2.0.2.0. // a look back

I’m torn.

On the one hand, I love doing these look-backs from year to year, noticing the stark changes (or similarities) in answers over time. But at the same time, sometimes it just feels like an arduous chore, an empty humble brag, driven by internalized capitalism and the “Need to Feel Like I Have Done Things™ With My Life” this year.

In reality, it’s a miracle I even *got* to do Things™ this year. It’s a miracle we’re even *here* this year. In all honesty I think my grandmother’s death last December may have been COVID related, as it snuck upon us like a quiet assassin. We’ve spent this year in uNpReCeDeNtED ~~killmenow~~ conditions, doing the best we can with what we have, trying to protect ourselves and the ones we love. Sure, there will be people out here saying this year was a really good one for them. That’s okay. There will be some for whom this year was akin to a trip to hell and back. And that’s okay too. I personally feel like my year was a bit of both, but to know that that experience is alive, valid, and okay is what is important.

Truth is I’ve been MIA from this space for a myriad of reasons– a whirlwind of work, life, riveting romance, becoming a cool-aunt to a new kitten, moving to a new place, not feeling like I had anything new or interesting or valid to say…. not to mention overall screen fatigue and feeling like I’ve just done so much reflecting ALREADY outside of this space, so it’s like I was battling a reflection hangover. But I do know within myself that I do have a desire to see, over time, how these stories and happenings play out– i enjoy looking back with fondness (or cringe-ness, or disgust) on this space to have some sort of proof that as the Earth moves, I’m moving with it.

This year has been hard. It’s been long. It’s been isolating, disappointing, lonely, and frustrating. And it has been humbling, rejuvenating, eye-opening, and mind-blowing.

If you had to describe your 2020 in 4 words, what would they be?
Evolutionary. Raging. Dumpster. Fire.

What new things did you discover about yourself?
I discovered a lot of my impulses. I discovered that I’m seldom alone with myself, so when I’m forced to do that, my body and its world are like, “what’s going on……Y U NO HAVE CONSTANT STIMULATION”. I discovered that I really wasn’t valuing myself in the way that I should have been, in the sense that I really did put myself and my needs on the back burner.

What single achievement are you most proud of?
Graduating in the midst of a fucking pandemic. The sudden shift to online learning for me was not good. I am so much of an in-the-classroom-seated-taking-notes-relying-on-professor-interaction type of person. I absolutely HATED my media law class, and, because I was not used to Zoom Fatigue and online learning, I thanked my lucky stars that I’d started out strong in the class and just accepted the D+ on my final because I just couldn’t do it anymore. If I had the chance to re-do it, knowing what I know now about myself and my learning habits, I could probably have implemented strategies for getting through it rather than just straight up saying “you know what, fuck this”, but who has that kind of re-framing, growth mindset when it feels like the world is going to shit, you know?

What was your favourite place that you visited in 2020?
Torn between Occonomowoc, WI and Woodland Park, CO — stunning natural features all around, warmth, and plenty of space to move my body.

Which of your personal qualities turned out to be the most helpful this year?
My elasticity.
My determination.

My creativity.
My humor.

Which new skills did you learn?
– Ukelele
– Cooking skills! Esp. related to vegan cuisine
– Learned how to set up a hammock

What, or who, are you most thankful for?
I am thankful for time to slow down, to be with myself and understand better. I’m also thankful for the Black womxn who propelled this election forward– they are the wind beneath ALL our wings.

If someone wrote a book about your life in 2020 what kind of genre would it be?
A post-apocalyptic romance self-help book.

What was the most important lesson you learned in 2020?
REST is just as important as the WORK.

Which mental block(s) did you overcome?
I don’t have to be doing something all the time– that’s a nod to internalized capitalism
There’s a saying about “you need to love yourself before you can love someone else” and I would like to report that as bullshit. You can still be in progress, and love someone else as well. Healing or not, loving yourself or not, you are still worthy of love, period.
I don’t need permission to do the thing I want to do.

What was your biggest break-through moment career-wise?
LOL graduating in a pandemic!

How did your relationship to your family evolve?
It’s still evolving. It’s distant. It’s developing. The pandemic doesn’t make this easier. There are boundaries. It is a continuum.

