It’s just me in my flat this week, and I unsuccessfully thought that because of that, I could escape today’s usual April Fools pranks. Alas, I woke up to a one week to leave eviction notice, followed by my flatmate’s FaceTime call—to say I was ready to take the whole world to court is an understatement. While I was in full Kris Jenner mode, my flatmate buckled: “Do you pay any attention to what date it is, like ever?! I’ve already put salt in everyone’s coffee and lined the loo seats with clingfilm.”
Today is the first of April: April Fools’ Day. A day of expecting the worst from people. This particular April Fools also lands on Holy Thursday (also known as Maundy Thursday), which has slightly dampened the lust for tomfoolery, for some. We’re also in the midst of the greatest non-joke of all time, a global pandemic, so opportunities to place whoopee cushions under a stranger’s chair in a public restaurant are less likely to be available, unfortunately. However, to commemorate this day’s wonderful worth, let’s do what this past year has taught us to do best—reminisce.
Obviously, I’m starting with the very first recorded April Fools’ Day. Although exact origins of the day are uncertain for understandably confusing reasons, one common theory is that the tradition stems from when the Gregorian calendar was introduced in 1582 across continental Europe. Pope Gregory XIII called for New Year’s Day to be celebrated on 1 January instead of the end of March, which led to the joke of those who were left out of this new calendar rule were considered to be ‘April fools’.
According to Alex Boese, the curator of the Museum of Hoaxes who said that in 1698, “People in London were told to go see the annual ceremony of the washing of the lions at the Tower of London, they showed up at the Tower of London, but”—alas—“there was no annual lion-washing ceremony.” And yes, I probably would have been one of those disappointed people in a crowd had I been alive.
In the mid 20th century, 1957, it was said that pasta could be harvested. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) told viewers that there had been an “exceptionally heavy spaghetti crop” in Switzerland that year, and showed footage of spaghetti harvesters hard at work, picking noodles from trees, leading a surprising amount of people calling in to ask where they could possibly find one of these spaghetti bushes.
The peak of great human expectations. In January of 1749, London newspapers advertised that in an upcoming show, a man would squeeze his entire body into a wine bottle and sing, “during his stay in the bottle, any person may handle it, and see plainly that it does not exceed a common tavern bottle.” There was obviously no man in a bottle singing, no performer showed up at all in fact, but the show was inevitably booked out leaving the crowd blurry eyed and fuming. Apparently, the advertisement was the result of a bet between the Duke of Portland and the Earl of Chesterfield, where by the duke bet on the fact that anything could be advertised and would still “find fools enough in London to fill a playhouse and pay handsomely for the privilege of being there.”
It turns out rich people really can do whatever they want, because the billionaire founder of the Virgin Group, Richard Brandson, played his annual April Fools prank a day early, on 31 March—outrageous cheek! That evening, unexpectant residents outside of London spotted a flying saucer (an alien transporter-mobile, if you didn’t know). Police attended the scene, and surprisingly, they actually found the UFO. As they approached, a door slowly opened, and a silver-clad figure walked out. The cops ran away.
You want the truth? Well, Branson himself was hiding out in the UFO with his silver-clad companion, and the two of them had initially planned on landing (the hot air balloon rebirthed as a spaceship) in Hyde Park on the actual April Fools’ Day, but changing winds set them off course. Shame.
On that note, I bid you farewell and good luck on this untrustworthy day. Have a little fun, because duh—fun is fun, and so is a good sense of humour.
As the new year approaches, so do our usual expectations, and the first thing to unpack, instead of pack, into 2021 is a little less of those expectations, because we never really know what will happen next over the course of our lives or the lives still to come. 2020 has surely taught all of us that, right? At the same time, preparation is a key part of any success, whether that be within yourself or your business. Set yourself up to be caught and picked up by yourself if you were to fall, and trust that your plan is flexible enough to find your path again!
