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Updated: Mar 29, 2021

My takeaways from 2020

2020 has been one, massive curveball of chaos and destruction. It’s also provided humanity an opportunity for growth and mass healing. Thank you, Universe. It’s certainly not how we planned it, but does life ever go how we planned it? That’s the beauty.

I learned a lot this year: about myself, humanity, and how I’d like to live moving forward. This is my attempt to gather the lessons that have resonated with me most. I hope this peak into my journal will give you a sense of peace and hope for our future. I hope you can look to 2021 with excitement, with all of the beautiful and mysteriously uncertain things ahead.

Living with Purpose is more important than Being Productive

Western values teach us that working ‘hard’ and acquiring wealth are the facets of a successful person. I was certainly operating under these terms at the start of quarantine, in March. With the sudden opportunity of time that was given to me, I immediately started planning how I could fill it and set myself up for success post-pandemic. I quickly found myself anxious and worried about accomplishing all the tasks I expected of myself.

“Time is money,” they say… but what if we viewed time through a lens of purpose and meaning rather than accomplishing tasks. It’s not about what we do, it’s about why we do it. And that might mean our schedule isn’t packed. Guess what? You still have value. The desire to stay productive is a false ideal and a symptom of capitalism. Being productive isn’t the most important thing for humanity… living with purpose is. Note to self: Check your lens. Clean your filter. Are they in line with your values and purpose?

I reject cancel culture.

I no longer believe in “good or bad people”. Nothing about life is binary. No matter how mightily we try to compartmentalize and squeeze binary, black and white answers out of the world, it’s impossible. Life is grey and full of contradictions. People don’t fit into boxes. People are complex beings capable of being both good and evil at the same time. I think we could spend less time labeling people as good or bad and more time trying to understand each other. Less energy focusing on right and wrong and more time getting curious with those we disagree with. Less time defending ourselves & trying to prove our goodness, and more time extending empathy.

If we seek to understand rather than to disprove, we may have a chance at creating meaningful, sustainable change for future generations.

“Shame is not a useful social justice tool.” – Brene Brown

Lean into the possibility of success, rather than the fear of failing.

2020 provided us all with a choice: to react or respond. Rather than react to what was seemingly “happening to me” and worry about all that I was ‘losing’, I wanted to focus on the new possibilities ahead.

Once the end of April hit, I lost all of my work for the entire year. I had audacious career goals and was absolutely bummed. But with the shutdown came the unlikely opportunity to take class from Broadway veterans and casting directors on zoom, a chance that never would’ve arisen in pre-pandemic life. What a GIFT! Because of this new accessibility to the Broadway community, I now have two incredible mentors who have taken me under their wing and given me a plethora of opportunities.

There will always be the chance to fail or succeed. The result isn’t entirely up to you, but your mindset is. And your mind is powerful.

Live in the messy: less planning; more living.

Living in quarantine put a magnifying glass on my many neurotic tendencies, mostly stemming from my relationship with control. My inner child has always had a desire to control the environment around me. It’s a fear-based mindset that I’m constantly noticing and working on. Being vigilantly quarantined at home for six months gave that inner, introverted child SO much joy and excitement. “I can control everything now WOO!” And boy, did I try. Naturally, that mentality came with challenges and opportunities for growth.

With less on my plate, came more time to hyper-focus on non-important tasks. I found myself getting stuck in planning mode and tunnel vision, quite often. I laid out tasks for myself daily and wouldn’t let myself relax until they were all done. (Hello compulsive behavior).

One night, post panic attack, my brother kindly offered, “it seems like you’re letting your happiness depend on an empty to do list.” He was so right and I immediately felt relief because I realized how silly I was being. Of course, there will always be more to do… may as well let yourself enjoy the ride.

“Life is not about a series of perfectly planned choices. It’s messy and the fact is, no matter what you do, someone else might be doing the same thing and having more fun with it.”- unknown.

My interests are not my values. My job is not my identity.

“Do I still have value without a job? Do I still have purpose without a packed schedule?” I saw so many of my peers struggle with this throughout this year, and have myself as well. These worries are symptoms of capitalism; they are our ego talking, and they are not real.

