“This year hasn’t been all bad”: Lessons we learnt in 2020

If you could describe 2020 in one word, what would it be? Exhausting? Disastrous? Shambolic? I think we can all agree that, for the most part, this year has been catastrophic to say the least. I don’t even have to expand for you to comprehend why; it is a truth universally acknowledged (a testament to my fellow former A level English Literature students right there). While the topic of coronavirus has predominantly led the narrative of 2020, there have been several other defining moments that have taught us valuable lessons which should not go unmissed. As I reflected upon the shitshow of the past year, here are what I have figured to be the five most important lessons we learnt in 2020.

Image description: A notebook with flowers tucked inside

It costs nothing to be kind

Back in February, the awful news that TV Presenter Caroline Flack took her own life – which was said to be exacerbated by the press and social media trolls – sparked the “Be Kind” Campaign. Though it shouldn’t have to take a TV personality’s – or anybody’s, for that matter – passing for any of us to realise this, many came together to show their support by using the #BeKind hashtag as a plea for media outlets and social media users to be more considerate online. As the year progressed, we saw even more catastrophes across the globe caused by the impact of COVID-19 which inevitably posed further mental health challenges, so the message still stands. Be kind. Always.

We can all do better

Remember the little black square you posted on your Instagram feeds on 2 June in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement? It’s still important. Following the tragic murder of George Floyd back in May, many – again – came together, both physically and virtually, to protest racism and police brutality. You might have seen the infamous quote “it is not enough to not be racist; you must be anti-racist” time and time again amid the movement, but it speaks volumes. If you claim to not be racist, what are you doing about it? Whether it’s signing petitions or calling out your friends for their racial biases, we can all do better in playing our part to actively fight against racism.

Never take life for granted

Throughout 2020, millions all over the world were ordered to stay at home to assist in preventing the spread of coronavirus. Here in the UK, we have encountered three lockdowns: a three-month national lockdown from March to June, a shorter lockdown from 5 November to 2 December, and a tiered system of restrictions from 19 December to… well, we don’t know yet. In spite of the omnishambles of our government’s response to COVID-19, our time spent at home, losing loved ones to a cruel disease and distance from a normal lifestyle highlighted that we must never take life for granted. Family, friends, health, happiness, time; you name it, we’re now more appreciative of it than ever.

There is hope for the future

At long last, Trump has been voted out of The White House. Although his sheer mismanagement of COVID-19 is enough to dub him as an appalling president, there are so many more reasons his removal from office is victorious in itself. He’s narcissistic. He’s racist. He’s misogynistic. He’s homophobic. He’s transphobic. He’s in denial. Sure, Biden isn’t perfect, but the removal of Trump means there is hope again not just for American citizens, but for the world. And, with Kamala Harris who is not only the first woman and person of colour to serve as vice president, but also a diversity activist and generally great debater, America is one step closer to really becoming great again.

If there’s anything you need to survive, it’s toilet paper

At the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak back in March, the empty toilet paper shelves in our local supermarkets were telling of the fact that the one commodity we need to survive a pandemic is… toilet paper. It didn’t make sense to me then; it doesn’t make sense to me now. But, for some reason, the pandemic induced panic buyers to stockpile toilet paper. Was it the notion of having to stay at home? Is it because toilet paper has no expiration date? Are people generally low on toilet paper? Whatever the reason, it was laughable. At least now we know that, if we are to ever face another pandemic in our lifetimes, all we need is plentiful toilet paper.

All in all, this year hasn’t been all bad. Granted, I miss the mundanities of everyday life: waking up, making a coffee, hopping on public transport frivolously, enjoying my colleagues’ company without the worry of maintaining social distancing, hopping on the bus back home, dressing up, heading to our favourite restaurant, engaging in date night, ordering more wine without having to order more food to accompany it, returning home, catching up with my friends, making plans, and doing it all over again (obviously, we didn’t go on date night every night, but you get the gist). Notwithstanding, I am grateful for all the lessons 2020 has taught me and they have certainly influenced a more refreshing approach to the new year.

What lessons did you learn this year?

I wish you health, happiness and less havoc for 2021.

