ON SECOND THOUGHT – 2020, A Year Of Growth And Change

I think at this point we can all admit that 2020 hasn’t been going the way any of us predicted at the start. We welcomed the year with fireworks and festive nights some people are yet to remember, thinking to ourselves; ‘Yes, this will be it – the year my life changes forever!’

Well, yes. Everything did change – FOREVER.

It was only in January I got to spend the first two weeks of the year in Italy. It wasn’t meant to be a holiday, in fact, it was more like an emergency trip as I had to renew my passport last minute.
Back then, there were no lines of people separated by two metres of empty space, and we were still using the same pens passed around in the office to fill forms.

The man in charge of my sister and I scolded us for coming back returning to Italy so close to the expiry date and for having to leave too soon, but he followed that with lame jokes and assured us we’d get to travel back to Manchester with our new shiny passports in hand.
Those two weeks, although initially stressful, were the best times. I got to hang out with people I hadn’t seen in ages and spent times with friends in packed shopping centres and restaurants – Japanese sushi for lunch, Italian at dinner time.

As I write this recalling those days, it’s hard to not feel like that was a really, really long time ago.

2020 put the word virus on our tongues and hasn’t taken it back since then. Pandemic. Quarantine. Flatten the curve. These were all words I never really used in conversation before then, but by the time February came around, they were the only words I would speak out loud. By March, they were written in law and regulations.

All of a sudden, we were all trying to get our hands on toilet rolls, masks and pasta.

I admittedly wasn’t coping with the whole thing really well, and I’m sure most of you followed my mental health journey in The Isolation Diaries I was releasing as much as I could and wanted to.

The more I spent time indoors, safe and sound, the more I felt I had no right to be down as many sure had it worse than I did. The more I scrolled through social media, the more I contemplated whether I was doing enough with the enormous time on my hand. And of course, the more news I consumed, the more overwhelming everything felt and undoubtedly the more I believed politicians were just terrible at their job.

Following was the killing of another innocent black man happened and we all mourned and protested police brutality against George Floyd. Although it happened in America, the whole world heard and felt it and finally, we began to have the much-needed conversations about race on a broader scale. The videos that came out in the weeks prior as well as those after invaded our screens in a way that was irreversible and undeniable. They were tangible evidence of the pain we as black people had been forced to live with for years and years. By the way, that fight is not over!

Throughout this really heavy year, I’ve caught myself many times wishing things were different, wishing we could start all over again. I’ve coursed out 2020 repeatedly for all the pain it has poured on us all at once as we continue to watch days we’ll never get back roll away. I have stared at walls wondering why this is the reality we are getting. Why is God letting all of this happen?
What could we do to get back the sense of ‘normalcy’ we once had?

In the last couple of days, however, I’ve been thinking about what we once deemed to be ‘normal’. Do I really want to go back to the way things were? Was that world the one I wanted my future children to grow up in?

One thing 2020 has done, is force each and every one of us to grow up. There has been so much I’ve learnt from going through a time like ours. So many lessons I’ll carry with me forever.
I’ve learnt so much about embracing the simple little things at my disposal and letting go of expectations. There were lessons to be learnt about taking any situation and making something out of nothing and dusting the dirt off our sleeves and carrying on.

So many people used their voice for the first time and discovered it was louder than they could have imagined. We learned to stand up for something – something bigger than ourselves. We learned to scream for justice and dance despite the heaviness on our shoulder. At the top of our lungs, we called out politicians that spoke so much and yet said nothing and we applauded those who were brave enough to stand in the front lines.

All I’m saying is that as hard and painful this year has been so far – and it has been – it also provoked immense permanent growth and all of it made me more self-aware than I’ve ever been.
I now find myself more than ever questioning the things I stand for and the morals at the core of my beliefs. A lot of self-examination and self-criticism have been roaming around in my head. I’ve been making a conscious effort to unlearn certain behaviours I deemed as the norm.

I find quotes on happiness and positivity can be quite condescending sometimes, and I’ve been careful not to try latching onto a ‘bright side’ in this period as I’m certain this is still a hard time for many. I urge you, however, to think about how far you’ve come in the past few months. If you still aren’t that impressed by that, well, I wouldn’t write 2020 off just yet.

Your restless romantic roamer

In what ways have you grown this year?

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