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What I Learned in 2020

Anne Maytubby

I’m sitting in my childhood bedroom as I write this article, looking at a vision board I made with friends at the end of 2019 with my hopes for 2020. 

As I look at words like “adventure,” “travel” and even “friends,” it’s clear that a lot of what I expected for the year did not become reality. Hopes to study abroad were cancelled, the number of friends I could see in person shrank due to COVID restrictions, and so many of the activities and trips I’d planned were limited. 

While it’s easy to look back at 2020 and only see disappointments and let downs, there are also many ways my perspective changed and that I grew as an individual that made 2020 a year of silver linings. 

1. 2020 taught me to hold onto the people that make me feel the best.

And it taught me not to be afraid to let go of the ones that don’t. As harsh as it sounds, this past year made me prioritize the friends that I want to see and also showed me the people that don’t impact me positively. 

As soon as COVID hit and we were forced to only see a few people in close contact, it became evident to me who was willing to put in work for our friendship. This was a hard truth to face, but ultimately one that allowed me to grow and become more aware of what I need from my friends.

I learned that I'm very extroverted and thrive from being around friends constantly (which was very difficult during a pandemic). I learned that with friends I am apart from, FaceTime and texting are essential. I learned that having less is more, especially when it means that the people I surround myself with have my back 100% of the time. 

2. 2020 allowed me to accept that my future is uncertain, pandemic or not.

I’m someone who loves the idea of having a set plan for my life. I thought I knew exactly what my 2020 would look like: finish sophomore year, have an internship and spend the summer with friends in my hometown, then study abroad for my junior fall semester.

Except for spending summer at home, none of this happened. It was extremely frustrating at first and is still tough to look back at, but this year also forced me to relax and truly take everything day by day. I can plan as much as I want, but one small shift can change all of my expectations.

In 2020 I chose to live in the moment because it wasn't an option not to, and this is something I intend to carry into 2021 and the rest of my life, because ultimately I will never be able to plan my entire future and I want to enjoy where I am right now. 

3. 2020 taught me how important it is to voice the way I'm feeling.

While saying “I’m fine” always seems like the easy way out, I learned that this can only take me so far. Especially when this year felt like everything around me was so uneasy between divisive politics, the pandemic, and various other bad news, I learned that the one thing I can control is my mental health and what makes me feel best. This challenged me to actually tell my friends how I was feeling and what I needed.

The honest truth was that a lot of this year was very hard emotionally, and not only did I have to come to terms with this for myself, but I had to admit this to the people around me because that was the only way to get better. In the end, communicating well with my friends has only made me closer with them and while it was tough in the moment, has made life so much easier knowing that there are people who fully understand and want the best for me. 

Looking at my 2020 vision board, one word stands out: "individuality."

This is something I accomplished to the fullest extent this past year, despite all the challenges I faced. Because parts of 2020 were very isolating, I was left with a lot of room to focus inwardly. Rather than being reliant on other people, I was forced to turn to myself in a lot of ways.

Again, while this challenged me, it also caused me to grow more as an individual than I feel like I ever have. I now have a better understanding of who I am, what my needs are, and am more confident than I have been in a long time. 

Heading into 2021, I feel sure I can carry all the things I've gained and apply them to a new year and new perspective.

2020 taught me that, when so many circumstances feel out of my control, there are ways I can take control of my own life and make the best with what I have. We’re all just trying to get through this crazy time, but if we pause to recognize the positives and the ways we’ve grown, we'll see that the small things can make this unpredictable year memorable in a good way. 

Anne Maytubby is a senior at the University of San Diego where she majors in Environmental Science. Outside of studies, Anne loves to travel, hike, attend concerts, and spend time with close friends (and her dog Max).

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