These are some of the existential reflections from a year of compounded learning and unlearning. Among other things, it’s been a time of shedding thick and heavy skin.
As I reflect, we’re not home and dry yet. There’s still a long way to go before every country in the world can look at the pandemic in the rearview mirror. But still, there have been various phases of learning and unlearning that have come with this precarious time.
Looking at some of these personal takeaways, I’ve realized that none of these ideas are new. I’ve heard them all before in different forms and at different times in life, but they hit different when they’re happening to you.
This is a lesson that many people were brought to at an alarming halt. The importance of rest and not just as in getting your full eight hours of sleep but to fully rest. #DeathToHustleCulture, am I right?
I think about how my grandmother, who’s so blessed to be well into her nineties, stresses the importance of resting. And then I imagine the wisdom that comes with being nearly a century old and the wisdom that comes with having “seen it all, done it all.” Logic says she must know a truckload more than I do, so I’ll be taking her word for it.
This might have been the strangest for me to learn as someone whose primary character cornerstone has been their work ethic. I had never before had been confronted with loneliness quite in the same way but what I’ve taken away is the importance of healthy companionship, in the form of a friend or partner, is where it’s at.
I’ve come to recognize that having a life companion can add to life’s experience. It seems obvious, but when you live life with walls and all, it’s easy to fall into the trap that convinces you that community or companionship is unimportant. But also, it’s important to know when the juice is no longer worth the squeeze.
Oddly enough, things felt like simultaneously, everything and nothing was happening. But within the nuanced gap of nothing and everything, the self never stopped evolving.
What I’ve learned is to acknowledge shifting needs. Where I had once wanted my friendships and relationships to look a certain way, things have changed in a way that a younger version of me may have rejected. I’ve come to accept that there is no shame in needing and wanting certain things; moreover, expressing this shamelessly. Do you want flowers or support or comfort? Sometimes all you have to do is ask.
This goes hand-in-hand with the idea of rest but also has to do with self-discovery and identity. There’s an unrecognizable sense of vulnerability that comes with the past year for me.
The idea of being isolated from people and having to use your words in nearly every phone and friend Zoom date has made vulnerability flow with ease. Thanks to that, I might have a classic case of TMI.
Over and above that, there’s a sense of self-knowing and self-expression that’s come with living through a pandemic the way we have. It’s brought lessons in stopping, breathing, and being kind to self and others in the form of a difficult pill to swallow.