicing mindfulness has helped me work on that issue, and it also made me a better listener and conversationalist. I am a lot more active and in the moment in conversations. Now I take away so much more from nearly every conversation I have.

Another important skill/life lesson I have learned this year is letting go of my past. I held onto my past for so long thinking it was what defined me as a person. Everything that was in my past, I didn’t want to let go of because I feared that I could lose everything if I did let go. This year, I learned how to acknowledge how my past has shaped me, but how it is not the sole thing that defines me. I learned how I can use the lessons and experiences I have gained from my past to fuel me in moving forward. If that means drifting away from some people or even former dreams, then so be it. Life happens, we all change and grow, and we move on. Our past should not hold us back, if anything it should propel us into moving forward.

Learning how to do that gave me a newer direction in my life. I learned this in therapy and having that desire to learn the lesson is what helped push me to go back to therapy at the end of the summer. Towards the end of this year, I started applying to grad schools. As I was applying, I realized my purpose in life and how that relates to being a teacher. Due to that realization and how it fueled my essays and interviews, I got into my top choice and with that I will have a job as a teacher. The fact that in 2021, I will be getting my masters from my dream school and I will be starting my dream career as a teacher is amazing. It does not get better than that. It’s like I have a room filled with an endless supply of cheesecakes and Dr. Pepper and it is all mine, forever. I get to eat all of the cheesecake and drink all of the Dr. Pepper in the world without my body getting mad at me for it. It’s better than winning the lottery. It is a dream come true, and I am very lucky.

These experiences, skills, lessons, mindsets, etc. only scratch the surface of the things I’ve gained this year. Having all of these things is what changed me into someone who I can confidently be. I am now someone who can authentically be myself in any situation and see that as an asset versus a weakness. I am now someone who understands why patience is a virtue. There is so much more, and don’t get me wrong, I still have A LOT to work on as a person. I am far from perfect. However, that does not diminish the growth and the personal changes that I’ve made this year and how proud I am of that.

Kathryn DeBois

@dayswithdebois on Instagram

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