What book(s), shows(s), or movie(s) affected your life in a profound way?
1. The Body is Not an Apology, book by Sonya Renee Taylor
2. Daring Greatly, book by Brené Brown
3. So You Want to Talk About Race, book by Ijeoma Oluo
4. An Altar in the World, book by Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor
5. Jane Crow: The Life of Pauli Murray, book by Rosalind Rosenberg
6. Eat, Pray, Love, book by Elizabeth Gilbert
7. Find Your F*ck Yeah, book by Alexis Rockley

**If any of these titles speak to you, I encourage you to shop for them on independently owned, Black owned book shop sites like these (we must support our neighbors in these times!!!):
https://bookshop.org/
https://www.bustle.com/entertainment/27-black-owned-bookstores-you-can-order-online-from-now-22949566

And, if it’s helpful, this article organizes all the Black-owned bookstores by state, so you can search close to you!

What little things did you most enjoy during your day-to-day life?
Coffee (:, developing a sleep schedule, memes from friends, being outside, looking out windows, spontaneous dates

What cool things did you create this year?
– An intro video to our ESC Corps based on the Full House intro!
– Some nonsense logos & branding ideas
– vision boardssss
– a ~podcast~
– christmas cards

What was your most common mental state this year (e.g. excited, curious, stressed)?
I can’t answer this question. Whenever I try to think of the answer, it just sends emotions rapid firing through my brain that really are all entangled together. Stressed-out curiosity, intense excitement and severe loneliness & uncertainty, etc. What was good was that I got a bit better at practicing to sit with all of those feelings.

Was there anything you did for the very first time in your life this year?

  • Fly a plane!
  • Throw a full-ass-fledged picnic!
  • Do a protest in a pandemic!
  • Have a full-time, big-girl pay job!
  • Try veganism!
  • Cook spaghetti squash!
  • Moved to Colorado!
  • Have a birthday in quarantine!
  • Be in quarantine!
  • Be single for the longest stretch of time!
  • Be a cool-aunt to a new kitten!
  • Hike mountains in CO!

What was your favorite moment spent with your friends?
Senior Gala, picnics at the park, goodbye meals, mini staycations, my birthday in quarantine, etc.

What major goal[s] did you lay the foundations for in 2020? 

  • Graduation!
  • My service year in Denver, CO!
  • Paying off credit card debt (one card, at least!)
  • being marketable to companies on linkedin/personal profiles??? idek
  • Deconstruct my faith & my whiteness

Which worries turned out to be completely unnecessary?

  • The move to CO
  • what other people think, lol

What experience would you love to do all over again?
FLY THAT PLANE! among other things

What was the best gift you received?
A hand-illustrated portrait of of me and one of my best friends ❤

How did your overall outlook on life evolve?
I am aware of the fact that at any given moment I can sit down here, and my mood will not only influence the speed with which I type, the tone that I convey… but in many ways my outlook on life is looking in 2 directions– one with a rather pointed cynicism towards systems and people in places of power– rather, I think it’s a dissatisfaction. The other end of that arrow points towards possibility and cautious optimism, as I try to discern my place in this life. Nothing is all sunshine and roses– there’s sunburn and there are thorns that need addressing and so while I think a positive outlook is more my “default” setting, it’s definitely not all there is. We need to put in some work, y’all.

What was the biggest problem you solved?
I hate some of these questions, actually, that force me to single out specific things, or moments, but then I also think that some of them may show up in future job interviews, so that’s……..that I guess.
One “problem”, I guess, was just my ignorance to my privilege and my unexamined whiteness, as well as the harm that was coming either directly from my actions, or the actions of groups/systems/structures within which I participated. I really really recommend people engage in this kind of work, because it is very important when it comes to how we view ourselves, our society, and, perhaps most importantly, how we show up for, take care of, and support one another.

This year really did offer me the time and space to sit with that, do some re-evaluating and gathering of data on how my daily actions, the way I live my life, the way I engage with politics (or not!) and social justice efforts has the potential to cause real harm or heal harm.

My work and my experiences over the past year have forced me to learn, to read, to step into realities other than my own, and have forced me to be more cognizant of all of this nuance, this important inner work that forces us to think outside of ourselves and our biases. With this awareness, it’s been easier to lean into that latter ideal of healing harm and working to contribute in a positive way to my community and my work.

