The shit show that was 2020 and what I’m dreaming for in 2021

2020 was a tough year for everyone and I was definitely not spared the heartache of living through a pandemic and everything that comes along with it.

For me, 2020 was meant to be the year I moved to Barcelona, the year I took more responsibility with my previous company, travel Europe and become fluent in Spanish. 2020 was supposed to be the year I fell back in love with the man who broke my heart in 2019, the year we rose above our challenges, the year we were going to make things work.

My grandma was a Taoist which meant that we had to burn all these things made of paper so that her spirit is well taken care of.

Instead, 2020, or Wawasan 2020 as we were promised in school, was the year everything fell through. I didn’t move, broke things off with the aforementioned man, got dumped by another man, got really sick from stress and exhaustion, lost my last grandmother, and lost half of my income when the travel industry was hit. A bit of the stink of 2020 has carried over into the new year too, seeing how I was dumped yet again, just last week.

On the other hand, 2020 became the year I let things go – people, romantic relationships, work, projects – so many things that tied me down or ignored my boundaries. 2020 was the year I started therapy, started talking to my friends about therapy, and sharing what I learnt in therapy. It helped me bring more authenticity and vulnerability to the relationships in my life, giving me precious words and expanding my lexicon so I could articulate what I felt through Zoom calls or texts, when we weren’t allowed to be in the same space with one another.

Apart from my friends, God I love my friends, my biggest lessons in 2020 came from people who were hired to support me – my therapist and career coach (who coached me in exchange for setting up their content marketing on their website). I will forever be grateful to have a roof over my head, the means to pay for therapy and a flexible schedule that allows me to prioritise my mental health during such ridiculous times. I’m glad 2019 Nicole was smart enough to find a therapist to help 2020 Nicole.

The way I see it, therapy helped me uncover negative core beliefs (I am unlovable and will therefore never find love and die alone) and overcome them through embracing my emotions, feeling every single shitty feeling down to my bone, and learning to translate those bodily sensations into words to talk through and work out. I learned that I had trouble negotiating my own boundaries, whether it was at work or in romantic relationships. I had to unlearn the bad habit of accommodating to others at the expense of myself, and practised multiple conversations with my therapist where I set my boundaries in a Nicole way rather than whatever self-help gurus tell you to say.

The one thing that never fails to make me smile throughout 2020.

With my career coach, I was able to translate lessons I learned about myself – my values, my boundaries (or rather, what crossed them) – into tangible actions and results in the workplace. For a while now I knew I wanted to leave, but when the opportunity to move and the opportunity for a larger job scope came up, I decided to stay on. When that fell through, it was hard to find more reasons to stay on at a job that I had outgrown for a while. I truly believe help comes to you when you need it and my coach definitely came to me at a time when I needed the most hand-holding.

Quitting my job ended up being a 4 month process. Initially, my manager suggested I cut back on the workload, adjust my work hours, take a vacation. When that didn’t work, and the signs to quit had never been clearer, I was filled with guilt (How can I do this to my team in the middle of a pandemic), fear (How am I going to find a job in this economy/How am I going to support myself/How do i Know I’m not fucking myself over), insecurity (Am I really good enough for something else), and anxiety (What if i never find something else/ What if I become a burden to mummy and daddy). But once things were set into motion (after Googling how to write a resignation letter and whether I should add it in the body of the email or send it as a PDF attachment), I was filled with relief.

Going through every aspect of this decision with my career coach was priceless. We tackled questions like what to do next, how financially sound was this move, who could I reach out to about potential career opportunities and even career pivots, how could I reach out to potential freelance clients to tide me over until I found a the perfect place and role for me, what did the perfect role look like for me, what trade-offs might there be, and most importantly, how can I get as close to the perfect role as possible?

By now, I know that no job or company is perfect. But really, how close to perfect can I get?

It is with this newfound courage, supported by tools learnt in therapy and coaching, fierce friends, and a deeper understanding of what I really want, that I’m taking on 2021, heartbreak and all.

2021 is off to a restful start. Apart from being dumped, I’ve been enjoying a full month off, taking the time to recharge and recuperate. I’ve read 4 books so far, completed one 1000 piece puzzle, watched 6 movies and countless hours of Netflix, and tuned in to hours of interviews with my favourite writers. I’ve started gardening more regularly, attempting to grow herbs and vegetables in a small patch of soil. I’ve mended 2 items of clothing and am in the middle of upcycling a thrifted dress. I’m sleeping 10 hours a day and working out twice a week.

Setting up the soil and trellis back in November 2020.
Setting up the soil and trellis back in November 2020.
From the left: Cucumbers, long beans, and kangkung.
My first ever baby cuke appeared this weeek!
So did my first baby tom. I squealed like a child.

I know the last three weeks off have been precious and the discipline to truly rest and disconnect has already paid off because I am once again finding the stirring in my gut to write and edit and edit and edit. I can also feel excitement slowly returning to me as I speak to potential freelance clients for work in the next months. I’m excited to get back to my laptop and get back to the grind, to hone my skills and craft as a writer and marketer. I know, no one ever says that these days but that is how I feel in this moment.

Along with finding a job as perfect as possible, here are some other dreams I’d like to see come true this year:

  1. Move out
  2. Save and invest aggressively (30% to 50% from each invoice)
  3. Become truly grateful for my life and everything in it

I know 2021 will probably not pan out like I want it to because life never goes according to my plans. But I believe putting it out into the universe could get me as close to it as possible, don’t you think?