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2020…Reflections on an ‘unprecedented’ year

The best-laid plans – I had been counting down to 2020 since 2018, looking forward to my milestone birthday.

Being the fun-loving girl I am, I had planned an entire year of celebrations, starting in February, my actual birthday, through to the end of the year.

Fortunately, the February celebrations went ahead as planned.

As my birthday was in Winter, I had planned a summer soirée in August. I had hoped that this gathering would bring my diverse network of family and friends from various parts of the world together.

On 21 March, my visit to the venue to finalise décor with my Event planner was cancelled.

We all know what happened after that. Am I disappointed?

The crisis has been awful and has created a lot of pain and anguish for so many people. It was a leveller and affected all of us in one way or the other. In one of my blogs, I referenced a report which cited that even people who had never experienced any form of mental health issue before were suffering.

Every challenge is an opportunity. One of my mantras is “In life, there are lessons to be learned from all experiences, good or bad.” There are always winners and losers.

What did I learn/gain from this? What are the positives that have come out of this crisis? As they say, every cloud has a silver lining. Being a half-full person, I have quite a list, some of which I had begun to write about shortly after we went into lockdown in March. Here goes:

  • Pause, re-set, be still

The world came to a standstill. People had to learn to be still, pause, reflect and think about what mattered in life. Family and good health top this list.

  • My profession (HR) got a seat at the table

The people profession finally got a seat at the table. HR professionals the world over, were relied upon to help their organisations to navigate the crisis. From moving staff to remote working; coaching managers on managing staff remotely; supporting wellbeing initiatives to helping with the ever-changing furlough rules, we did our thing. Well done all! We did good.

  • Remote working

Working from home became a thing. Managers who had been reluctant to allow people to work remotely realised that “this role can be done from anywhere”.

  • Kindness

Kindness became a thing. Being human became a thing! Mental health and wellbeing got to the top of the agenda! Suddenly it was OK to talk to your boss or colleagues about your life outside work.

  • Self-care

Self-care became a thing too. I have been advocating wellbeing and engagement ever since I started working in HR over 10 years ago, having had my own fair share of traumatic life experiences and having worked with children and young people as a teacher, so I know a thing or two about empathy. Some people are still not there yet and see wellbeing and happiness as the fluffy stuff.

  • Online and digital

We embraced all things digital and the virtual world as a way of survival. Digital allowed us to connect and kept us sane even though Zoom/Screen time fatigue set in. (Some of us still need a reminder to come off mute when we want to speak though).

Nevertheless, I think that events moving online created more opportunities for engagement and reduced FOMO (fear of missing out) as people who would usually have to travel to attend an event were able to participate online from anywhere.

On a personal level, despite moments of despair, I learnt the following:

  • Stop trying to control everything

2020 reminded me that I am not in control of my life. I can be a worrier. I love to plan and know what is going to happen in the future. As a practising Christian, I sought comfort in bible verses relating to not worrying about tomorrow.

  • Waste not, want not

I became more resourceful. Due to food shortages during the first lockdown, I did not have access to all the food items I needed so I became more organised and planned meals in advance. This helped me to save money too.

  • Home is where the heart is

Spending so much time at home made me rediscover hobbies like gardening, knitting and baking.
I took a few online courses, connected with and made new virtual connections.

So, what does 2021 look like? A lot of people are talking about saying goodbye to 2020 but 10 days away from 2021, we are still in the midst of the crisis. For many people in the UK, Christmas plans have been cancelled with the onset of a new strain of the virus. Therefore, I don’t see much change happening on 1 Jan 2021.

I think we should continue to do what we can, what is within our control and let God/the Universe/the higher being do the rest.

This too shall pass, we shall live again!

Wishing you and yours a peaceful Christmas season however you spend it, and all the very best for 2021!