End of the Year Review: 2020

At the beginning of 2020, I chose one word to focus on and grow in throughout the year. One of the reasons I chose a word instead of creating New Year Resolutions is that I believe that goals should be flexible — you never know what the year is going to look like. And well, I don’t think anyone could have guessed what 2020 would have looked like. It has been a tough year for everyone. Before I recap my word of the year, a few bright spots from 2020:

  • Squeezed in two trips before the world shut down –snowboarding in Killington, Vermont and spring break in Puerto Rico!
  • Discovered lots of new local businesses (Shop Vintage Alley and Floral and Hardy are two of my favorites)
  • Settled into our new home and made it into a place I actually want to be
  • Took a few “local” trips to hike in Lake Placid and see the leaves changing in Jim Thorpe
  • Finished the Daily Audio Bible
  • Became an Agile Certified Practioner (PMI-ACP) through a program for veterans and military spouses
  • Started using YNAB (You Need A Budget) that has helped me be more proactive in my finances
  • Raised over $1,500 for Dressember

This year wasn’t what I expected. But looking back, I’m grateful for how much we were still able to do, the ways we grew through the challenges, and the opportunities to find joy in the smaller thing.

My word for 2020 was AWARENESS.

At the beginning of 2020, I wrote: “This year my intention is to bring awareness to the different aspects of life. To slow down and to notice more. To see God working in the little ways in my life.”

Ha!

It reminds me of the saying: be careful what you pray for — you just might get it.

This year we were all forced to slowed down. Looking back at my planner, especially in March and April, it’s just crossed out plans or stretches of empty days.

So yes, there were lots of opportunities for awareness this year.

As I have been reflecting on this year, I started a list of things I’ve learned about myself or brought more awareness to. Here are 10 of my big ones:

1. I’m much more of an introvert than I thought. While others were going crazy from being stuck inside the house, I was in my element. Yes, I missed seeing family and friends. But I wasn’t bored or stir crazy (most days). I am fortunate to have been able to transition to working from home seamlessly, which still gave my days lots of structure.

2. If I want to see different perspectives, I have to intentionally seek out them out. With the insane political polarization that has happened this year, it was tempting to clear out my newsfeed to get rid of people I disagree with (disagree is a light word). Instead of reducing my newsfeed to make it more of an echo-chamber, I tried to focus on two things: 1) reducing the overall time I’m spending on my phone and, by default, social media and 2) getting other points of view from more reliable sources than Facebook. Most of my family is much more conservative than I am, so it’s important for me to still understand where they are coming from and what is shaping their worldview. Toward the end of this year, I started to subscribe to a few conservative news outlets to intentionally see another perspective (but ones that weren’t highly sensationalized). I found The Dispatch newsletter through another podcast, and I highly recommend it. I also have found the Fox News Rundown Podcast helpful to see what stories they are emphasizing and how they are framing them. Pantsuit Politics is a great podcast to be challenged to listen “across the aisle.”

3. I need to zealously protect my morning and evening routines. Especially with all the upheaval in the world, having a steady AM and PM routine has been a strong anchor for me. A few key aspects of that are spending time in the Bible each morning to center my thoughts and my day, and putting my phone away an hour or so before bed to help my mind start to unwind. I’ve been using an app called Routines that helps me see trends and patterns for what’s working and what’s not — as well as encouraging me to switch it up every so often.

4. Small, sustainable movements are more important to me than working out. My workout routine has changed many times over the last year, but getting small movements in my day is something I’ve tried to prioritize. I took lots of walks after work at the beginning of quarantine. Even if I don’t get a long walk in most days, I try to end my morning routine with a quick, 10 minute walk before sitting down at my desk. It’s a great chance to get some fresh air, listen to a podcast (usually The Daily by NYT), and set a boundary for my work day.

5. I’m the type of person who finds it hard to let things go unanswered. But especially in conversations where it turns into one person just trying to convince the other and both of us are entrenched in our positions, I’m learning that it’s okay to just stop the conversation. “I just don’t think this is something that we are going to agree on.” It’s not worth the mental and emotional stress for me once these conversations (you know what I’m talking about) go deep down the rabbit hole. I think it’s important to have conversations about topics we disagree on, but there always needs to be a stopping point and sometimes, for the sake of the relationship, it needs to be sooner rather than later.

6. On a similar note, I have discovered how deep my need to be in control is. Especially as an Enneagram 1, I tend to view the world through a lens that there is right and wrong — and a right way and a wrong way to do certain things. In a year where there was so much that I couldn’t control, anxiety and stress would building, manifesting in irritableness and resentment. Instead of trusting God or giving others grace, my instinct has been to hold onto as much as I can. Realizing this about myself, I’m working on controlling what I can (like my own AM and PM routines, tidying the house as I go, my own attitude, etc), and then release the rest to God.

7. Stress and anxiety manifest in my body in very physical ways. When I have a stomachache, back pain, or brain fog, I’m learning to take inventory and address not only the physical issue, but also notice what stressors may be contributing.

8. If I want to get rid of a bad habit, I need to replace it with a good one. There’s only so much I can do on willpower alone! Since I have been trying to decrease my phone time, I have been finding analog activities that I can do instead of doomscrolling. At the beginning of the year, it was reading a lot, especially fiction books. Now it’s lots of podcasts and puzzles. Any good suggestions?

9. I’m practicing admitting what I don’t know and when I was wrong. As someone who follows the news fairly closely (except for this week between Christmas and New Years, so don’t quiz me!), I can easily get caught in a knowledge trap of feeling like I have to have an opinion on everything. But there have been lots of areas for me to learn in this year, especially in regards to the BLM protests and the everyday experience of being a person of color in America. Reading a book doesn’t make me an expert, and I need to always be willing to learn and listen to others.

10. In the past, I’ve repeatedly tried to have a meditation practice and was never able to make it stick. Now, instead of trying to meditate in the morning or afternoon, I’ve been meditating in the evening after I turn the lights out. It’s greatly helped with sleep issues I’ve been having this year and gives my mind a great guide to calming down. I’ve been listening to a podcast called The Morning Ritual, and I would definitely recommend it! They are between 5-15 minutes and great for anyone getting started with a meditation practice. Maybe someday I’ll actually listen in the morning 😉

Well, if you stuck around to the end, thanks for reading some of my year end musings. The time of reflection at the end of the year is something I always look forward to (that and starting a new planner!).

What about you? How have you grown over the past year? I’d love to hear your thoughts! 

Hiking in Puerto Rico's rainforest

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