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  • Writer's pictureSamantha Dawn

20 Things I’ve Learned in 2020

This year was a surprise. 2019 was filled with adventure, concerts, and some great travel. 2020 started with a quiet January, a work trip in February, and a ski trip at the beginning of March; little did we know it would be the last trip outside of Atlantic Canada for the year. To say 2020 was a shift in expectations is an understatement. Although it wasn’t supposed to be a big adventure year, it ended up being a big year for self growth and resilience. I thought it would be fun to share what I have learned this year and reflect on the most unexpected change I’ve ever experienced.

1) Lower your expectations so good things will seem better and bad things won’t bother you as much

I always set these rather large expectations for myself and that was the case for the beginning of 2020. I had a whole list of work goals I wanted to accomplish this year and on March 16, they all changed. It was disappointing, but I gained a whole different level of experience that I wouldn‘t have gotten.

2) Focus on what you can control

I quickly realized I wouldn’t be able to control a lot this year. Everything changed so quickly that it made no sense to plan more than a month in advance or even a few weeks in some months. I couldn’t focus on a lot of my work goals, I couldn’t focus on my 2020 goal list (which was small), I couldn’t even travel. I could however focus on myself and weight loss goals.

3) Losing weight is so much easier working from home

To be very honest, I don‘t think I would have been able to lose weight without being able to work at home. There’s a lot more free time when you don’t need to commute to work and have a whole hour at lunch to take a walk or make a meal.

4) Sharing food with my sister is so much more feasible

We used to make our own meals and buy our own groceries. Now we share and the waste has gone down and so has the cost. I was amazed.

5) Keeping my white shirts white is still hard

I actually just don’t care as long as I can take the stain out.

6) Spending time outside is so fulfilling

I had no idea how taking daily walks would change my perspective so much, but I am now a walker. It’s great exercise and I can now keep up with my friends and family who are in way better shape than I am.

7) You should always buy lobster

If you can buy lobster during lobster season, you should. Buy it local off the dock, boil it, and freeze it. It’s one of the best decisions I made this year.

8) Buying local isn’t as daunting as it seems

I always thought buying local was just out of the way, inconvenient, and more expensive. I WAS SO WRONG.

I spent the better part of 2020 supporting local businesses in Fredericton and New Brunswick. Not only is it easy, it’s not more expensive, and when you live downtown it makes for a delightful walk to pick up. I am very proud of how much I bought this year. 2021 will be better.

9) Starting a garden from grass is very difficult

I don’t know if you’ve ever removed grass, but it is not enjoyable. It’s a lot of hard work and I love the results of my garden, but I got a lot of frustrations out.

10) Doing nice things for the neighbourhood is delightful

The amount of walking traffic nearly doubled in front of my house and creating something to look at that was pleasant and fun was important to me. With all the negativity floating around, I wanted to create something positive to look at. We created a garden, a cemetery, and went a little more heavy with the outdoor Christmas decorations. The amount of comments, smiles, and pictures taken made it all worth it.

11) It’s okay to take as much time as you need to adjust to change

At some points it felt like I was in competition with people to say “I’m doing great”, like being mentally healthy was a race. Looking back, there were some really great days and there were some really bad days. I understand that shifting mentality is important, but the toxic positivity that I saw made me realize that you can take as much time as you need. There is no race to feeling like yourself again and talking about It helps.

12) Biking in the morning is so wonderful

Daily exercise was so important, but it felt downright joyful to bike in the morning. Not only was it a warm summer, but morning bike rides were the only time in the day where it made sense to bike 20km. I think I broke my bike (what is new), but it was so worth it.

13) Taking time to travel locally is so important

I am the queen of the day trip. I never stay overnight and this year was the perfect year to try it. We started in June for my birthday and spent the whole summer and fall visiting the maritimes. I didn’t make it to Newfoundland, but will try again next year. I saw Grand Manan for the first time, stayed in St. Andrews at the Algonquin, visited friends in PEI, and had a wonderful drive around Cape Breton in the fall. Truly a magical maritimes visit.

14) Setting up a real office space cemented that I would be working from home for a while

I am happy I set up a real space that reflected my style at 27. I was working in a space that was great from 18-23, but just didn‘t feel like myself. This space says “you’re an adult and mature”.

15) Working from home is fine

It’s not ideal for a 27-year old to work from home all the time. I know it’s fun for some people because they can focus on their kids and household, but seeing that I have no kids and a small house, it’s been sometimes lonely for me. Not the answer I know everyone likes hearing, but it‘s my truth. I like it on some days, but I really do miss people and kitchen conversations. Isolation anxiety is real and I had no idea.

16) A global pandemic, will, at any point of the year, effect us all

I think it’s very brazen of people to say they feel fine with the pandemic and it doesn’t effect them. I haven’t seen my family outside of Atlantic Canada in over a year. I still work from home. I have to always remember a mask when leaving the house. It effects me every day and I find ways to cope and adjust, but it effects us all and that’s okay.

17) Drinking good coffee is worth it

Does a container of Folgers cost $10 and last months? Yes. Does it taste good? Sure. However, a bag of local coffee at the same cost and lasts two weeks is so much better.

18) Going out of your way to be nice to people is heart-warming

At some point in November I realized I hadn’t been kind to people in so long. I used to to do random acts of kindness all the time and I hadn’t done it almost all of 2020. I spent the last two months doing random acts of kindness and wow, a little bit of my old self started showing up again. It’s been nice.

19) My old self is always here, but a pandemic changes people

I used to value being busy and took pride that I was the busiest person in the room. I have to say that being the busiest person in the room is exhausting and taking time for myself this year has brought on this new person that values my mental health. Boundaries are important and focusing on what I like is important. Being busy is great, but being overly busy is not.

20) Cherish time with family and do nice things for them, it’s worth it

I will be the first to admit that I took family time for granted, but not being able to see my family on a year that we were scheduled to visit the entire family was hard. If you get to see family, take time to really enjoy the time with them. Fighting over politics and religion, isn‘t worth it. Baking cookies from a 60-year old recipe so that your baba (grandpa) can enjoy them is worth it. Knitting a ton to send a little gift is worth it. Calling your family members (which I do need to do more) is important.

2020 has brought on new challenges, made us shift the way we think, and brought on a lot of despair. With all the negativity, I think it’s made us better people and made us find the positivity in the world. We have grown so much and taking the time to shift as humans is quite the feat. I spent a lot of time reading personal development books in the past and none of those have been as instrumental as how 2020 taught me to be resilient. I am hopeful for the future even with the daily injection of negative news stories. Spend time with loved ones, stop watching the news so much, get outside, and truly take care of yourselves.

Sending all my love,



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