What was the funniest moment of your year, one that still makes it hard not to burst out laughing when you think about it?
*insert memory with MJ here*

What purchase turned out to be the best decision ever?
For some reason, I think first about this mustard yellow coat– a christmas present to myself to remind me of my bad-a$$ b!tch vibes. It’s warm and it was on-sale….but the more I think about it, it was Wireless Bluetooth Headphones that take center stage– they enabled me to find joy in running again, and fill my meditative 2-mile walks to work with podcasts and music that feeds my soul.

What’s one thing would you do differently and why?
I JUST heard this question come up in a podcast, and when I tell you the guy being interviewed was like “I can’t answer this, because then I wouldn’t be where I am right now” talking about the ripple effects of our decisions, etc………….. sooooo the one thing I would have done differently is spent less $$$ on food delivery.

What do you deserve a pat on the back for?
Starting group therapy, working to pay off debt, setting boundaries, and graduating in a pandemic.

What activities made you lose track of time?
Playing ukelele, writing coverletters (more of a time suck, but still an interestingly engaging process nonetheless), watching some top series on Netflix, walks, running, hiking with people, creating with my hands, and listening to podcasts.

What did you think about more than anything else?
“How do I survive”, “how can I take care of myself right now?” “what do I need?” So yeah I’d say the answer to this one was: myself / my wellbeing

What topics did you most enjoy learning about?
Internet privacy! Human emotions & psychology, practically everything ever about Sonya Renee Taylor’s & Brené Brown’s work, social justice movements, #mutualaid, restorative justice, racial healing & reconciliation

What new habits did you cultivate?
Drinking water every morning, walking to work, adopting veganism, getting better at meal-prep, scrolling on my phone when waking up, using an alarm clock instead of my phone to wake up in the morning (to mitigate the issue of the former item, there)

What advice would you give your early-2020 self if you could?
So I actually wrote myself a letter (to future me!) from 2019 to 2020, and reading that felt like a fever dream. So, as for right now, writing to me ~~in the pAsT~~, what I’d say probably goes something like this:

dearest 2020 steph,

shit is about to HIT THE DAMN FAN LOL. I’m gonna need you to do me a favor. Put down your phone, drink some water, go outside, and maybe practice some furious journaling during this time because things are MOVING and SHAKING and HAPPENING and paying ATTENTION is so important right now.

Take time to look at the best in others. Take time for yourself, and spend less time feeling guilty about all the things that you think people “expect” out of you. At the end of the day, you don’t have to come home to anyone but yourself.

Don’t settle, don’t linger to hard on past mistakes, take repeated behavior at face value (don’t merely trust words); some people will make their choices, thus allowing you to move forward in a direction that actually serves you— leave shit to explode in the periphery, and then do yourself a favor and don’t even bother looking at the periphery ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ simple as that.

Take some time to step into & live your truth. Surround yourself with people who understand complexity & nuance, and who are willing to root for you even when you feel utterly defeated (or you’re hard-core PMSing) or when you can’t see your own power. And spend time with them. Send the text. Make the call. Schedule the zoom. Connection will be key during this time. Don’t be afraid to let your guard down a little. Let yourself be surprised. Lean into love that others have for you.

Stay curious, and stay adamant about loving & seeing people where they are. Be prepared for some hard days. This work is not easy, especially the work you will do day-to-day. Curiosity mingled with compassion & daily gratitude is your best way forward.

Seek justice in all that you undertake and do not wait for others, or systems, or groups, to give you “the green light”. Surely your momentum, your courage, your outspokenness will inspire other kinds, where it is needed most.

Take time to breathe and don’t beat yourself up too much about eating cheese occasionally.
You’ve gained a myriad of experience this year that will serve you well in the next one.

all my love,

steph

Did any parts of your self or your life do a complete 180 this year?
yeah, u could say my white privileged ass def turned itself around. And I moved to a new state. That’s a pretty big degree-age change, too. Add on veganism there and it’s like i’m a ~~wholE nEw hUm@n~~ and I date a dedicated, insanely talented chef and VERY attractive NASA man now so there’s that 😀

What or who had the biggest positive impact on your life this year?
I would say this move out to Colorado has had a laundry list of positive impacts on me. Being able to be in a new space, living with those I love dearly and who inspire me every day to be better, living out work I can get behind, all while aligning my Truth with my personal desires and personal growth…. all of that has been amazing. And I look forward to continuing that this year.

May your new year be rife with meaningful intention, doused in self-love & respect, and lit by the lights of love & justice, between friends, family, neighbors & co-workers.

xx

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