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.
Many months ago, B.C (before COVID, as I like to say), I, like so many of us, always had my heart set on the milestones; the ones that have been entrenched into us from day one. Milestones we were taught we must reach in order to succeed at life. Starting with GCSEs then moving swiftly on to A levels, university degrees, followed by a good job. Let me rephrase that; followed by your first ‘proper job’. Here’s how I finally pushed the career woman off her ladder, and because of it, she’s never been happier.
These jobs usually allow you to develop practical skills and gain experience to begin this initial part of your career. But somewhere down the line, a lot of us start to feel helpless because it turns out, the job isn’t really what we dreamt we would be doing. The chances are you feel undervalued, underrepresented or misplaced. Overcome with restlessness and a fast-approaching quarter-life crisis, you wonder how following all the how-to steps have left you feeling lost.
We are all undoubtedly products of our environment and our generation is told that our careers represent who we are. To live the London lifestyle is to become a part of an all-encompassing, infinite optical illusion with new patterns emerging and blending into each other every second of the day. You become absorbed—and you must keep up. The competition is fierce, now more than ever, and it is everywhere. It’s invigorating, which is probably why we are so drawn to it. Queue the universally-dreaded, predictable pre-drinks question ‘So what is it you do?’.
This kind of competition has its downsides as you can certainly be made to feel inadequate if you are not ‘keeping up’. London doesn’t care how far you’ve come because it wants you to keep going and not take your eyes off the ball for one second. Throughout the hiring-freeze rut, I’ve had moments of feeling like a total failure for not having found myself a shiny new job as if this was the basis for my capabilities, self-worth or intelligence. It was as though, without having those words that made up a job role, the image I had of myself had been slightly shattered.
With such huge emphasis in our culture on being underpaid and overworked in order to achieve our goals, what is it that we are actually achieving? A high salary or experience in an industry you’re passionate about? But what if you’re not experiencing either, because like so many others, you’re just starting out? Why should we, at this stage, be continually forcing ourselves through fear-inducing jobs or striving for ‘the next thing’ when we haven’t even taken the time to check ourselves?
How can you be even sure of what it is you want if your judgement is always clouded by a relentless work culture? Does this lifestyle allow enough space for genuine, authentic thought? I highly doubt it.
Most of us have grown up subject to the unrealistic, burdening expectation to have to know exactly what we want in life from such a young age. Or as a friend of mine likes to say “just choose something and stick with it,” translating into the very British concept of enduring adversity because ultimately, it will pay off. I call bullshit and my response to this argument is always the same. How am I supposed to know what I want or even what I’m good at, without having experienced it?
While a career is an element of life, it is not our whole life. We are made to feel like the career ladder is everything yet there is no evidence to suggest that this is a reflection of our truest selves. In the same way that it would be inappropriate to say that someone who is single is in any way ‘incomplete’ or ‘lacking’ by not being in a relationship, it seems absurd that a person would judge another entirely on one element of their lives.
It’s no wonder the side hustle took off as it did when people are starting to realise that the career chase isn’t going to scratch every itch they have, such as the creative kind. Still, it has been instilled into our wiring that attaining the perfect, sophisticated job will complete us. In the same way that women ‘should’ feel maternal, we all ‘should’ want to be career people.
I implore those placing such an emphasis on their career alone to critically consider why they feel that way. Does this come from within themselves or is it possible we have been conditioned to feel like this? If one’s job is one’s dream and purpose then, by all means, keep going. My concern is that we have been systematically taught to chase an invisible and false sense of security, status and value that supposedly goes hand in hand with a so-called career. There is no miraculous end to a system perpetuating the notion that a person’s worth is determined by their job role because there will always be a better job. Or as our old pal St Augustine put it, “Desire hath no rest.”
Don’t be afraid to unashamedly cut the ties that link your sense of self to your career. As individuals, we are continuously changing and it would be ignorant to suggest that any job would ‘fix’ the way in which we interpret and face the world. After all, it’s as much about handling things as it is about having things. I have now dimmed the spotlight on the glamorised career woman image in my head as I’ve concluded that it is crucial to remember that you are not your career. Just as you are not your sexuality, your race, your worst days or your mistakes. Let that be something we all keep in mind as the UK Kickstart jobs scheme finally opens for application…