2020 vision: a reflection of what’s been and a speculation as to what will come

A bathroom selfie from my first week at work, feeling indestructible!

Against all odds, I started a new job in November. It was significant and ultra scary after a year of unemployment, plus it had only been a few months since the final end of my master’s course. I was without direction and honestly lacking a sense of my own identity, with everything having changed so majorly. So it was pretty overwhelming, thinking about the fact I’d miraculously landed my first full-time job after the successful completion of uni. I got my own desk. I got my own laptop. I got my own telephone number on the company directory. It was surreal.

The commutes were great initially (let’s not talk about the train timetable changes in December…). The colleagues in the office were lovely and very patient with me. My family were supportive and encouraging, proud that I was settling in. It was really good.

However, the irony is that around the time I started the job, I stopped practicing all of the amazing self-care routines that I’d spent the summer creating. Yoga, healthy eating, daily workouts, hypnotherapy tapes at night, regular meditation etc. It was like, at the first sight of normality, I regressed into all of the bad habits that I knew had led me to ultimately feeling so low earlier in 2019. I threw myself into work whole-heartedly and did my usual self-destructive thing: juggling as much as humanly possible (finishing a distance-learning course alongside a full time job), working longer hours than I was contracted to (unpaid, might I add) and being silly enough to work straight through lunch breaks (taking no time to stop and do something recreational for myself). I bailed on plans with friends several times and beat myself up about it, constantly. I was drinking a lot of alcohol again and deeming it acceptable because I deserved it, after a hard day at work.

As a result of numerous stressors, predominantly ones designed by yours truly, I felt quite low during my last week at work and had a bit of a spontaneous cry at the office. I was exhausted. I also began to realise that even with numerous drastic changes in my life, for the positive, I was still feeling not so great. I think I’d felt guilty for a few weeks, constantly telling that internal voice to shut-up and stop being sad. I was starting to get my life together, so why was I feeling so bad? Why was it that, even with gratitude leaking out of every pore, it was still possible to feel so horrible and possess such a cripplingly low self-esteem? It turns out that depression and anxiety don’t just disappear overnight. They’re not purely situational diagnoses’ and they sure as heck defy sense. You can have all the components of a perfect existence under your belt and that won’t make a difference, if you have depression and/or anxiety. This is the sad truth yet when acknowledged, it can also be a liberating one. Sometimes resistance is futile and its more empowering to accept that you’re not where you want to be just yet, but you will be some day. That’s enough. Whilst I’d made undeniable progress in my journey to recovery, there was still so much more left to overcome. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s okay! There’s no bloody deadline date! It’s a lifelong commitment to preserve myself and be less of an asshole, where possible. I have to learn and I have to grow, yet to do both I also have to suffer sometimes because life can’t just be rainbows and butterflies. Humans aren’t infallible- they break and they bend and need to go through stressful environments and situations in order to take a stronger form.

Over Christmas, a busy period of time spent catching up with a never-ending conveyor belt of family faces, I realised that I had to commit to change. It was so nice to be able to savour the time with loved ones and it gave me a much needed reality-check in time for the new year. There’s no point putting so much time and effort into self-care if it’s only being done in an opportunistic window. You have to fight to change your lifestyle and to ingrain the practices that keep you grounded into your daily routine, at any cost. You have to appreciate your efforts, whether they bloom into what you wanted or fail, because at least you tried.

So my goal for 2020 is to really push for balance. A career is great but not without down-time and personal commitments. I want to manifest a vision of strong physical and mental health, confidence in my abilities as a writer and singer, an abundance of financial gain (earned through persistence and hard work) as well as an improvement in self-worth. I want to see my friends and truly treasure them, so that they go to bed every night with no doubt that they are loved and cherished. I want to finally accept that I am deserving of respect and that I am entitled to space from people and situations that are toxic.

2020 will also be the year I finally make philanthropy a priority. I want to give time and whatever resources I possess to various causes, local and beyond. It is no secret that our world is riddled with social and environmental concerns that need to be addressed with activism, fundraising and awareness. I want to be part of that fight and I want to be part of some positive change, even if its for only one person.

Those are my intentions. Those are my primary focuses in 2020. Though things are looking and feeling pretty scary, I am determined that things are going to get better.

