Lessons from 2020 and wishes for 2021

Written in December 2020

Take a deep breath and let’s reflect, let’s talk about 2020.  I am sure 2020 is a year that no one will ever forget.  What can I say?  It was quite a ride, 2020 was a wakeup call. It was an overwhelming year filled with unexpected surprises, changes, challenges, and sadness but also it was filled with inspiration and new perspective on life in general. It had an impact on the entire human’s existence.  It hasn’t been the easiest year but I do feel that there were some good things about it and a lot of lessons I’ve learned in this year.  I also feel as it gets closer to the end of the year it’s a good time to reflect and there is just something quite refreshing if you think about a new year is on your doorstep.

2020 has had its ups and downs and I would like to share you my story.  I’ve been living in Thailand since April 2017 and I am teaching English for first – third graders at a private school in Samut Sakhon province, not too far from Bangkok.  Anyway so I got an opportunity to teach in Yangon, Myanmar starting April 2020 so in February I have given my 30 day notice and started to make travel arrangements, packed.  One evening in the end of March I still had some dinner with colleagues as a farewell and big surprise, exactly 4 days later my flight was booked to Yangon.  I still called them to confirm my flight, I had an uneasy feeling all of the sudden, it was like something is going to happen any minute and I was right.  Two hours after the call I got an e-mail to say that the flight has been cancelled because of the global situation that we all had to face.

The first person I called when my flight got cancelled was Celia, my older sister who has always been supportive. I’m really fortunate for amazing parents and siblings. Celia always has the best advice anyone could ask for. We looked at flights to go back to my home country, SA. I thought about everything and felt it was best to stay.

I felt everything has changed overnight. I was devastated at first but I knew I had to act fast.

It was hard but I am thankful for an amazing support system both here in Thailand and back in South-Africa. At least we have technology so we can call each other and support each other in small ways.

During lockdown in early 2020 – I must say I could felt the kindness during this time. Thailand and its people are just amazing, and I’ve learned so much during this time. We have to realize just because you can’t see your friends and family. It doesn’t mean you can’t reach out. One day I went to the local supermarket to buy a few necessary items. I walked pass the restaurant I used to go to. They were handing out ready-made meals, I still wanted to give them a donation, but they said “no for free, be happy in Thailand,” I will never forget those words.

People in my building gave me fruit, received messages from all over locals and foreigners and I honestly feel so loved and blessed to have such great people in my life. I’ve tried to avoid negativity as I think some people was challenged by it as they were not used to be home so much or they had no idea what to do with their time. To me the voice in my head it was “The time is now, if you want to get something sorted, learn something new, read whatever it is the time is now”

Then I’ve spoken more to my family back home, and it feels like I have I feel closer to them now than ever before.

I have a great Thai friend here in town that owns a small coffee shop, and before the lockdown, I was planning to go to Trat for a few days. I’ve asked him for advice, so I ended cancel my plans to Trat, got a lot of support from him too. That meant a lot especially when you’re far away from family, small gestures like a simple text message has a huge impact. I always enjoyed the simple pleasures in life. It means so much.

The world has changed very quickly and I am very adaptable person and of course 2020 was a lot to take in but I do think there were some good things about it. If we stop and reflect for a moment, what were the lessons you’ve learned during this year:

1. Nature needed a break

During lockdown there were almost no flights, no cars so it definitely did nature really good and I particularly enjoyed the peacefulness because I live on the 4th floor next to a highway so can you imagine how the cars drove up and down all night long. Every evening I will stand on my balcony and look for the stars. Mother nature really heals that is for sure and we need to appreciate it more.

2. People need to slow down

It’s okay to slow down, if your body is tired, give yourself a break, take a nap, take a long shower, have a coffee or watch a movie, whatever makes you happy then recharge and you can start again. In the old days people cooked more at home, they read books, had conversations without phones with each other, they planted trees, baked bread, made their own clothes and it was a simplistic life but they were happy.  Today people hardly eat at a table, spend way too much time on devices, some can’t even sew a button on a shirt and some don’t even read so I think the lesson here is that we don’t always need a new dress, new make-up or the latest I-phone.  Times has changed a lot but during the lockdown I realized if I have a home one day this is the type of things I would do – cook from scratch, bake bread, pick flowers from a garden.  Of course I couldn’t do it this time because I don’t have a kitchen and I live only in a small apartment but sometimes we need reminders right?

3. We are all connected

This I knew before but this year it all became clear.  If people want to be part of your life, they will make an effort to stay in it no matter what.  Of course this goes both ways.  I made new friends too. This year it felt I grew closer to my family and just to people in general. People can also be too judgmental, you never know what is going on the inside of someone so just be kind as much as possible and be in present moment even if you just listen and can’t really advise on certain situation that is enough.

