8 Wonderfully Simple Things I Learned in 2020
In 2019, I sent an email to my future self and asked for one thing: Luck. And I think I got it.
I could have spent the whole of 2020 alone in a tiny rented room in a dangerous part of London, but I ended up meeting my life partner and moving in with him right before the pandemic. Even though last New Year's eve was already blissful for me as I was thriving in my healing journey, this year, it’s a different level of security and fulfillment.
I know saying 2020 has been a good year might be insensitive to many people, and it can come across as a statement of privilege. But I pointed out the element of luck in my experiences because 2020 could have gone very differently for me. Indeed, life was very different for me in previous years.
I was alone, lonely, anxious, lost, away from family for years, moving from one apartment to another, dating all the wrong people, hating my introversion, and desperate to escape my life. See, I’ve worked hard to be here, and I take nothing for granted. It means that you can change your reality too if that’s what you want.
In 2020, I learned many things about life and relationships. The future became clear to me as my loving partner asked me to marry him at the end of the year. But, first, let’s dial back to the beginning of 2020 when we could still go out and about, doing random fun things in the city.
1. I learned to have fun.
In 2019, I started learning Improv in an effort to overcome my anxiety. It worked. It was one of the most wholesome hobbies I’ve ever picked up. It aligned with my values and gave me so much joy.
Then, earlier this March, I went on stage to do my first ever Improv show. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I discovered a side of myself that is spontaneous and light, and I could let that side out without any help from alcohol.
Even when I’m off the stage, I remember that state of being. As a result, I feel more comfortable being in the moment and ignoring irrational worries — it’s become a mental habit. The techniques and mindsets I learned in Improv have helped me be more carefree in my daily life.
2. I learned to take care of others.
In April, my partner and I brought home a cat whose owner was temporarily away. I hadn’t had a cat for a long time, so I was overjoyed to have him around.
It was quite a significant experience for me as I never really knew what it was like to take care of others’ daily needs. I remember cleaning his toilet one day and thinking you could only do this horrendous thing for the ones you love! When he was taken back to his owner, I cried and felt depressed for two weeks straight. Don’t worry — my partner comforted me throughout.
That said, speaking of significant experiences, being in a committed relationship is definitely one. This year, I’m deeply aware of the fact that I don’t exist alone. My actions and words have a direct impact on the people I care a whole lot about, and I have the power to make them happy — so I gladly do my best.
3. I learned to value myself and my work.
In June, I went viral on Medium. It has motivated me to create more and better content and opened my eyes to many future possibilities. The funny thing is, many of the viral articles that made more than $1000 were written years ago. Yet, back then, I was so insecure about my writing.
For a long time, whether in my corporate job or my writing, I felt like I wasn’t doing enough (classic Imposter Syndrome in minority women.) But, this year, I learned to acknowledge my efforts and claim the value of my work — and time, for that matter.
This also applies to my social life. I’m always generous to my family and friends, but I’m not letting anyone disrespect my time and feelings.
4. I learned to receive and lean on others.
My partner is the most loving and caring man I know. He has loved me far better than any man ever did (well, that’s why I agreed to marry him!) That said, at the beginning of our relationship, with my anxiety, I struggled to relax and let him in. I was loving to him, but I knew I was somewhat reserved.
Over time, as our relationship deepened and he demonstrated to me, again and again, his love and commitment, I learned to put down my guard and let him take care of me. Before our relationship and therapy, I had associated showing my vulnerability and leaning on others with being weak and them pulling away afterward.
But, with him, I realised that it only strengthened our relationship and increased our intimacy. And it’s how it should be with the right people.
When I faced a major family issue back in September, he was quietly by my side and took care of me so well that I was left with so much gratitude.
5. I learned to maintain my boundaries.
Drawing boundaries is, hands down, one of the most important skills I’ve learned in my twenties. It has literally changed my life.
In 2020, my boundaries have helped me nurture my relationships — both with others and with myself, and take control of my life. I learned to communicate my boundaries in a way that is respectful and neutral by using non-violent language. I stopped worrying about upsetting others— I accepted that risk because my boundaries were more important.
Struggling to Let Go? Set Internal Boundaries
You need high self-esteem and self-worth to believe deeply that you deserve the protection of your boundaries.
6. I learned to simplify my life.
The pandemic has shown me the true value of all the things I do.
In a lockdown, no one could see me doing what I did, and so no one could form an opinion of what I did. What was left were my thoughts and feelings. I realised that they were what mattered the most. I should do something because I enjoy it or it means something to me, not because of what others would think of me then.
So, in 2020, I simplified my life. I cut my friend list online down by half. I no longer thought of social media as a source of validation; it’s now a place to share my personal life with a small group of people I care about and those who genuinely want to know more about me. In real life, I invest in a handful of close relationships while being open to connecting with people.
The important thing is I genuinely feel that this is enough for me.
Nowadays, I take no pride in being busy; I aim for a balanced, wholesome, and meaningful life. In fact, having a simple life with a simple social circle makes me a lot more productive and happier.
7. I learned to be patient.
My relationship with my partner has taught me a great deal about patience as we became committed and spent practically every second of our days together.
I learned that just because something isn’t done your way doesn’t mean that it’s wrong. It’s important to acknowledge and appreciate the differences of others, and let them shine in their own way, especially when you know they want to make you happy.
So I refrained from acting on my perfectionism and gave others the chance to make me happy. I let go of fear and the need to control every little outcome in my life. If I wanted to have things done my way, however, I calmly communicated that to people instead of criticising their way.
8. I learned to appreciate the little things in life.
I used to fantasize about living an extraordinary life. This year, I learned that normal life is underrated.
In hindsight, I wanted the extraordinary because I couldn’t find joy and meaning in the ordinary. But, now, I have so much fun in my daily life that I no longer need anything else. I still have goals, but they’re only part of the gradual solidifying process as I age. I’m happy right now.
My long list of “things I love” includes hanging out with my partner, talking to my sister, making my mother smile, creating something useful, receiving emails from my readers, seeing my friends doing well and enjoying their lives, and so many more.
2020 has been a strange year.
I’m pleased that my introverted and homebody nature has been incredibly beneficial during the pandemic. Change is normal for me as that’s the one thing I’ve known since I left home at the age of 17 — my adaptiveness and resilience are on point.
As for my health, I probably have work from home burnout like every other office worker but, for the most part, I’m okay. I know I’m lucky.
If there’s one takeaway from this article, it’s that happiness is simple; a good life is simple — you can have it if you want. Really. Well, I hope 2021 will be warm and bright for you.
Oh, and lots of luck for all of us!