It’s that time of the year again when I write down reflections of the year past and oh, what a year.
First things first, there’s no reason trying to recall anything because I’ve either taken video footage of it in my YouTube vlog or written about it in my journal (private writing not shared). So let’s start with what I shared back in late 2019 about the year ahead. At 1:40 I say….
Make 2020 the year you learn something new, learn a new skill, go through a completely new experience, work out loud through it, build a community around it or connect with a group of people who are doing something similar, after all, we have to be continual and lifelong learners”
One month later, things change drastically.
Bushfires in Australia decimate our bush land, flora and fauna to the point of an emotional breakdown – and an anger of the decisions of years of inept and short sighted government and I feel that these things will only worsen with time. The bushfires this year was an “in your face” realisation that something in our world has “tipped” and that although it was the early days, my psyche was affected – as was people all around the world. This was my first introduction to getting mentally prepared for what we are to face in the world years ahead.
I started to be a lot more open with my anger, frustration on social networks – a bit of my true self was getting out there in the public sphere and I started to question the role I can play going forward.
“Does doing what I do make any iota of difference to the world?”
Luckily, a trip to Germany and France for LearnTec 2020 where I was speaking gave me some respite from my own thoughts and the thick smoke that filled the Melbourne skies for weeks on end that seemed to signal upcoming apocalypse.
I am a great fan of travelling alone and when I go overseas for conferences, I make every effort to stay a little bit longer and experience the culture, food and wine.
In Frankfurt, I explored the museums, galleries and spoke with the locals in cafes and restaurants. I met up with my German friends and we had deep and meaningful conversations and explorations of history, life, art and our work. When I travel to Europe, I feel like “I’m home”. I feel very comfortable walking the streets and always strike up conversations with anyone only getting annoyed at myself that I don’t know their language.
It was on this trip I realised a few things about myself that I love to learn and explore different cultures and experiences. I can’t tell you how excited I was to wake up every day not knowing the wonderful things I was going to learn, see, eat, drink and experience; or the people who would enter my life for that day. I wanted how I felt then to happen every single day of my life. I wanted awe and wonder. It made me realise just how small the world is – and how we all want the same things so why are we hell bent on destructing it and each other?
In 2020, I learned how resilient and fearless (through ‘being in my own world’ most of it and having many lapses of fear, anxiety and insecurity – but hey, I’m human) I was when travelling alone when I got on a wrong train and didn’t realise that I was travelling in the wrong direction and into a different country…I’ll never forget this day for as long as I remember.
Luckily I captured it all although I can tell you that my heart was pounding throughout the entire day. I had to stop the negative thoughts such as ‘make sure you don’t have an asthma attack”, “where will you sleep tonight?” “where the hell are you?”….
As I usually travel WITHOUT internet access, it means that you have to rely on your wits, your surroundings and asking people who may not speak English. The way I communicated was through drawings in a little notebook and pen I carried around. People thought it amusing that I would stand there and draw out something on paper but on the whole, people were open and chatted with me.
Oh well, this is what happens when announcements are in different languages and you’re not paying attention… part of me enjoys the spontaneity of not having the answers all the time and having to go with your wits. It tests you out like you’re on the edge of a precipice. You can fail but you have to think hard in ways where you won’t fail.
Reflecting back on it a bit later, you start to realise, “why did I make it so big in my head?” If push comes to shove, find a taxi, get yourself to a nearest hotel and stay the night and figure it out afresh the next morning after a shower and some breakfast.
Travelling alone taught me to not be so impulsive this year and to think through my actions.
But it was later in Strasbourg, where I truly found something meaningful.
Spending a lazy five days JUST in the town, exploring different places, walking a lot and speaking to a lot of people (in broken French), cafe owners, restaurant waiters, store helpers, museum guides, librarians, I resurrected my need and love of the French language. I decided there and then that 2020 was going to be the year I got my French to a level where I can fluently chat with people.
Strasbourg was a defining moment for me in 2020. Again, I can’t tell you how much of a mark this city has left on me. Maybe not just the city but something in my head that clicked as to how much I love to travel, learn, experience history and immerse myself in it.
One month later, Australia goes into the first lockdown and Jane Hart invited me to help out on the Discover2Learn website; a website where we curated a variety of different fun learning activities for people to do while in lockdown.
I enjoyed curating these activities because it meant that I was learning, exploring and creating some different activities (everything from learning how to put makeup on; changing my dress sense; learning how to tie my shoe laces in different ways; potting plants). However, over time, it started to go downhill as I realised that the lockdown was going to be extended and I started to wonder, “what am I doing all this for as I looked down at my funky shoe laces?” (I hadn’t seen my parents for ages so things were slowly getting a bit tedious as the corona virus numbers were increasing as were the deaths).
2020 lockdown thinking I started to question “how does what I do and love to do – ie learning – really help others when they have far more pressing problems to deal with?”
