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10 Unexpected Lessons We’re Taking Into 2021

It was a tough year. But you made it.

It’s been a year none of us could have imagined. We’ve given ourselves haircuts, attended drive-by birthday celebrations, and stopped wearing jeans. We’ve also stood bravely in the face of uncertainty, held onto each other virtually, and learned a lot about ourselves — even things we never expected to.

These are some of the lessons our readers and colleagues learned about themselves in 2020, which we’ll be sure to bring into the new year.

The pandemic put into perspective which friendships are worth keeping.

“Not being able to see people made me really think about who I was missing and who I was totally fine not seeing,” says associate editor Sima Shakeri. “It made me really reflect on the people in my circle that I actually like being around and who I just hung around with because it was convenient.” The pandemic afforded us the time to be more discerning with who we want to surround ourselves with once we can socialize again.

Everyone is going through something they aren’t talking about.

We’re all feeling different kinds of grief right now. The loss of normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection. “People love to complain about what life used to be like, but it’s important to sit with those feelings,” says Alyse Nishimura, a registered social worker at Sheridan College. “We don’t have the luxury of ignoring them.”

Growth isn’t solely an upward trajectory. Allow yourself to grow out. Allow yourself to grow in. Allow yourself to root.

“Growth has to be uncomfortable,” Nishimura told HuffPost Canada. “If you’re good at something right away, there’s no challenge.” A quick scan on social media reminds us of all that we are not doing — did you try making sourdough bread yet? Have you knitted a dozen blankets? “This is a pandemic, not a test in productivity. Right now we are having to turn more inward and reflect. For some people, this is the first time they’re ever doing that.”

We’re learning to embrace new parts of our personalities.

I’m an extrovert, but I’m really appreciating the introverted parts of me. I was surprised to discover how much I’d enjoy riding my bike in the mornings — something I now have the time to do since I’m not commuting two and a half hours each day. I’m not one to cancel or say no to social plans, but it’s been wildly liberating to have no commitments on weekends.

It’s OK if you don’t want to “keep up” with the world right now. We all grieve differently.

If all you want to do is watch “The Office” again and again, go for it. The enduring popularity of old shows, even during lockdown, takes us back to the Before Times. We love that journey for us.

Taking the time to make a liveable work-from-home space is worth it.

“I needed a better desk, something on the wall, to feel like an adult with an adult job versus someone pounding away at a laptop in an empty room by myself,” says senior editor Ryan Maloney. Even if you don’t have a big enough space to call an office, differentiating your space is vital to surviving all this time at home, says Nishimura. Some of the most adaptive, creative home office arrangements have sprung up this year. After all, working from bed can only last so long.

“I need way less stuff and much more community.”

While we can’t physically see our loved ones, it’s a powerful feeling knowing we’re all suffering together. Even on days when we’re feeling blue, and a quick scroll through Amazon can offer up some retail therapy (no judgment!), the uniqueness of this year proved who we can rely on.

Pets are excellent office colleagues.

Was there ever a doubt?

“This is a pandemic, not a test in productivity.”

- Alyse Nishimura, registered social worker at Sheridan College

You decide how you want to spend your time.

“There’s been a lot of times when I’ve had to avoid phone calls,” says Nishimura. “Especially when you have kids, your time is intermingled and it’s hard to make boundaries, let alone follow them. Speaking up about your boundaries is an act of self-care.” Sometimes, not taking a phone call is exactly the energy you have to give in order to be good to yourself.

Being compassionate towards others is an ongoing process.

As we’ve learned this year, it’s been a constant struggle to make decisions about seeing people outside of our home unit. “It’s hard to have compassion when it feel like you’re the only one having to sacrifice all the time,” says Nishimura. “If someone is bending the rules and you disagree with their choices, we have to take one for the team as a community.” She says to try and not take it personally, and work on maintaining connections in other ways.

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