Life Lessons From 2020 By Kamal Siddiqi

It has been a roller-coaster of a year. Everyone has a story and no one person or country was exempt from what happened in 2020. While the pandemic still rages on, there is now hope on the horizon. But that hope comes with caution as we see how the world reacts to the new vaccines.

In all that has happened — amidst the fears, the illnesses and the deaths and the ignorance of many, lessons have emerged for all of us on how to move ahead.

The first lesson of course is the importance of health and wellness. Those who once took their health and their access to medications for granted now realise how lucky we have been so far. Until you are taking care of yourself, you will not be able to fight not just Covid but any illness.

One needs to redefine their view of fitness and health. Pay attention to your food and activity levels, and work on developing healthy habits and build a healthy lifestyle. Think of food like medicine and use it to work for you and keep you fit.

Linked to this is the realisation that mental health is an integral part of our health. It needs to be addressed, just like our physical health. We need to have regular mental-health checks and care.

The second learning is that the people closest to you deserve your time and attention. Rebuild these relationships so that you can carry them with you for the rest of your life. Make time. Let go of past issues, forgive each other, make new memories.

The third learning is that we really don’t need to spend as much as we usually do. Spending money is a wonderful stress reliever but how much of our spending is necessary. Many of us saved simply by not eating out and not buying things we didn’t need. We should prioritise spending and saving.

A fourth lesson is to understand that the economy rebounds. Many people we know suffered pay cuts or lost their jobs. We all need to adapt with the changing times. But as activity picks up, work opportunities come back. It is how we spend the time in between jobs that matters.

A fifth lesson is that we need to slow down. We are constantly under pressure to be productive, to compete and be better than our peers or ourselves, and to never take breaks. While this has resulted in many of us having successful careers, it isn’t sustainable. We are burning out, we are getting tired, and we are hiding our depression. We have lost our work-life balance and we need to restore that.

A sixth lesson relates to information. We should be selective. One cannot be overwhelmed or frustrated by social media. There is a lot of content that is exaggerated, falsified or taken out of context. Limit consumption of news. Restrict time spent on digital platforms.

Some other lessons we need to keep in mind: take climate change and pollution seriously. We need to take care of our planet because by doing so, we will extend our ability to live in it, and we’ll make life better for ourselves. Climate change is real. Let us work to clean our environment. As things go back to normal, we are seeing pollution rise.

Final lesson. Money, status, fame and looks have no bearing on what happens to you, nor does it protect you in any way. At the end of the day, we are all susceptible to the same human vices, illnesses and consequences. We need to remember that we are all human.

Let us also remember those who put their lives on the line for us. Our healthcare workers — including everyone who works in a hospital — our minimum-wage workers and the labour force that does all the work that we never notice, and our banks and grocery stores that provide us with the core essentials we can’t survive without.

Let’s all take a minute to recognise these people, be grateful that they exist, and that we have access to them. As we come out of this quarantine, let’s continue to show gratitude, compassion, and kindness for them and recognise their hard work. And let us hope that as we enter 2021, these lessons are learnt and never forgotten.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 28th, 2020.


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