I’m Not Worrying About What I Didn't Achieve In 2020. You Shouldn't Either

Rather than beating myself up for being so unproductive, I’ve just accepted that getting through this year is enough.
Courtesy of the author
Courtesy of the author

I spent the last few hours of the 2010s getting drunk in a giant ball pit. I lost my shoe, and ended up on a night bus home at 4am wearing a pair of borrowed, and very unattractive, jelly sandals.

I then spent the first day of 2020 severely hungover, but packing for a long weekend to Lisbon to fly at the crack of dawn the next day. It was an early birthday trip, and what I thought would be the first of many European getaways that year.

Oh, how I couldn’t have been more wrong.

To say that this year has been unproductive would be an understatement. It certainly hasn’t been the year to make life-changing plans, like I thought it would. But as my mum has always asked me: “If you knew what was around the corner, you wouldn’t go round there would you?”

That said, I reckon many of us achieved more than we realise in 2020. Yeah, you might not have taken that dream holiday you’d been planning or quit your 9-5 job to go it alone, but, let’s face it, 2020 was not the ideal time to be taking financial risks.

I’ve had a few panicked moments this year wondering when my next paycheque would be. I’ve told myself, on the days and weeks where I had no work booked in, that I could finally get round to doing all of the things that I had made excuses for when life was ‘normal’. I could continue writing my book, finally begin some kind of exercise regime, bake, go for long walks, deep clean my bedroom…

Surprise, surprise, I did none of it.

“Yes, I drank a bit too much wine, ate too much chocolate, and spent way too many hours in my bed watching Netflix. But each to their own, right?”

But rather than beat myself up for being so unproductive, I’ve accepted this was just my way of surviving 2020. Yes, I drank a bit too much wine, ate too much chocolate, and spent way too many hours in my bed watching Netflix. But each to their own, right?

This pandemic has affected all of us, all in very different ways. When the news became too depressing and the daily death figures made me feel anxious, I made a conscious effort to try and find the positives in the absolute mess that was 2020.

At the top of the list for me, and I’m sure many others, will be not taking the little things in life for granted: a hug with a friend or a relative, a trip to the theatre, a workout at the gym, a pint without a “substantial meal”.

For many of us, it was a time to learn how to be alone. If you’re lucky enough to live with family or friends you may not have felt the loneliness as much, but for some of us it was unbearable. Two weeks before the first lockdown, I moved into a new house share – and found myself cooped up with strangers. Zoom and FaceTime suddenly became lifelines for me, as I’m sure they did for many people, and just seeing my mum or sister’s face for ten minutes instantly made me feel less isolated.

That being said, 2020 was a great opportunity to learn to enjoy your own company – and that, in my opinion, is in itself very productive.

However, when summer came around I was definitely ready to socialise again and managed to enjoy a few (socially distanced) nights out as well as a summer holiday to Italy. Some normality had resumed for a few months, and it felt so good. But as the nights began to draw in and the prospect of another lockdown loomed, I tried to mentally prepare myself for another bout of being cooped up at home. “I survived months of this, so I can get through it again,” I told myself.

“When I couldn’t taste my coffee I decided to take a Covid test, which came back positive. It felt like a final “fuck you” from 2020...”

I was sensible. I only saw people in my bubble and only went out to do the food shopping, but one early December day woke up feeling a bit bunged up and aching all over. When I couldn’t taste my coffee I decided to take a Covid test, which came back positive. It felt like a final “fuck you” from 2020, but I honestly felt so exhausted – mentally and physically – that the thought of self-isolating inside the four walls of my rented room didn’t even bother me anymore.

December is supposed to be the busiest month of the year for social butterflies like me – jam-packed with festive parties, overdue catch-ups with friends and epic hangovers. Instead, I’ve ended up having the most sober December of my life since I was a kid.

Jokes aside, luckily my brush with Covid wasn’t horrendous. I’m in good health, and so are my nearest and dearest. And if there’s one thing 2020 has taught me, it’s how important it is to be there for one another, even from a distance. You can’t put a price on that.

So, don’t be down on yourself. Instead, give yourself a huge pat on the back for surviving what has probably been the toughest year most of us have ever experienced. And don’t even think about putting too much pressure on yourself to make up for lost time in 2021 either. If anything, this year taught us how to slow down, how to appreciate the small things in life, and how to be content with just the basics. So let’s take those lessons forward with us and not rush back into the hectic and stressful lives we led before.

Nothing really matters apart from good health, your friends and family, and having a roof over your head. The rest, I’ve learned, is just details.

Kirsty McCormack is a journalist and editor. Follow her on Twitter at @kirstymccormack

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