How Has 2020 Shaped You?

On my blog’s ‘About Sijie’ section, I stated that ‘moving around (Seattle being the fifth city I’ve lived in) has given me the privilege to compare and contrast China and the US, the Midwest, the South, and the West Coast. It is by taking myself out of the familiarity that I understand myself better and know that I am capable of doing things that I would not imagine before.’ In a way, Covid-19 induced changes have also taken me out of the familiarity – I set up meetings with coworkers rather than walk down the hall to ask a question or just chit chat, I no longer went out to restaurants, I didn’t travel to meet up with friends and my flight to visit parents in China got suspended,… The list can go on. It was through this special event that I’ve observed a lot more about how I work and play.

First of all, while I enjoy having go-to hobbies, I now appreciate having new things and activities to explore even more. When the state lock-down started, I thought to myself, ‘I would be fine. A lot of my hobbies are done in solitude. I now will have all the time to read, write, run, and hike different trails (the mountains are usually less crowded, thus safer).’ Nine months later, despite all the reading, hiking, and board games that I’ve done, I really miss meeting up with friends in person, trying out new restaurants, exploring a new neighborhood, planning fun activities in town (I was known among my friends to have the best recommendations for ‘date night’), and coming up with itinerary for travels. I realize that the curiosity in me always craves exploring and trying new experience, which can be as small as going to a nursery (referring to plants, :)). It is an integral part of who I am that I’ve ignored during the pandemic. In hindsight, I played it too safe with these activities and totally gave them up. For my own sake of mental health, I could have put on a mask and done activities where 6 ft. social distancing is strictly followed, such as doing a picnic in a park with friends, going on walks, outdoor dining, etc. In the past, I always come up with bucket list of activities that I want to do in my city every year. Last year, I checked off ‘take a ferry’, ‘visit the Arboretum’, ‘run a half marathon’, ‘eat at Sushi Kashiba’, ‘rock climbing’, ‘visit the art museum’, ‘see an art performance’, etc. Armed with this deeper understanding of myself, I’ve developed a new list for 2021 and am excited to start working on it.

Second, I appreciate my support network even more. Even though my friends and families are located in different time zones around the world, I am thankful that they are just a phone call away and show me tremendous support and love during a difficult time in my life. There are many small moments that I am grateful for – friends (broadly speaking for families as well) who invited me over for a meal when they cook for me, friends who offered help with move and assembling furniture, friends who shared with me awesome pictures of their holiday meals and sent me invitations to travel and stay with them in their homes, friends who periodically checked in on me to see what I am up to, friends who patiently listened to me and allowed me to talk through my feelings to come up with actions, etc. I was telling a good friend of mine that it is the love from them that helped me heal faster, to have the courage to walk away from a bad situation, and to have the courage that even after a major setback, eventually I can still get up and keep fighting. Dear family and friends, you all know who you are, thank you for always being there for me.

Apart from close connections, I also appreciate my Facebook and Instagram friends who I may not talk to on a regular basis. Seeing folks making progress towards their passion – becoming a yoga teacher, doing tough workouts, baking, reading more than 50 books in a year, creating original content, baking, writing thought-provoking reflection, etc – inspires me even more. I don’t think it motivates me out of competitiveness that ‘I need to do this more’ (a wise woman told me ‘everyone is running their own race’, J), but more ‘wow, I know awesome people who are killing it’ and it’s nice to know them and to be in the same boat as them. Though a common sentiment on social media is that it only shows part of the life, we can still make something good out of it. All my social media friends that I don’t talk to often, thank you for your inspirations.

Third, I have a tendency to focus too much on negative emotions so to cope I am learning to park my feelings and find distractions. So many changes this year made me notice that I was not very good at handling my emotion and wanted the instant gratification by talking it out. [In my case, when I am a writer (self-claimed one, hehe), I am even more in touch with feelings.] However, as I later realized, some feelings (negative ones especially), however important at the moment, ended up benign. Instead of being hyper-focused with them or trying to talk it out with others right away, I shall put it on hold for a few days and see if it is still left unresolved. Now I use running, reading novels, journaling (my attempt to logically break down the problem) and forcing myself to do some house chores as a distraction.

Speaking of reading, reading novels is a good way to immerse myself in other people’s storyline, so that I temporarily forget about my own world. Lately, I have been reading some self-help/psychology book to recover. As mentioned in ‘Silver Linings’, even though self-help books cannot help us avoid the pain, it would help us get better at reflecting and growing faster. Books that I’ve been reading/plan to read are ‘Nonviolent communication’, ‘the Five Love Languages’, ‘the Courage to be Disliked’, ‘‘Maybe you should speak to someone’, to name a few. [I welcome any recommendations!]

Fourth, I understand that no one can face the fear but myself. I had fear of forever being alone, the fear of losing a relationship, and the fear of not being able to handle life challenge myself. As a result, I kept opinions to myself and projected high expectations onto others. Looking back, I know that at the end of the day, as much as others can provide support to you, at the end of the day, no one can fight the battle but myself. I need to be the one that look at fear in the eye, then I will come to see that fear does not exist.

After posting ‘Silver Linings’, I had quite a few friends messaged me and said what I wrote is quite relatable to them. For that, I think that’s part of the reason I write – to help others know that they are not alone in this journey and to help them formulate feelings that they haven’t put words to yet. This post is mostly me monologuing who I am, but I hope reading this post also reminds you to check in with yourself and think about how this strange year has shaped you and pointed out things that are not as clear as before.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. May we all grow a lot from 2020.

3 thoughts on “How Has 2020 Shaped You?

  1. rebeccaall

    Hi, Sijie!
    I enjoy reading your journal and also found it easy to focus on negative thoughts/emotions especially during the quarantine. I think finding a distraction like running and doing chores is great. I also love running a lot when I’m overwhelmed by my emotions.
    But you could also try to intentionally remind yourself of the good things that happen every day, like the beautiful sunset, the beef I cooked was tender, etc, to balance out/offset the negative thoughts. I’ve tried to start my morning by writing down things that made me happy yesterday and my gratefulness, which has been very helpful for me personally.
    Hope that might be helpful for you, too!



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