Dear 2020...

written by Rebecca Rempel, Renette van der Walt

Dear 2020, 

Wow! You really pulled the rug right out from under us. You were unexpected, filled with uncertainty, often almost sneaky, and many times, just plain overwhelming. Kind of like that crazy aunt who shows up unannounced and reorganises the whole house and just when you think she is leaving, pours herself another cup of tea and launches into a new topic.  

2020, you¬†taught me a few things ‚ÄĒ how could¬†you not¬†with the term¬†‚Äúunprecedented‚Ä̬†being¬†so often used to describe you?¬†So,¬†I am taking those lessons and going forth into 2021 conceivably better¬†prepared¬†than I was last year¬†at this time.¬†¬†

As I do, I want to say thank you, 2020, for teaching me…  

‚Ķthat¬†online¬†meetings and gatherings¬†are¬†a talent. Many people thought¬†it was¬†easy, many people thought that presenting to an online audience was the same as¬†presenting to¬†a live audience but alas, it is not. There were many¬†embarrassing¬†moments‚ÄĒhey, remember that time¬†I thought the camera was off and played games on my phone during a¬†meeting?‚ÄĒand¬†many¬†unsuccessful¬†trainings, but we pushed forward and kept on¬†striving to improve. I¬†learnt to¬†thoroughly¬†prepare for¬†meetings beforehand¬†and to¬†practice¬†how to unmute and mute¬†on every meeting platform.¬†

‚Ķhow to be by myself.¬†Lockdowns and limits on social gatherings¬†gave¬†me more time alone than ever before. At times‚ÄĒespecially¬†in¬†the beginning‚ÄĒI¬†did not¬†know what to do with the silence or the stillness¬†and scrolled through social¬†media¬†or¬†turned on the TV as a distraction.¬†Eventually,¬†I needed a break from the distractions as well and learnt how to be by myself and really look at my¬†surroundings and breathe.¬†Thank you¬†2020¬†for reminding me¬†that I can be myself and that being myself is who¬†God¬†created me to be.¬†

‚Ķthe importance of community.¬†Community looked different in 2020. It changed and developed as COVID-19¬†mandated:¬†sometimes¬†entirely virtual, other times six feet apart. Regardless of how it looked, I realised¬†that community is something that needs to be continually developed and nurtured¬†so that no one is lost in the shuffle. Community is that¬†friend¬†you text when you just¬†cannot¬†handle the sound of your family chewing dinner anymore or that group that Skypes every Wednesday night¬†just to chat. Community is the bag of groceries left at the door when you return from a trip and need to¬†quarantine, or the¬†line of cars forming a birthday parade complete with balloons and signs¬†driving past your window¬†honking and yelling. ‚ÄúIf you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together‚ÄĚ ‚Äď African proverb.

…where my priorities were. Not having people around to affirm that I was doing a decent job and not being able to measure my day by the time spent at the office, quickly highlighted that I found my self-worth in work. 2020, you really opened my eyes to this and although it was painful, I re-examined who I am and how God sees me. I am more than just work and meetings, and I am still a great person even if I missed a deadline... 

…to love plants. Oh, what joy it has brought me to see things grow and flourish amid a global pandemic. Gardening quickly became my comfort in the chaos. Thank you 2020 for reminding me that there is beauty around me and that taking time out of my day to putter in the garden is okay. 

…to find activities with a range of results. It can be hard to see progress in long-term projects, and the lack of results and sense of accomplishment leads to frustration. Incorporating activities with immediate, short, and medium-term results led to a boost in energy and ability to focus. Sometimes this looked like breaking down the goal of reading a book into multiple chapter goals. Other times it was doing a two-hour deep clean of the closet so that every time I walked by, I felt a sense of pride. In 2021, I’m intentionally incorporating activities with a range of results into my routine, even if it just means watering the garden. 

…what it really means to have patience and grace with other people. I learnt a lot about people I have known for years in 2020; from politics to Twitter to sports cancellations to COVID-19 restrictions to Netflix shows to the British monarchy, the topics were varied and people were passionate about their opinions. Differing views combined with an underlying layer of tension that persisted throughout the year meant more patience and understanding was required. Neither of those two things are bad skills to have around. I am going into 2021 with more grace and patience for those around me. 

…to look to God in the uncertainty. I remember how I closely followed the numbers and graphs and tried to find answers in the news and the opinions of others. The global chaos brought another level of stress into my life and with so many people sharing their views, it was easier to latch onto their words for hope and repost their articles instead of turning to God and the Bible. But I learnt the only true peace in the storm was with God. HE knows why and He knows what the future holds. Realising this brought a lot of stability to the uncertainty.  

‚Ķhappiness is not in the¬†‚Äėif‚Äô¬†or¬†‚Äėwhen.‚Äô¬†This was a big lesson;¬†that I¬†should not¬†base my happiness on¬†if¬†God does¬†this¬†or¬†when this happens then¬†I will be happy.¬†No,¬†2020¬†you taught¬†me that there¬†are¬†always things around me that I can¬†love and enjoy‚ÄĒor¬†learn to love and¬†enjoy‚ÄĒand that happiness should not be reserved for the future¬†as if there is a limited amount.¬†¬†

‚Ķroutines and boundaries are crucial for survival.¬†I quickly learnt that you cannot¬†keep¬†up with work,¬†self-care¬†and relationships¬†during lockdown¬†if you¬†do not¬†create a daily routine. Starting my day with coffee and devotions¬†and¬†having lunch¬†in the kitchen¬†instead of¬†in front¬†of my computer are¬†trivial things¬†I¬†added to my routine¬†that proved beneficial. I have also realised that it is okay to say¬†‚Äėno‚Äô¬†to late-night meetings.¬†Setting down healthy boundaries ensures that I stay healthy.¬†Making my health a priority¬†is¬†an important lesson to take into¬†2021.¬†

…to choose life-giving moments and tasks. I can easily become so loyal to the work and my colleagues that I say 'yes' to things that drain me just because I want to help others. 2020 highlighted that for me. You taught me that everyone is different and that tasks that may drain me, energise someone else. It is okay to say no to things that are not life-giving for me because God created other people who would love to do that task. Thank you 2020 for emphasising what I experience as life-giving and for allowing me to say 'yes' to those things!  

2020 was definitely a learning year for us! What did 2020 teach you?

Rebecca is a photojournalist from beautiful British Columbia, Canada. Like a true Canuck, she loves playing ice hockey, wearing toques and being outdoors.

Renette is the Marketing Services Manager for OM Africa. During her free time, she enjoys discussing odd scenarios with friends and mastering the art of a good cup of coffee.

International: "Thank You" spelt out in Scrabble tiles. Photo by Rebecca Rempel.