Three Extremely Valuable Lessons Learned From an Extremely Garbage Year

2020 was the year that I searched for perspective, and found community. Here’s what I learned.

’Tis the season when you’ll find me here, relaxing by a cozy fire, in plush velour, sipping a perfect cocktail and reminiscing about the year gone by.

But really: I’m in pantalons de jogging and have been since March. I don’t own a fireplace. However, I am holding a drink, so let’s do this.

This year, I launched a newsletter called At The End Of The Day, an ongoing attempt to find perspective while being hit with what felt like a daily firehose of (mostly bad) news.

I didn’t expect the community it would spark. The replies I received were so friendly and real. When I mentioned my nine-year-old’s new lockdown-inspired obsession with birdwatching, people sent me recommendations for the hottest spots. When I wrote about the COVID cloud that hung over Halloween, I heard from parents who were also struggling with the bigger picture, in many ways.

The newsletter, which I was writing for others, became a lifeline for me. I learned that when everything feels urgent, I need to connect with people to be reminded of what matters most. Here are three positive lessons I’m taking from a year of exploring pandemic politics, Canada’s racial reckoning and personal growth:

Connect with other humans, regardless of the “how”

Social isolation is dangerous to our health. In 2020, I found new ways to connect with the same people, whether it was a Zoom Seder or chatting with my parents on KakaoTalk, their Korean social media platform. Loneliness is a disease and finding new ways to connect can be a preventive cure.

Activity and action

Humans are built to move, so I try to jog daily. But being active isn’t just about exercise. The Black Lives Matter protests showed us that “listening and learning” alone isn’t going to move us all forward. We need to act. Whether it’s in my job, my daily interactions or protecting myself and others from COVID, I’m thinking about my actions through a lens of racial and social justice.

Be your whole self, wherever possible

This was the year our work, home and recreational walls all came crashing down. That’s okay. Maybe this new path forward is better. If you don’t have to dress, talk or act differently at work than you do at home, consider yourself lucky to be able to let go of the enormous energy it takes to keep up those walls. I’m increasingly inspired by those who are also finding new power in their voice and being ever-more connected to what matters to them. People who are outspoken, kind and collaborative.

As life seems increasingly virtual, maybe this is the time to be more real than ever before.

Hannah Sung’s column appears monthly(ish) on Best Health. It’s adapted from her (excellent) newsletter, At The End Of The Day.  If you’re interested in reading more, sign up for it here.

Next: The Korean Vegan Is The Inspiration I Need In 2020

Originally Published in Best Health Canada