The year 2020 was certainly full of unexpected hardships. No one could have predicted the challenges we would face trying to navigate a global pandemic for most of the year. While it would be easy to focus solely on the last year’s negative aspects, I’m choosing to take a different route. As we approached the end of this horrid year, I decided to focus on the positive side.
Here are some of the good things I experienced in 2020:
My only vacation this year
Back in early March, I took a trip to Las Vegas with my mother. We spent a week vacationing, then reunited with some old friends at a Supernatural convention. At that point, we were in the early stages of the Covid crisis, so what I thought would be a typical convention experience became anything but the usual.
The convention came with the restriction of “no touching,” which meant finding unique ways of posing for photo ops with the actors. Since my go-to pose is simple hugs, I suddenly found myself scrambling to get creative and come up with something different. Although it was a very different experience than I was used to, I ended up having a blast. I’ve been holding onto those memories all year because I don’t know when I’ll get to experience another con, let alone see my international friends again.
It kind of drives home the point of living in the moment and not taking anything for granted. I am super grateful that I got to have this experience at all, given that it was officially the only Supernatural con to take place in 2020. I consider myself incredibly lucky.
Kindness from customers
Working in a grocery store, I was abruptly classified as an Essential Worker when the pandemic broke out. Things were suddenly always busy. We were also required to implement many new safety protocols, including extra cleaning. Going in to work every day became very stressful and exhausting.
The unexpected upside to all of this is that our customers started showing us extra appreciation. We were getting a lot of people saying, “thank you for being at work” and “thank you for everything you’re doing.” I even had a couple of customers offer me tips to show how grateful they were. In my 16 years as a cashier, I have never felt more appreciated at work. It was a lovely breath of fresh air.
It just goes to show you that a little bit of kindness can go a very long way towards making someone’s day better. I think we should all try to remember that in the future.
My personal epiphany
I have been struggling to come to terms with my scoliosis for years. Part of me always felt slightly ashamed of my condition, and I never wanted to talk about it with anyone. This year everything changed for me thanks to an item I created for GISH (the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt).
The task was to create “a self-portrait that accurately illustrates some facet of yourself & your story that you’d like to reclaim to empower yourself.” I chose to dig out my old scoliosis brace (it’s been living in my closet for the last 20 years or so) and give it a make-over. I decorated it with words of empowerment, and then I did the hard part — putting the brace back on for the first time since I was 15 years old. I knew it would be difficult for me, but I was not quite prepared for the emotional catharsis that came with it.
Completing this task allowed me to embrace my scoliosis as merely a part of myself rather than my defining characteristic. It finally got me to the point of acceptance that I had been struggling so hard to achieve for years. It was like flipping a switch in my brain, and nothing has been the same for me since. I am so thankful to this wild little scavenger hunt for pushing me outside my comfort zone and vastly improving my life in the process.
Writing for Medium
Also, thanks to GISH, I discovered Medium. One of the tasks was to write and post an essay detailing “what is GISH?” I’ve always felt like I had a knack for writing, so I figured I’d give it a shot. After the scavenger hunt was over, I continued to explore the Medium site on my own, and I promptly fell in love.
I reawakened my long-buried love of creative writing, and I put myself to work writing articles. I haven’t looked back since.
I finally feel like I’ve found something I can be passionate about, and I have learned so much along the way — both about writing and about myself.
With the world in lockdown for most of the year, my standard outlets for recreation were steadily canceled — no concerts, fan conventions, live theater performances, or even movies to look forward to for most of the year. These are all the things that usually keep me sane, so to have nothing fun to occupy my time for the foreseeable future was a bleak prospect.
Thankfully, I discovered a little web site called Cameo. It’s a place where you can purchase personalized videos from your favorite celebrities. Traditionally, the idea is to purchase them as gifts for other people (birthday shoutouts, special occasions, etc.). In my case, I needed a pick-me-up, so I started buying them for myself, hoping they would bring me a little solace.
Since I didn’t have any special events to celebrate, I began by requesting songs from some of my favorite musicians and actors. Every time I watch the videos now, they put a big smile on my face. After those first few videos, I was utterly hooked.
Over the last several months, I’ve acquired many different cameo videos from some of my favorite people, and I don’t regret buying a single one. They’ve given me something to smile about when the world around me was full of nothing but stress and worries.
To me, that is priceless. I wouldn’t trade those little pieces of happiness for anything in the world.
Since attending actual concerts in person was banned for most of the year, artists had to develop alternative ways of performing live music. There was a massive surge in online live-stream concerts, several of which I attended. Though it’s not quite the same as being there in person, being able to experience a live online show and see the bands I love in any capacity meant the world to me. While I hope the new year will bring about the return of in-person concerts, I would like to see digital shows stick around as well.
Discovering Nintendo Switch
I know I’m not alone in discovering the benefits of the Nintendo Switch this year. We all needed something to distract us from reality. Everyone quickly became obsessed with obtaining a Switch and promptly playing Animal Crossing.
I’ve always loved video games, but I hadn’t played any in years. After months of hearing everyone talk about how fabulous the Switch was and how much fun they were having with the Animal Crossing game, I decided to hop on the bandwagon.
Once I finally tracked down a Switch of my own, I quickly fell in love. I’ve spent hours playing games and enjoying the relaxation they provide.
I highly recommend the Switch as a gaming system. It is well worth the price in the long run.
Rediscovering my love of nature
One thing I gained from this wretched year was a reawakening of my love for nature. My best friend and I started hiking more. I discovered various types of wildlife I didn’t even realize lived in our city, I was getting a lot more exercise than I was used to, and I also found my mental health improving. Hiking allowed me to clear my head and gain a new perspective on things.
I’ve always been a homebody who loathes any form of exercise. However, after experiencing all of the beauty the great outdoors has to offer, I hope to continue my hiking excursions in the future.
Taking care of my mental health
After dealing with constant stress this year, I learned that sometimes you need to cut yourself some slack. It’s okay to need a break once in a while. I started advocating for myself more and chose to make my mental health a priority. I took a few week-long pauses from work here and there.
When things began to get utterly overwhelming for me, I decided to take a more prolonged hiatus. I took six weeks off from work and put self-care at the top of my priority list. At first, I felt kind of guilty about it, but eventually, I learned that speaking up and saying, “I’m not okay,” is perfectly acceptable. It’s okay to put yourself first sometimes.
Taking time off was the absolute best thing I could have done for myself. It gave me the space to de-stress and get back to being my usual self.
The last year has been full of challenges, stress, loss, and hardships. No one can dispute that it has been a tough time. However, there were some bright spots as well. There are positive memories that I will hold onto — in fact, I’ll hold on to them even tighter because those happy memories get me through the rough patches.
I encourage everyone to find at least one positive aspect of 2020 to hold onto, even if it’s relatively small. Try to put a positive spin on the year. And finally, remember that we made it through. We survived!
Here’s hoping that 2021 will bring more light, hope, and positivity into our lives.