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Lessons Learnt From the Failure Called 2020.

On the first of January 2020 I wrote a blog post in which I celebrated my achievements, but also mentioned some expectations I had for the year. What an epically horrible failure it has turned out to be.  But, as we all know, too well I believe, the best lessons are learnt from failures. Let’s just say that I learnt a few good ones! We all have. Through the shit and trials, fear and frustration, we came out (of the year, NOT COVID) stronger and braver.

A few months ago one of my closest friends reminded me of a promise I made. I said, in a blog to the whole world, that I will be fitter at the end of this year. I was scared to write it and I can admit that I regret ever typing that sentence. I wanted to be fitter because I wanted to be better at climbing the mountain I attempted to climb at the end of 2019, but it isn’t going to happen. In fact, I’m certain I wouldn’t get halfway up the same one. I’m the biggest I’ve ever been. I worked my but off earlier this year, lost a lot of weight, and felt fitter, stronger and better than I’ve ever felt, but then I stopped. 

Herein lies the disappointment and the lesson.

I was so proud. For the first time in my life I enjoyed exercising, I felt good. Now I feel terrible. I stopped taking care of myself. I started eating bread and cake and other bad food. The more I ate, the worse I felt. Cue the spiral of binge eating and lack of self-care. I could’ve been feeling so much better writing this; I could’ve been able to climb Table Mountain for goodness sake! Now I struggle to climb up a staircase.

Okay, it’s not that bad, but still. My new year’s resolution was to learn endurance. And for a while I did, but then I gave up, and ultimately I didn’t learn as much as I needed to. But, I learnt that I can. I can be fitter. I can exercise. I just need to endure. I also realised that I need to keep loving myself and not give up. Not caring, not loving myself, made it even more difficult to look after myself. Love can do so much. 

With that in mind I can emphatically say that I’ve decided to do away with new year resolutions. There will be no such thing for me anymore. There will also be no party or massive celebration – mostly because we are not allowed, since the Honourable Uncle Cyril rightly announced stricter lockdown measures. This year will be different, like everything else.

Here’s another one of my lessons from 2020. I learnt that doing things because they have always been done that way is not necessarily good. 

We were forced to change so much. The way we functioned in every day life changed. New habits were learnt – like wearing masks and sanitising our hands every ten minutes, and who will ever blow out candles on a cake again? (I also wonder if anyone else freaks out when watching something on Netflix and seeing people leave their homes without donning the most important fashion accessory of 2020!? I cannot deal and want to scream at them constantly. Am I alone?) We adapted. That shows the beautiful spirit of humanity! Our resilience, strength and ability to make the very best of everything, even though it comes with struggle. 

Getting back to the lesson. I started questioning my actions and appreciating some “normal” things more than I ever did before. Quality time spent with friends (safely of course) and a trip to the supermarket to buy essentials became a wonderful experience. Building a life focusing on our own sanity became important. Suddenly the world focused more on taking care of mental health. Finally. We had time to learn new things, bake banana bread and try new recipes. We took care of ourselves first before the rat race, and that is a lesson I cherish. Sometimes I even miss those beautiful moments from hard lockdown, crazy I know, but, be honest, don’t you?

We weren’t the perfect, resilient self-caring beings that I wish to remember all the time. We all saw the posts and went through that stage of drinking at 11 in the morning or giving over to absolute hedonistic pleasure (or nothingness, whichever shoe fits) during the pandemic. I went through a few dips in which I gave up on taking care of myself. Drinking days away and binging all the series – but most of us didn’t stay there long. We got out of it and changed how we viewed and enjoyed our lives and honestly this is the best thing 2020 brought with it. The importance of self-care, mental health, and awareness of our magnificent ability to survive and adapt. And, most importantly, the crucial reminder that we do not need to be part of the rat race and that we can break the chains of capitalism. 

To mention our ability to adapt cannot be said without referring to celebrations. My sister had to postpone her wedding three times.This hurts. Other friends cancelled entirely and/or eloped or changed their plans altogether. That hurts. We didn’t see people on birthdays. I didn’t see my family in 2020 until the end of July. It sucked. I spent Easter all on my own, like many of you. I took part in the easter egg hunt over a WhatsApp video call, which made it  a little sweeter, but it was so different. Many spent Christmas alone which goes against so much of what we know and need, but we survived and did it so well. Everything changed and I don’t think it is such a bad thing.

You might be thinking “WTAF Anneke”, but I really think it taught us that there are more important things. That safety and collective responsibility is greater than our own needs. And it shifted the focus a bit from the capitalist mind control surrounding each major event and put it on the meaning behind it. 

This brings me to the inspiration for this article: My new year’s plans. I don’t know about you, but every year I’ve made a point of doing something fun on New Year’s Eve. Going to a party or being with people… I love watching fireworks! But, every year it’s been a disappointment. Possibly because expectations are too high, and I am sure, if you’re honest, you might remember New Year’s celebrations like that as well.

One year I spent the countdown drinking champagne with a friend’s father. I did not know the man and everyone around us was enjoying the traditional midnight kiss.  Another year I fell asleep… disappointed! Should we enter a year feeling hung over, tired and disappointed? I don’t think so and I thank Uncle Cyril for removing any FOMO and forcing me to stay home. My plans? I took a long bath, with candles, a book and champagne. I put on a face mask (the cosmetic one for clarity) and gave myself a pedicure, while reflecting. Reflecting on 2020 so that I could enter 2021 with hope, peace, and pretty skin. Your plans might be different, but you must admit, it was not the same as every other year. 2021 will be better – because we are better. 

Here’s to not having to learn so many lessons in 2021. Touch wood. Lastly, a kind request:  don’t proclaim that 2021 will be your year – just don’t. Avoid disappointment and take it as it comes, with all the lessons from 2020 close at hand. 

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