New Year’s Eve is my favorite holiday because I take the time to reflect on the previous year and take stock of everything that happened. I don’t know anyone who will say that 2020 wasn’t one of the hardest years of their life.
Millions of people worldwide died of COVID-19, massive unemployment became a new normal, Bernie Sanders was crushed again by the establishment during the Democratic Primary, the lockdowns trapped people in their homes, and Black Lives Matter was renewed with racial tensions rising across the U.S.
And of course many will say it was a mixed bag with Trump’s defeat in the election and bringing forth the first black female Vice President. We could also say how history was made with the quickest turnaround for a vaccine and the passage of the largest stimulus package in U.S. History.
For me, it was also a mixed bag. And all that happened to me taught me something new about myself that I didn’t already know.
My fear of death is directly tied to my fear of loss. After watching The Mandalorian, I decided to go back and watch through the Star Wars saga. One of the main ways to be tempted to the Dark Side is the fear of loss. In trying to prevent his own loss, Anakin Skywalker was unable to prevent the inevitable. His wife still passed away.
We as humans become attached to people, places, and things in certain ways. And for a long time I had a similar fear. I came to realize that my fear of death came directly from my fear of losing someone close to me.
As someone who isn’t deeply religious and unsure of my belief in an afterlife, I’ve imagined death as simply blackness in the end. Early in 2020, my best friend died of congenital heart disease, a complication of situs inversus. For the first time in my adult life, I had to attend a funeral and mourn the loss of someone close to me. His departure from life still brings sadness to me, but I’m relieved to see that his suffering has ended and that a life wrought with illness will no longer burden him. And perhaps, I’m not as afraid of death as I was before. Now to have lost someone dear to me, I understand that I’m not afraid of death, but afraid of being left behind.
I am an extrovert. For years I have been lying to myself about being an introvert. The lockdowns helped me to understand that I crave the presence of people. With friends and family unwilling to take visitors, I didn’t have anyone to talk to or interact with. It really affected me emotionally. For years, I had thought I was this introverted person, but being unable to spend time with people and interact with people made me feel deprived of something. And I learned just how extroverted I am and how spending time with people is a need for me.
I have all the good people in my life to thank for continuing to stay positive throughout 2020. They kept me entertained with memes and jokes and reminded me of why they are important to me. When I graduated, I saw an outpouring of support. And when I felt lonely, they answered my call. They texted me back. They kept me engaged while I spent countless hours sitting at home on my lonesome. And they pushed me to continue working on my business and express my opinions (no matter how polarizing or unpopular they were).
My optimism is not always good for me. There were several people in my life who didn’t deliver for me. They either took advantage of my time and attention or they lead me on to believe something that wasn’t true. I’ve always wanted to see the best in people, but I’ve finally admitted to myself, that I have to take people at face value.
It doesn’t meant that I will doubt every good thing about a person in my life, but I will proceed with a reasonable amount of caution and I will rebuke any naivete that I sometimes allow to come out. I believe all people can do right by others, be honest, and try to work on their shortcomings. However, I also believe that I deserve better from people. And so, I should always express my needs and expectations when it comes to my connection with certain people (friends, family, significant others).
Intentionality is my best quality. I do all things in life with intentionality. After talking with friends and family a lot over the past year, I’ve learned about how they see me. They see a person who sets a standard and upholds it. They see someone who has reason for every action and reaction. I now understand that that is my best quality.
Hiding my feelings doesn’t help the situation. I’ve been intentional about being honest with people. As I grow older, I began to realize that keeping my feelings hidden is almost always the wrong thing to do. When I do that, my feelings stew and it causes more harm than good. Learning that about myself has been the most important lesson learned.
I vow to always be honest with people and how I feel. It’s the ultimate lesson of 2020 as I saw a close friend get lowered into the ground, learned just how much people mean to me, understood just how naive I have become when it comes to relationships, and embraced the intentionality in the things that I say and do.
So, here’s to 2021 and incorporating all the things I’ve learned in 2020.