4. To be alone doesn’t make you lonely

I usually do most things solo and some people cannot stand to be alone.  They need company or they get bored.  There was tough evenings that I thought I would do anything to be with family right now but I called them more regularly and during the lockdown I got inspired too.

5. There is always something to be grateful for

During the lockdown I started to write more often than usual. I read this book called “The magic” and it’s a 28 day book and it gave me an idea to write 10 things down every day what I am grateful and a reason why and till today I am still doing it so in my opinion it has brought me a new perspective.

6. Now is the time

It’s human nature to procrastinate things and always say “I want to learn a new language, I don’t have time to read, I don’t have time to sort paperwork out, I want to be more creative”. Whatever it is you never get time for now is the time; don’t wait till next week or next year.  Use your time wisely.

7. Life is short

There is no time t be negative or to complain.  The world needs more positivity.  Every day is an opportunity and make it the best no matter what.  Tell people how you feel, hold hands with your loved ones, smile and spread the kindness. If there is someone needs forgiveness or help do that even if you feel you can’t do much.

8. It’s okay to say no

Honestly sometimes this I find hard at times to do but I learned its okay to do so.  If someone invites you for dinner or a football game and something you really dont’ want to do you are allowed to say no, you don’t always have to spend time with people that you don’t want to and don’t feel you need to give them a reason.  Just be your authentic self that is all.  Of course say for example you need to go to a work function or a job interview that is different of course. Also its how you say it that matters.

9. Its okay not to be okay

We are human. In the western culture people usually would respond “I am good” even if they’re not. Here in Thailand they’re more honest about how they feel and I’ve learned that just give yourself a break too. It’s okay not to be okay all the time, cry if you have to, talk to someone or if you want to be on your own that is okay too.

But, apart from the whole Covid situation a few positive things also happened:

  • I recently found out my sister in law, Hanneke is pregnant and I am so excited for them both and can’t wait to meet my little niece/nephew in August 2021.
  • My older sister, Celia got engaged with the most unique designed ring I’ve ever seen.
  • My younger sister and her husband celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary.
  • The pandemic forced people to discover new passions. All of the sudden people started with their own youtube channels, people wrote books or just simply reinvented themselves.
  • People saved money because now they had to cook at home or they couldn’t travel.
  • They reconnected because they had to spend more time than usual with their partners or family
  • I didn’t’ get to travel abroad but I got to do a few weekend trips (Koh Samet in July) Chiang Mai (November) Ayutthaya (December) and a day trip to Bangkok (July).
  • I did a few online short courses
  • I made 2 new friends.
  • I became closer with family and friends and even they are far away you can still reach out.
  • Tried new things (painted my first canvas, a local artist in Bangkok did a self portrait sketch of me, absolutely beautiful,20 day vegan challenge and a few other things too)

Final thoughts

I feel 2020 was an eye opener for most of us. My heart goes out to each one of you that lost a loved ones, that was stuck on an airport, lost their jobs and who knows what people went through these past few months or even just the front line workers that couldn’t stay at home. Let’s lift each other up, a first step that is all even if its a simple text message, a call, donation to provide a meal for someone. Let’s reach out.

Here is an interesting fact that I didn’t know before coming to Thailand.  1 January as for the western tradition has been observed for about 70 years now.  Thai people would exchange gifts with friends and family. It’s also common for them to go to a local temple so they can make merit. The Thai new Year is actually in April which is called the “Songkran” but over the last 70 years the western new year also get celebrated.

If I think about a new year and about 2021 I would leave you with this message.  This year I wish you that you a good start filled with memories and beautiful moments. This year can be a year of starting over, a new change, a second chance, new adventures, new love, a new approach or perspective on something.  May we create better habits, be a better you, let’s spread the kindness and whatever obstacle come in our way know that you are capable to do anything.  Just be open to possibilities. You’ve got this. Happy new Year!

Please share your lessons that you’ve learned in 2020 or just any story that is related to 2020. I would love to hear that.

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Hi there! My name is Ané du Preez and I am from South-Africa. I am a teacher, writer and a solo traveler. I love learning about other cultures and traditions. I love good coffee, having interesting conversations and I love traveling. This blog is to share my wonderful adventures with all of you. I’ve been discovering the gems of mother nature and its amazing people. Join me as we venture into the beauty and inspiration that is all around us. I am an advocate for all to live their life to the fullest. To travel is to live!

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