I recently came across a prompt on social media that asked “how has 2020 changed you?”. Here’s my answer.

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2020 forced me to slow down. In the process, I learned a lot about myself.

I have always moved very fast and juggled a lot of things. From growing up as a competitive dancer (changing in the car and doing my homework on the school bus) to now having a full-time job, two side businesses, and balancing health/social life/ hobbies — having a full plate was nothing new.

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A photo taken on April 1st. I referred to myself as a “double agent” as I worked on two projects at once.

It turns out that my workaholism was no surprise to … anyone but myself. And yet something so obvious to most would have likely remained unknown to me if it weren’t for Toronto’s lockdown in March / April.

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In the screenshot above, I described my month of March to a startup I had been advising to let them know I would be unavailable. Before the pandemic hit, these were my commitments for the month of March 2020.

I used to send emails on the streetcar on the way to work. I’d work 9–12 then take calls for the side hustles over lunch before going back to my day job from 1–5 pm. I’d have meetings for a side hustle after work, be programming tweets for my business accounts in transit, then somehow squeeze in a social activity before going home and getting back on my email. During the lockdown, when I was no longer commuting from meeting to meeting, I started to realize that I was spending around 12 hours doing nothing but work. I watched people baking banana bread out of boredom and realized I had never really experienced the feeling of having nothing to do.

“Relaxing” for me was doing work while having Netflix on in the background. I was, and still am, addicted to productivity. Most people thought of this as a strength — I have certainly been looked up to for my accomplishments — but this whole “hustle porn” mentality we as a society have adopted is extremely dangerous. It’s time for all of us, myself especially, to prioritize being present over being busy.

If you can imagine my mind running a mile a minute, you can probably understand why it is hard for me to focus enough to sit down and read a book. Throughout the years, I have accrued an awesome collection of books. How many of them have I ‘tangibly’ read? Honestly? Maybe one. I have borrowed or purchased the very same books in audio format to actually get through them. I always justified it as “I’m busy. I get motion sickness if I try to read in transit”. Silly Roxi, reading a book should not be another item on your to-do list.

It is extremely difficult for me to read a whole page of a book without my mind telling me all of the things I could be accomplishing. As much as I wish I was a person whose hobbies include reading in the traditional sense, I am grateful for audiobooks and podcasts that allow me to be productive and read simultaneously. I am learning to make reading work for me. Even ‘writing’ this post now, I used an AI transcription app to type out my thoughts as I spoke them. This is quite an insight as my past career was in communications (99% typing, writing, reading!).

For me, self-care is not flipping pages in a reading nook. It is folding laundry while listening to someone smart. I’m learning to be proud of that.

Here are some books that have impacted me since the pandemic began:

  • Atomic Habits by James Clear
  • In Praise of Slow by Carl Honoré
  • White Fragility by Robin D’Angelo
  • Take Control of Your Life by Mel Robbins
  • The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins
  • TED Talks by Chris Anderson
  • Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
  • Sales Badassery by Frank J Rumbauskas, Jr.
  • How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie
  • Goodbye, Things by Fumio Sasaki
  • Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss

(Leave me a comment if you want to hear more about one or some of these!)

In case you haven’t noticed a theme yet, I keep pretty busy. I am such a passionate person that I jump on every opportunity. Yet again, this strength is also a weakness.

When I slowed down and asked myself what I really want, I realized that all the awesome projects I had been working on weren’t really getting me closer to my life goal. For the past decade or so, I have dreamt of giving a TED Talk but hadn’t made enough strategic strides toward that audacious goal.

That’s changing. Stay tuned!

2020 has been a year for the books. Although I have had the great privilege of job security during this time, I certainly didn’t always have mental stability. Despite everything, I had a great 2020. I am grateful for all that I have learned about myself. I am extremely grateful I created the opportunity to work remotely in Bermuda for a few months (stay tuned for more on this, too).

Some other things I’ve learned in 2020:

  • Not everyone thinks the way I do, practising allyship often means meeting people where they are instead of trying to bring them to where I am.
  • The importance of keeping everything spotless. When I lived in Bermuda, one crumb could attract hundreds of ants (and other creepy crawlies I won't get into…).
  • Toxic Positivity exists. It’s okay to not be okay.
  • Bermudian accents are very cool.
  • If you seek community, you’ll find it. I’m proud to say that 5Y Impact Collective has shifted into an online community and currently has over 90 members across 10 timezones.
  • Remote working works! I have always dreamt of being a digital nomad, and this experience has solidified that it works for me.
  • The importance of being present over being busy. Still working on it. (see 1–3 above)
  • Running can be … fun? not not fun. It’s growing on me.
  • Introversion suits me. I could get used to this whole not-seeing-people/ charging-my-batteries thing.
  • Humans are resilient and adaptive. We made this work.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you. Thank you for making me feel like my thoughts and vulnerability are valued. I plan to keep posting on Medium and would love for you to follow me and interact with my posts!

Chapter 2020 in this audiobook has been one full of plot twists. Remember that, although we all weathered the same storm, we haven’t all been in the same boat. Let’s close this chapter with compassion for ourselves and face 2021 with a smile under our masks.

designs experiences, solves complex problems, fights for social justice, nerds out on AI ethics & futures

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