Love,

Little Pav ♡

Remember to be kind this Christmas

Are you okay?

Such a simple question. A question so engrossed in everyday conversation that it has almost become meaningless. How many times have you been asked are you okay? in passing – by friends, by family, by coworkers – and responded with the likes of yeah, you? or fine, thanks, when what you really wanted to say was actually, I’m not okay? Too many times, probably. So, why do we do it? Why do we respond with such? Why do we essentially lie about how we feel? I’ll tell you why: because it’s easier. It’s so much easier to say I’m fine than to delve into all the reasons why we oftentimes feel quite the opposite of “fine”, be it to save face, avoid feeling like a burden or because we think the other participant of the conversation might not really give a crap. Isn’t that sad? Isn’t it sad that we are fabricated to respond to a question with what’s “easier” than with the truth? Perhaps if we all started to express ourselves more openly rather than adhere to the conventions of small talk, the stigma surrounding mental health would subside; a matter long overdue.

Why am I talking about this? Well, because – in all honesty – I’m not okay. I’m not okay because this year has taken its toll on my mental health – on everyone’s mental health – in that we were trapped inside for months, lacked socialisation, routine and normality and saw thousands lose loved ones due to a dreadful disease. I’m not okay because it’s been almost a year since I graduated with my master’s degree and I anticipated that I’d achieve so much more than I have by now but, thanks to COVID-19, my progress was stalled. I’m not okay because I really, really miss my grandparents. Yet, every day, I put up a façade and carry on.

Image description: Coffee topped with marshmallows, cinnamon and a candy cane

The latter reason is the main reason I’m not okay right now. This Christmas will be my first Christmas without any grandparents. I’ve thought a lot recently – specifically, since my granddad passed away in August – that, at twenty-three, I’m pretty young to not have any grandparents. It’s a horrible feeling. Though I never met my dad’s dad because he unfortunately passed away before my brother and I were born and we were never close with my dad’s mum, but we were very lucky to have a great relationship with my mum’s parents, I still can’t quite fathom the fact that not one of them is still with us. Up until around seven-to-eight years ago, we’d spend every Christmas at my grandparents’ – my mum’s parents – and have the most wonderful, loud Greek-style Christmas. Things changed after my yiayia (Greek meaning “nan”) became immobile a few years before she passed away in 2016, but we would still visit them on Christmas morning. Then, my pappou (Greek meaning “granddad”) would spend the following few Christmases in a household other than his own – for instance, with us – so we still got to see or call him. But, now? We can’t see any of them. We can’t pick up the phone and exclaim Merry Christmas! and feel their smile beaming through the phone. We can’t hug them tightly as a means of expressing our affection. Things are especially different now neither of them is here for Christmas this year.

I have so many reasons to be happy. I have a loving family. I have the most incredible fiancé. I have a good job, the best friends and an adorable fur baby. I have so much to look forward to; buying our first home, our (postponed) holiday and our wedding to name a few. And I am. I am so happy for all these reasons. So happy. However, I’m also depressed for all the aforementioned reasons – the pandemic, the writing off of 2020 and the loss of my grandparents – and it’s important to remember that it’s okay to feel this way, even when we do have so much going for us. As the saying goes: “it’s okay not to be okay”. Still, we feel obliged to respond to such a simple question as are you okay? with – quite plainly – a lie.

Christmas 2020 is just around the corner (nine days away, to be precise) and, while some are more excited than ever to celebrate it this year after the crazy year we’ve had, others are not feeling so festive. The impact of COVID-19 has affected everybody in different ways but, for the most part, I think it’s safe to say that it’s been a pretty shit year. That’s why I want to kindly leave you with the following reminders (or clichés, but important ones) for this Christmas:

  • Be kind.
  • Everybody is fighting their own battle you know nothing about.
  • It’s okay not to be okay.

The next time you ask someone are you okay?, be sure to show a little more compassion. Listen. It might just make their day. Likewise, the next time you’re asked are you okay?, don’t be afraid to open up. Speak. It might just be what you need.

Take care and remember to be kind this Christmas.

Love,

Little Pav ♡