On a final note, despite all my woes in 2019, I also have to acknowledge that it was a year of many victories, even if I didn’t have the capacity to truly appreciate them at the time. I:

  • Handed in my master’s thesis with minor corrections (literally grammar and punctuation changes were suggested).
  • Started a very candid and open conversation about mental health, which has been extremely challenging in previous years. I received lots and lots of supports from loved ones and strangers, far and wide.
  • Got to spend a lot of quality time with my family for the first time in many, many years.
  • Went to therapy and also overcame my aversion to medication, trying antidepressants at the recommendation of my amazing GP.
  • Started blogging again, making an active effort to post on a weekly basis.
  • Read, and enjoyed, way more books than in previous years.
  • Completed a distance-learning course in Mental Health Awareness.
  • Bagged a guest spot on a website about female worth.
  • Graduated again.
  • Started an enjoyable job that actually has some relation to the degree I did.

I mean, that’s pretty damn impressive for somebody who had effectively given up on life and spent around 6 months physically unable to leave the house. If that’s what I managed whilst fully incapacitated, I can only wonder how much potentials this year holds!

I hope that I will look back at this post in the future and feel some gratification, in knowing that I acted on all of this. I also hope that you, dear reader, will be doing all that you can to manifest a brighter 2020 for yourself and your world💜🌍

The Magic of Not Giving a F*** | Sarah Knight | TEDxCoconutGrove

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The Magic of Not Giving a F*** | Sarah Knight | TEDxCoconutGrove

This popped up as a suggestion, based on my recent YouTube views and I’m sure glad it did, because the contents of the talk were utterly enlightening.

I’ve never heard of Sarah Knight before but I was drawn in by her sheer magnetism- as a speaker, she’s so alluring and engaging with her informal style. I imagine that there must be some pretty laborious talks scheduled during TED conferences. I can imagine disinterested audience members slipping into sedentary and catatonic states, wishing they’d worn tinted glasses to mask their fluttering on-the-verge-of-sleep eyelids. Yet Knight stole the attention back and roused the audience, even managing to incite some laughter and chuckles.

Knight directly addresses the audience and is very candid about her personal experiences, instantly opening up and disarming the initial awkwardness that any public speaker, no matter how accomplished, must face when commanding the stage. She begins her talk with a brief reflection on a period of her life in which she was conventionally successful- that is to say she was financially stable with a “dream job” and had a roof over her head. However, she adds that despite all of her achievements, she didn’t feel gratified by her existence and suffered quite badly with depression.

It’s hard to imagine this confident and exuberant speaker being so vulnerable, yet she draws upon the distinction of a life before and after this period of depression. Knight says the foundation to this change was a perspective shift: her dissatisfaction with life eventually led her to take some time out of employment and this subsequently helped her to take the next step and make a life-changing choice. She resigned. She packed up all of her stuff and left behind all that was familiar, abandoning her office and also simultaneously her home, in favour of a new start, doing something that truly made her happy.

She bought a property on a beach-front and decided to pursue her secret dream of becoming self-employed. Fortune favours the brave and, evidently, Sarah Knight is one brave lady. She cut her losses, namely any people/situations/material possessions that no longer served her joy. The cleansing ritual, inspired by Marie Kondo, was a long-awaited shot at restarting life and learning to say no to all of the commitments we agree to, even as our stomachs churn in rebellion.

Knight breaks down her very accessible theory with a series of analogies: there’s the constant (and comical) referral to topic-specific terminology such as “fuck-bucks” (a currency that must be dispersed among all projects and activities you participate in). What makes Knight so entertaining is her ability to call out the falsities of her audience- she makes a valid jab at our tendency to mask our true intentions and play out niceties in our daily exchanges. Knight argues that we’re all used to committing to things we don’t really want to do and then find ourselves either participating for the sake of it or worrying about disappointing people with a “sorry I can’t make it” text.

My favourite point about her ideology is that she argues strongly for the notion that “giving fucks” is not synonymous with being an asshole. In fact, when practiced appropriately, it’s the exact opposite. Being conscientious of what you want and assigning some conviction to it is empowering.

The actual procedure of putting her theory into practice doesn’t seem that challenging to me, as I think I’ve sort of embarked on a similar path over the last two years. I’ve been abandoning toxic friendships and saying no to events that no longer serve me, in a bid to reclaim time with myself and find that elusive thing they all talk about- happiness. That being said, it really isn’t an overnight transformation and active work is required to get the philosophy to stick. I think any people-pleaser would benefit from giving this relatively short video a little watch- it’ll spark some interesting thoughts of rebellion…

**Just a note to say that, since I wrote this video review, I have also read the book. Slightly less convinced by the extended text but an easy read and perhaps a truly life-changing revelation for some readers.**