So I started to change things up because I had no answer. Truth be told I was flailing. I found that what I did and how I did it would have seemed frivolous, child-like, incredibly naive to many people. Maybe it was time for me to ‘grow up’ and start ‘adulting’ like the rest of the world.
I decided to do book reviews as I was reading a lot while I pondered this further. This way, I could still meet my creative need to make videos but incorporate my love of reading into them. I discovered a whole heap of new YouTube channels which I loved and spent hours on. The video book reviews increased in 2020 and I focused on modern literature more so than current books (I prefer classics or modern literature) in particular, enjoying the books by German writers (who were banned by the Nazis and who gave a ‘picture’ of what life in pre-war looked like) along with George Orwell. In some way I wanted to understand what our future may be like by reading genres of books outlying the situation in history to understand what we could expect in the future. Pretty depressing but then along comes Italo Calvino with Beautiful Cities that blows it all out of the water and that moved me so much. I need not have worried. It’s up to us to create the beauty around us…
Thick into the first lockdown, I start to question a lot about the value of what I do – my skills and why I’m doing what I’m doing because frankly, there are more pressing things happening in the world. I think by March I begin to question everything about my work and it’s real value in the grand scheme of what’s happening in the world.
So I go full bore learning new skills at this time focussing on Microsoft Power Automate and learning French as well as starting to run to complete 5Kms because I hate running and I had never been able to run 5kms before. At the same time, I dust off the bike, have it serviced and go for bike rides (which I hadn’t done in YEARS). I start to use this lockdown time to focus on personal learning and growth in new areas.
I decide to learn French on 29 April this year – and soon after this video, I go FULL BORE into it. Basically focus entirely on leaving everything else aside and just picking up this new language skill as much as possible. I focus on French at the expense of work or professional learning. It’s become some insane desire or madness to learn French. In the process, I get to meet new people, new networks, learn new tools, apps, courses, basically a whole new world opens up to me.
I have absolutely NO IDEA why I’m doing this but I think that sometimes, there’s no rhyme or reason about WHY we do things. I have never been one to JUST do things to build a business, to have some kind of professional outcome nor present a fully curated profile online. Sometimes life makes absolutely no sense. If I was to learn how to be resilient for changes ahead, I had to get comfortable with things that MADE NO SENSE and to go with the flow. The reason may reveal itself in the future….or it may not. I had to let go of the control. (As someone who’s natural tendency is to pre-plan everything this goes against my nature).
Being in lockdown for most of the year and looking through my videos, I realised that despite the sleepless nights, anxiety and not seeing my family for months, it was affecting me more emotionally than anything else. I was catching up with friends and family through virtual meet ups which were fun but I still missed not being able to see them in person. I started to miss things like breakfasts at cafes, meeting up in bars and restaurants – most of all seeing my parents in person to give them a hug.
Luckily, I was enjoying my work (nothing had changed in that area) and in November, I submitted to just take some leave. I didn’t think the lockdown was getting me but it was. Sleepless nights, eating lots of chocolate and drinking way more alcohol than I ever had in my life made me realise that I needed to take a break.
Another thing I noticed this year was that I was less creative than previous years and this irritated me no end. In a way, the change from not sharing daily videos (in portrait) to sharing more thought out, longer form landscape videos later on in the year was a way to get back to ‘creation mode’. Less reflective, off the cuff, complaining to camera and more about sharing a story on camera.
By October I did my entire daily story in French…
And Covid hair was a thing in 2020 – after six months, I say goodbye to my Covid hair and in some way, feel as if there’s some semblance of things going back to ‘normal’…but it’s not really as I notice the environment changing around me (more shops closed; more places leased out; increase in numbers of people in local shops).
And finally, an end to the year where online meetings and celebrations from now on would be online thus changing the way people work, learn, communicate and celebrate together forever.
2020 despite being a difficult one for many people, for me it has been one of HUGE personal growth and a mindset change where my focus happens to be on my own personal learning, development and growth as well as an understanding and appreciation of the world around me. Also a realisation that what I’m doing at work, for work, is really just a small piece to the puzzle and that it is momentary.
The bigger things that create real impact are my relationships with people.
I’m a bit of a pessimist when it comes to thinking what’s ahead for us – and the world – and in some way, I’m thinking that my approach to 2020 was all about me getting ready to be a little bit more resilient to a lot more difficult things that we will face as a society and to be open and ready for it.
Things such as world conflict, mass unemployment, rising fascism, mental health, the divide between the super rich and poor, climate change, erosion of work conditions, lack of work….these things concern me deeply but I must not spiral into negative thoughts because I can’t control the situation that’s happening in the world at the moment.
At the same time, I don’t want to be ignorant about what’s happening either or come across as a “she’ll be right” attitude. Switching off the news is not an option for me because I believe to be educated and to question is to be prepared.
What do I plan for 2021? Who knows. At least 2020 helped me get mentally ready…the challenges will lie ahead.