Lesson 1: 2020 is finally over. It has been for 3 months but every so often I find myself thinking “wow, we really went through 2020.” On top of that, I went through 2 COVID-19 pandemics in a span of 8 months, and both were in Europe. The lessons learned from these experiences have changed me, my way of thinking and how I view life. I’ve made it an intentional goal to continually ask “what can I learn from this?” when going through tough experiences. Experiencing a pandemic from across the water allowed me to truly be thankful for the little things, to live in the moment, and to cherish time with my family and friends. Keep reading for a recap of my pandemic experience and the lessons I learned!
It all started in March 2020….
My husband and I are in France. He’s playing basketball and I teach English online. We’ve been told our games are postponed until further notice and that France is about to lock down. Italy has shut down. Spain has shut down. The numbers are shooting up in Europe. 2 days before France shut down, my family made the heartbreaking decision to cancel their tickets to come visit me. Yes, heartbreaking. But, the smartest decision at the time. A week later, the 45th President would announce that all Americans abroad should make their way home or risk being stuck where they’re at. Great.
We’d spend the next month not being able to leave our apartment except for specific reasons: going to the store/pharmacy, going for an hr of exercise, going to help an elderly person, going to work. You had to have a “permission slip” with you at all times and I started to call them freedom papers. If you were stopped, automatic fine of a few hundred euros. Not worth it. I had a balcony to go out on and got an hour of exercise every single day. I cherished my walks to the store and took my sweet time. You don’t realize how much you like having the choice to stay in, until you’re forced to stay in.
Lesson 1: Be Grateful for Fresh Air aka the Little Things
Fresh air is something we take for granted. We expect to have it. When we need it, we can just go outside and go for a walk or a run, whenever we want. Well, in 2020, for some of us, we didn’t have that luxury without risk of penalty or fear. In Europe, I was only allowed to go out for exercise for one hour or to go to the supermarket. Next time you’re outside, take a moment to really breathe in the fresh air. Be grateful for the legs and arms that you have to move around and move your body. Be grateful for the workout that brightens your mood or relieves stress. Be grateful that you aren’t in a hospital fighting for your life. Cherish the little things.
Fast forward to April 2020..
Finally, we leave France to return home, not knowing how much worse the USA would get that summer. We traveled through a completely empty Charles de Gaulle airport with masks on for the first time, boarded a completely empty plane, landed in DC and headed through a completely empty customs line.
Lesson 2: Reconnecting With Yourself is Vital
There’s nothing more vital and necessary than reconnecting with yourself when you know you haven’t been prioritizing YOU. Going through 2 European lockdowns forced me to learn and revisit things that I really enjoyed doing. For me it was trying new recipes, journaling, and the occasional sleep-in day. Something as simple as a warm bath with candles, a facial, reading a book, or even exercise are all ways to reconnect with yourself. You disconnect from the world, and reconnect with what YOU like and want to do.
I made the most of my time and spent it reconnecting with myself. I had learned to enjoy being alone from being in a long distance relationship [more on that in another post] but this was a reminder that it’s ok to be alone. This was my chance to just focus on myself. Who knew that we’d leave for Greece in August and 3 months later be catapulted into yet another full COVID-19 shutdown.
Breathe in fresh air, reconnect with yourself and cherish the little moments. If 2020 hasn’t taught you anything, let it teach you that!
Lesson 3: Change Your Perspective aka "What is This Teaching Me?"
It’s not a lesson if you’re not learning, and last year brought a lot of lessons. The question to ask is if you learned them? I forced myself to change my perspective because my mental health depended on it. Rather than look at every situation as an inconvenience and a reason to complain, I started to look for the lesson in each situation. I changed my perspective and started asking “what is this teaching me”? Focus on that next time a negative situation happens. Choose to actively look for the lesson and learn from what you’re going through
Lesson 4: Celebrate the Small Wins Because They Matter
This is maybe the most important lesson. That promotion you got. That business you started in the midst of COVID. That family time you got back. That hobby you started since you had more time at home. That recipe you tried and it came out amazing. That book you finally read that had you up all night. That full night’s sleep you finally got. That romance in your marriage came back.Those small wins really do matter. In 2020, you HAD to find something to be happy about because there was nothing but terrible news all around you. You have to find the small joys. Especially when it seems like nothing else good is happening. Always find one thing to be happy about every day. Otherwise, you’ll always be in a negative state of mind. Whether it’s the fact that my husband’s basketball season wasn’t cancelled or the fact that I exercised today, it’s a win regardless. Find them. Write them down. Say them out loud. Think on them. Smile at them. Celebrate them. Because they matter.