I see this pandemic as an opportunity to free ourselves from these false ideals. We can love ourselves more fully and sustainably by evaluating our core values, and developing identities outside of what we do. I want to be defined by my values, my family, and my community. If we stake our identities in something as fickle as our job title or accomplishments, we are setting ourselves up for misery.

Our humanity precedes our job title. Life is about a greater meaning in our accomplishments, not just masturbatory victories.

A slower pace of life works well for me, and THAT’S OKAY.

I used to compare myself, in college especially, to my peers who were seemingly, constantly hustling and thriving under pressure and busy schedules. I would get stuck in my head, shaming myself for not performing the same way they were. “Just work harder!” I’d think.

2020 helped reaffirm my realization that people thrive in different circumstances and THAT’S OKAY. As the pandemic unfolded and most of my artist friends and I were out of work, I watched my peers struggle to find purpose and fulfillment without a schedule to dictate their days. Meanwhile I was creating spreadsheets, doing projects galore and planning my days out with glee. It was so interesting to witness how differently we were all responding.

I noticed that I thrived with having less variables and obligations in my day to day. I had more time to think and process. I read and wrote more than ever before. I found a solid routine for the first time in my life. I gained compassion for 20-year old, introverted Marissa who felt like she couldn’t keep up. I now understand that she just needed a little less going on, and that’s okay.

We are all organically connected.

“We are social beings held together intrinsically by organic connection and trans-personal responsibility rather than extrinsically like billiard balls, held together by the rack of utilitarian self- interests.” – Lanney Mayer

After countless philosophical discussions with my Dad this year, this idea is what we always come back to. Neoliberalism and post Enlightenment ideals have sold us the myth that we are soley individuals without a stake in each other. I think we need to reevaluate what it means to be human by operating from a place of organic wholeness rather than individualism. We have a responsibility to each other, not ourselves.

“I am because you are.”- African proverb

Essentialism: it’s not all important and you can’t do it all.

One of the many challenges I faced this year was deciphering how to spend my time when I had too much of it at my disposal. With more time on my hands came a plethora of things I decided were important to me and wanted to accomplish before quarantine was over. I found myself overwhelmed by options and in a state of constant comparison. “She’s doing that fun project; he’s doing that online workshop; they’re going back to school, etc.” I wanted to do everything everyone was doing because I felt I should be able to. That was my ego reacting. To my surprise, even when you have all day, every day, to do whatever you want, there are still only 24 hours in a day. Thinking that we can and should be able to do it all if we work hard enough is a myth that’s been around for ages.

I thumbed through a book I read a couple of years ago that helped to ground me: Greg McKeown writes in his book Essentialism, “The way of the Essentialist means living by design, not by default. Instead of making choices reactively, the Essentialist deliberately distinguishes the vital few from the trivial many, eliminates the nonessentials, and then removes obstacles so the essential things have clear, smooth passage.”

It’s about the end game: Long term vision GPS.

At the start of this year I listened to a podcast by one of my favorite authors, Mike Dooley. He spoke about goal setting, the importance of defining our endgame, and completely forgetting about the ‘how’s’.

In an effort to help me relax from my tunnel vision state of overthinking, my Dad recently gave me a beautiful metaphor explaining the same concept.

He said, “When I get in my car to go somewhere, I enter in the address and make a plan on how to get there. Along the way there will be inevitable, constant changes and shifts. Someone might cut me off causing me to miss an on ramp, there may be an accident causing me to take a different route, etc. If I get paralyzed and think about every mistake or correction as I drive to the destination, I’d never get there. My only focus is to get to the destination without crashing. It doesn’t matter how many wrong turns I take, as long as I make it there.”

That’s exactly what Mike Dooley was saying. All we need to focus on is our end game. How do you want to feel in your long-term future? Where do you want to be? Who do you want to be surrounded by? Make a plan, take baby steps, and be prepared for constant changes along the way.

2020 is over, my friends. We are still here, and that’s something to celebrate. No matter how your year went, I hope you can meet yourself with compassion, extend empathy to others, and feel how deeply connected we all are.

The word pandemic comes from the Latin word Pandemus. Pan= all; Demus= people. All people. We are all on this Earth experiencing the same thing, and I think there’s power in that. Happy New Year, beautiful beings.

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