Lessons of an unusual year

So that was 2020. It wasn’t the year any of us thought we would have. It has changed us in fundamental ways, at a micro and macro level. Rather than writing resolutions for the year to come, I have decided to write a list of main lessons of 2020, in a hope that they will be useful to me through the year. And you’ll see why in lesson 1.

Lesson one – you can’t control the future

This time last year, I had a plan for 2021: leave my role at Uniting around Easter, spend a month or two travelling in Australia, then move to New Zealand. I was applying for my NZ visa. I had job alerts set up on LinkedIn for communications and policy roles in NZ. I was checking out options for hiring a dog-friendly camper van.

That plan lasted about a month. As well as all the confounding factors that we know about, my line manager decided to leave Uniting in February and suddenly I found myself temporarily promoted and managing a team that included marketing and fundraising, two issues I had had very little to do with until I came to Uniting (see lesson two for more on that).

As COVID descended, it became clear that the move to NZ was looking increasingly unlikely. Luckily I got to an immigration agent in time to put in an application for a new Australian visa.

So at the end of 2020, I find myself signing up for another 5 years in Australia and confirmed in a General Manager role, rather than living in NZ and working contract roles as I test the job market there. And that’s fine. I like my life here. I enjoy my work and find it meaningful.

So I guess the first lesson I am taking away from 2020 is to think about the future, but to leave yourself enough flexibility for changing circumstances. It could be something as big and life-changing as a global pandemic. It could be more personal, like a change in health. I just know I will move into 2021 with a more open mindset about what comes next.

Lesson two – you are capable of more than you know

As I mentioned, this year saw me moving into a new role at Uniting. Firstly in an acting capacity and then, from July, on an ongoing basis. Not only am I now responsible for a broader range of areas, including marketing and fundraising, I’m also involved in decisions that affect the organisation as a whole, covering operations, HR, finance and a range of other issues.

It hasn’t been easy, and I have made mistakes along the way. But the train is still on the tracks and we have even delivered on some major items that would be a source of pride even without the COVID context. I have proved myself capable of more than I knew, along with many of those around me, who I rely on.

So lesson two has been: bet on yourself, believe in yourself and you might surprise yourself with what you can do.

Lesson three – count the blessings you have

This is probably a lesson that has come home sharply to many of us this year. When your world shrinks to a circle of 5k, you become acutely aware of the constants in your life, the simple things that make your life worthwhile.

For me these have been first and foremost my husband, my family and my closest friends (as well as a dog and a cat). In fact, COVID has been a blessing in disguise in terms of how much more connection I have had with all of them.

Another delightful discovery has been how much we love living in Seddon. We have felt at home since we moved here in 2017, but 2020 made clear the value of living in a community, not just a neighbourhood. Not only did we have everything we needed within the a few streets, but we forged connections with neighbours and business owners and supported each other through some dark days.

As an extreme extrovert, I wouldn’t have imagined that I could spend months without going out for dinner, or to live music or live sport. But I did and in lots of ways, I don’t want to go back to the way things where before, madly dashing around, doing too much. I very much hope I have learned to focus on what I have right in front of me. I have rediscovered the joy of home, in the knowledge that to be able to do so is a privilege that is not available to everyone.

Over to you

Lesson one means that I’m not making resolutions this year, except maybe not to lose sight of the lessons of last year – one good reason to write them down. Of course, this isn’t a comprehensive list, rather the things I think will be most useful to me for the future. I’d love to hear what you learned in 2020 and how you will use it.

Published by Antonia

I'm a British citizen, living in Melbourne, Australia. I head up the communications and advocacy work at Uniting Vic.Tas, a large community services organisation. I went to the London School of Economics and in 2008 took part in the Eisenhower Fellowship Multination Programme, the subject of 3 of my blogs. You can find me on Twitter as @euonymblog or @antoniam

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