Albert Einstein once said that time is only “a stubbornly persistent illusion.”

While there are many ways to interpret the illusion of time, one can rightly say that it doesn’t matter what year it is or whether it counts as the past, present, or future, there will always be darkness as much as light.

The real world simply does not rest on the back of happy endings and plans don’t always work out in the same way they were inked. 2020 was not the first year a pandemic happened. It also wasn’t the first time that violence ensued following mass protests or the first time good people died. Yet, the year 2020 was a different kind of madness; everything became amplified in 2020. There was just something awfully debilitating about the year – and every single one of us, across genders, race, or age – felt it. Humankind probably did not know it could take this much before this year.

For one, the pandemic was a major spanner in the wheel crippling economies, taking jobs, and taking lives. The violence and massacre that ensued in Nigeria with the End SARS protests, the mass murder of civilians also following police brutality in Uganda, and even the resurfacing of the black lives matter campaign in the United States, are just some of the different smaller pandemics we had to deal with.

For the first time ever, the world was indeed united with common goals and common enemies. We watched the same news, used the same social applications, and made our plight known globally through similar hashtags. Unprecedented as it was, for the first time, we all paused. For a world that was constantly on the run and in motion, 2020 made us halt and this shift in our psyche just happens to be the very thing that will nudge us into the morning after.

Across the world and across economies, many experienced a massive shift in what they projected the year to be and how it eventually turned out. However, unlike most people, 2020 was not nearly as bad – at least as far as the general challenges go. For some reason, it birthed a different kind of luck for me.

While others were losing jobs, I had more jobs than I could handle and had to carry some of the biggest and fastest business expansions ever. As far as business, finance, and career were concerned, I was one of the lucky ones. But in spite of the luck on the career front, 2020 was simply not the kind of year that left anyone whole. In other words, believing that you survived 2020 unscathed is tantamount to believing the sun is shining in the dark of night. And while you can recover from financial setbacks, mental and psychological impacts are much harder to shake off.

Like many people, I too had a higher sense of optimism with the year 2020. However, the year tapered down like a wide grin that folded into sadness and ultimately indifference. At different points over the course of the year, I wanted to run. I found myself constantly searching for an escape. Spirituality was also on an all-time low. Worse off, I lost faith in all the things I couldn’t control – things like pandemics, death, and even societal change. For the first time in my life, I considered running away into a different reality. But just as we find amazing opportunities in the midst of seemingly daunting challenges, the madness of the year 2020 birthed a myriad of lessons and many of them, I will indeed cherish forever.

The first is the need for strong communities of friends and families. With the world forced to shut down, I was reminded of the power of close ties with loved ones. Things may not be perfect, but having people to weather the storm with you makes all the difference. The next thing I learnt is that nobody really knows what the future holds, so be willing to adapt. The strides I experienced in my career were in no way like the plans I had written down. 2020 taught us the need to grow in spite of.

I also learnt that freedom is a thing of the mind. The year 2020 constrained us at different points physically, mentally, and psychologically in more ways than one. True emancipation starts from your mind and ultimately transcends all that exists around you. Until you believe you are free, the world will always find a way to beat you down. As far as my physical appearance and heath go, the year ceded many of us unsolicited additional pounds. From someone who will ordinarily never let herself go, the 7kg heavier version of me can tell you that it is okay to let yourself go sometimes. On a general note, 2020 taught us never to stop moving. You can take breaks, but do not stop. Live in the moment, and love freely.

True emancipation starts from your mind and ultimately transcends all that exists around you. Until you believe you are free, the world will always find a way to beat you down.

Finally, do not underestimate the power of the ‘virtual world’ – as some still call it. Social media and the digital world in general shaped many of the activities of the year. Geographical location is no longer a barrier. There is so much that can be done with the tools that are available to us in terms of willing change and creating better paths for ourselves. The internet is the future and 2020 made that a little clearer. But as much as we love it, we must still fear it because sometimes our greatest strengths too can be our greatest weaknesses.

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