2020 hasn’t taught us to let go of our plans altogether, but it has allowed us to step back from them, to tweak and adjust them with the same goals in mind. When an ideal outcome is swept from under our feet with no warning, it’s so difficult (for lack of a better word) to zoom out and see what options we have left. However, the collateral damage caused by a plan failing, when looked at from a disconnected perspective, usually isn’t as overwhelming as the collateral damage felt when looked at from the thick of it.
No matter how much we wish for things to be different, no matter how badly we dream of a different past, the ‘should-ofs’ and ‘would-ofs’ will not change an irrevocable truth—we must go on. To attempt changing our perception of the world as it is, we must first let go of what our perception of the world will be. There is nothing certainly more than what simply is, so why not enjoy it?
Innovation is in a league of its own, it will happen with or without you, because there is always someone out there attending to an idea. We have been forced into questioning what makes our own lives worth getting up for this year, with many losing their jobs, friends or family members, finding reason to keep going has become paramount. 2020 has also allowed us to miss what we hadn’t allowed ourselves to see as there for the taking before, what’s next on your bucket list? Just decide, and do, no matter the obstacle.
A lot of us have also been gifted with time, time that we already had before, but felt too busy or pressured to use. Time runs faster than we remember to remind ourselves, grief on any spectrum has made us realise to truly live in our time fully (even if that means sitting still and finding calm). It has introduced us to having our hearts on our sleeves, even for those who never unshielded it before. The worst that can come out of showing your love, for fear of it not to be met in return, is freedom and truth. What’s so bad about that?
This is a big one. At some point this year, each and every one of us found our boundaries in some way or another. From turning off the news, muting notifications, finding distance from social media and self comparison. Also from relationships, realising those that affected you negatively and taking steps back to buffer the bad energy.
We may have even done this subconsciously, so find a moment right now to see where you find newly enforced boundaries, and pat yourself on the back for honouring how you want to feel and live, because that is what these boundaries do. They allow you to value your worth, which is infinite. No other person or thing should make you question that. A last thought on this, is that you don’t need to respond to others right away, and work is not everything, you have choices even when you can’t see them. Your energy is only yours to spend.
A lot of the time we ignore what is around us, even in our own homes. Having spent so much time indoors this year, the space we live in has become a character in itself. We have changed it to adapt to what we need, we have not only noticed, but perhaps also fixed what was bothering us about the space too. We may have decided that we need a complete change of location, decoration or people within our space. Nature has found centre stage for many of us, because it is not uncommon for us to yearn for what we can’t have. As lockdowns release us, which they will eventually, what will you surround yourself by, or what changes have you made already?
If you have at some point reached the absolute threshold of your pain, grief, anger or loneliness tolerance and surrendered to your rock bottom moment, notice that you are not in it anymore right now as you read this. That moment has passed, and if you are at rock bottom right now, or if your moment hasn’t arrived yet, remember that it will pass. Allow yourself to feel, allow yourself to find and lean on comfort. We all have desperate moments, but because we all have them, it does not mean that your desperate moments are any less important.
Humanity, over all, has significantly shown up this year. Not only have protests for all necessary reasons reached tipping points towards creating change and influencing hope within communal interests, especially within the younger generations, but the global pandemic has pushed many of us as individuals to seek community locally. Be it community centres, local coffee shops or walks with neighbours. Also within online social groups, or organisations supporting mental health and even online educational programmes, we have all been introduced to a newly found platform of free discussion that may not have been typically engaged with before.
Tomorrow, next week or even the next five minutes are founded in uncertainty. This has in fact, always been the case, but it has been bred into society that what we desire must and will be obtained in an instant. COVID-19 has forced us to wait, to be patient for an outcome that is beyond our control and potentially opposing our initial desires, but because of this, many of us have grown to trust in our own patience and therefore release the fear that goes hand in hand with uncertainty.
These are all lessons to be learned, and they are all lessons that humans have not been taught for the first time, although it may feel like it from time to time. Change is gradual as well as abrupt, but our ability to adapt is phenomenal. If we pack these 10 lessons into our 2021 pockets, and every year after that, then 2020 will stand for the start of a truly valuable life for all of us.