Ooh friends, 2019 already seems like it was a hot minute ago. It was also, if memory serves, a bit of a relationship and mental health rollercoaster. Emphasis on the valley rather than the trough... Some very, very deep troughs, if truth be told.
But I've had some thoughts about what we do and do not let stress us out.
But first, a serious address.
You might want to sit down for a hot chocolate and Gilmore Girls sesh for this article, guys. Just a heads up.
It was bound to happen sometime, you remind yourself. Your grandma died. Most people would be mighty impressed if they made it to 92 years old. There were no two ways about it, your grandma had a great life. It's not often that a person can say they've lived through a World War and the closest the world has come since to nuclear catastrophe (well, true as of a week ago, anyway). She has seen the rise and fall, and rise again of the Soviet Union. The most I can say is that I've seen the rise, fall, and triumphant return of flared jeans and Taylor Swift. One of those is more culturally significant than the other; I'll let you work out which.
In some ways it was wholesome and a way to remember all the great things in her life and that we have around us. But still, it was a time of bewildering emotions and thinking that I was fine. Spoiler alert, I wasn't. I let an early tragedy in February take hold of me for the rest of the year. I know, no-one expected me to get over it overnight, but I couldn't really address what it was that I was trying to 'get over' or feel better about. Why is it that we always think we're the exception to Feeling Things and emotional reactions?
We're not, we're all human, and we all grieve in different ways
My father said that he had heard enough when all the official-looking people came by to explain what happened to us. I understood what he meant. It's valid to not subject yourself to the immediate life-reckoning recognition of how your mother died. Maybe it would have been masochistic to seek it out, but that said, I still personally needed a little more information. The only problem here was that I wanted to respect his wishes, but I was also up at university while all my relatives gathered together the weekend it happened.
Yes, that was … a weekend. It signalled the start of a year of tough decisions and poor mental health. I isolated myself, I began to forget why I enjoyed things I was passionate about, and my physical health declined too. I put on weight, my skin broke out, my hair started to fall apart and this all feasted upon my existing but dormant insecurities. 2019 was tough. It was not my year. That doesn't mean that I didn't achieve things and have happy moments, of course, but the fact that it was a year to remember, that doesn't mean that I can't learn from it.
Now I know what my support system is like, and the people I can count on. My friends are there for me - if there was any doubt before, there isn't now.
For that, 2019, I am grateful for you
But I am still valid. My life still had meaning in 2019, even if it was difficult to see that at the time. What's that they say? Hindsight is 2020? Well, how about this for a link into a sentence - because you know what we're in now? 2020. AKA, the time in which we can grow and learn and see things clearly.
I'm going to be happier this year, I speak it into action
But how, you ask?
How will I build on the anxieties and hardships of 2019, in 2020?
Most of us, myself included, still have much to learn. When I was feeling really down a year or two ago, I explicitly remember watching a trashy nameless rom-com on Netflix and they said something that really changed the way I go about my daily life. You have to be willing to fall flat on your face and fail. For all of you perfectionists and 'never enough' out there, I hear you. I feel for you. I am one of you, through and through. That said, this statement was damning, even in that knowledge. I thought I was getting better at being vulnerable and putting myself out there and ensuring that I was living my life to the fullest – even without the bounds of my comfort zone.
Therefore, I take you back to the mantra of being able to fall flat on your face. It's one thing to be able to embarrass yourself on a night out. Or in front of your parents or in the privacy of your own home. It's quite another to make yourself vulnerable or susceptible in an academic sense. Or athletic. Or even an economic sense, because these are the standards by which you are judged. Quite frankly, it's terrifying to think about, much less to do in practice. But that's largely because we build things up in our head to be much bigger than they actually are.
This is what I'm going to permit myself to do in 2020. Prove to myself I'm still valid and still have worth even when the chips are down. There's always another hand to play, and with a bit of luck who's to say that we can't improve upon our situations? No-one, that's who.
As such, the things that we let ourselves get stressed and scared about become part of our brain. Always fixed in the back and ever-present – always lurking when you have other tasks you should be getting on with. Indeed, we put so much pressure on ourselves to always push ourselves. To compare to the people around us.
People that we perceive to be more successful, or in better relationships, or more interesting. More happy, even.
2019, watch me learn from you, but also I deserve a break
To give myself credit for what I have been through and achieved. We love that for us!
It can truly corrupt your mental health and the headspace in which you conduct yourself.