Reflecting On 2020: A Year Of Ups And Downs

A year ago today, I sat down and reflected on 2019. I detailed my travel adventures and big life milestones, and declared it ‘the best year of my life!’

It was surprising therapeutic, and I think we could all use a little extra therapy these days. So I decided to take an in-depth look at 2020, the year of ups and downs. While it’s tempting to say ‘good riddance!’ to this crazy time, I think there were a lot of lessons hidden within those tumultuous twelve months.

It may not have been the best year of my life, but 2020 was definitely the most important one.

What are my main achievements this year?

We hit our savings goal for a house deposit

Owning our own home has been a dream for a while now, and this year marked the first step in our journey! We set ourselves a very ambitious savings goal and I’m so grateful that we were able to achieve it.

We released a successful app

Back in May we released our latest app and the response has been incredible. It’s so fulfilling to see our hard work pay off, and the stressful days and sleepless nights were definitely worth the reward.

I starting investing my money

I’ve been wanting to start investing my money for the longest time. This year I finally took the step! It’s been fun to watch it grow, and I feel inspired to invest more in the future.

We bought a new (electric!) car

This is more Elliott’s achievement than mine, but I get to reap the benefits! He was able to purchase his dream car this year – it’s sleek, electric and very futuristic. I’m so happy for him!

I navigated a global pandemic

This has been the strangest and most unsettling year of my life. I could never have imagined that a virus could wreak so much chaos and destruction in such a short amount of time, and that I would be around to see it happen. The constant uncertainty and social isolation has caused my anxiety to rear its head again this year, and it’s been a challenge to keep it under control.

I’m proud of myself for making it through 2020. I’m proud of you, too!

Did I achieve my goals this year?

GOAL: Get married

This time last year, I would have been horrified if I knew I wouldn’t achieve my most exciting and anticipated goal of 2020. And yes, it did sting a little when I woke up on November 12th to beautiful sunny skies and knew that I wouldn’t be getting married that day.

But it also helped me to realise that my wedding day is just that – another day. Delaying it by a year really doesn’t have any impact on our relationship or our life together! I plan to enjoy my bonus year of being engaged, and will continue to look forward to our special day in 2021.

GOAL: Spend less time on social media

For the first half of 2020, I felt confident that I would achieve this goal. I had deleted Facebook and Instagram, only used Twitter for work purposes and felt liberated from the shackles of social media.

But the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns took their toll, and I began to feel increasingly isolated from the world. This led to a reactivation of my social media accounts and a familiar dependence on scrolling mindlessly through other people’s lives in an attempt to escape the anxiety that has plagued me this year.

Next year, I plan to cut down on my social media use again. It’s an ongoing journey and I don’t expect to find the perfect balance straight away, but I’m determined to keep trying.

GOAL: Write in my journal regularly

I am incredibly grateful that I set myself this goal. I’ve been writing in my journal fairly consistently this year – roughly two or three times a week – and it has been a huge comfort and relief during these uncertain times. I definitely plan to continue this new habit into 2021!

GOAL: Take care of myself

One of the most satisfying things that happened this year is that I finally (touch wood!) managed to clear my skin. Since the great cystic acne outbreak of 2014, my skin has been fairly problematic. I almost always had at least one pimple, and no amount of fresh water or healthy eating was able to clear it completely.

At the start of the year I visited the Re:lax skin studio in Hackney and opted for their Bespoke facial which involved LED light therapy, gua sha and lymphatic drainage. Although I wasn’t able to visit once a month like I had planned due to Covid, this single facial seemed to kickstart my skin’s healing process. Now I rarely get blemishes (touch wood) and I credit this to my new cleansing routine, the addition of eggs into my diet and the wonderful facial that I received at Re:lax.

I also improved my haircare routine, and have noticed a major difference in the health and vitality of my hair. Elliott has become my personal hairdresser this year, and it turns out he’s actually been hiding a secret talent!

Of course, taking care of yourself isn’t all about appearance. A few months ago I had a routine smear test which flagged up some abnormal cells. I underwent a colposcopy procedure to remove them, and received the all-clear a few weeks later. If I hadn’t attended that initial appointment, things could have been more complicated. This experience showed me how important it is to take care of your health, and to keep on top of things before they become a problem.

GOAL: Live a more eco-friendly, self-sustainable lifestyle

I didn’t achieve this goal, and I completely understand why. I had big plans to shop at farmer’s markets throughout 2020, grow my own vegetables in Elliott’s parents’ garden and reduce my plastic waste as much as possible.

Then the pandemic hit, and suddenly I found myself relying on our Sainsbury’s delivery driver for my weekly food shop instead of strolling blissfully through local markets. The sudden and unprecedented food shortages during the first lockdown meant that I had to buy what I could get, instead of opting for the most eco-friendly option. And if I’m completely honest with myself, being environmentally-friendly just wasn’t at the top of my priority list this year!

Due to lockdown restrictions we weren’t able to visit Elliott’s parents as much as we had hoped, so my dreams of harvesting an abundance of homegrown vegetables were dashed (although I did have success with my tomato plants!) Thankfully we were able to visit Hewitt’s Farm a handful of times, where I stocked up on local honey and produce.

We did buy an electric car this year though, so that’s something!

GOAL: Work on my relationships

HA. Looking back, this is probably one of my most amusing goals for 2020.

I definitely called my Grandma more often than usual this year, even though I wasn’t able to see her in person. I continued my weekly Skype dates with my parents, and my sister and her boyfriend joined in more often than usual. I think I saw my friends a total of once before the pandemic hit, but I’ve tried my hardest to keep up with semi-regular voice messages and texts.

Honestly, it’s a miracle that I’ve had any social interaction at all this year. I’m going to give myself some grace and say that I achieved this goal, as I really did put in as much effort as I could!

GOAL: Learn a new skill

It feels like everyone challenged themselves to learn a new skill this year, and I’m no exception.

My original goal was to gain some experience with Final Cut Pro, and I’m happy to say that I now feel fairly confident with basic editing techniques. I haven’t managed to edit an entire video yet, but I plan to continue expanding my skills in this area throughout 2021.

During lockdown I turned my hand to the art of Japanese cooking and discovered a whole new hobby. I’m definitely no master chef, but through practice and patience (plus Just One Cookbook!) I’ve managed to turn out some delicious dishes.

See below for some of my favourites!

  • Steamed sticky rice
  • Sea bass with ponzu sauce
  • Vegetable tempura
  • Spicy sesame ramen
  • Japanese curry
  • Onigiri
  • Sunomono salad
  • Vegetable gyoza

Elliott’s parents bought me some beautiful Japanese dishes for Christmas, and I can’t wait to learn more about the art of traditional food plating.

I also downloaded the Duolingo app and have been putting aside a little time each day to expand on my Japanese language skills. If I can’t go to Japan anytime soon, I’ll make Japan come to me!

GOAL: Continue to grow our business

We definitely achieved this goal with the launch of a successful app and fresh ideas in the works for 2021. It has been immensely satisfying to see our hard work pay off, and I love the online community that we’ve built this year.

None of this would have been possible without Elliott and his determination, creativity and strength. He is the powerhouse of our business and I’m immensely proud of him!

GOAL: Work toward my future goals

This is a huge YES! Although we weren’t able to get married this year, we took major steps towards our goal – the venue and registrar are booked, my wedding dress and our rings have been chosen and I know exactly what I want our special day to look like.

We also managed to achieve a very unexpected goal recently. Once our new app began building traction, we set ourselves a rather ambitious savings target for a house deposit. I just knew we would be able to hit it before the end of the year, and I’m proud to say that we did! I hadn’t expected to be in this position for another few years, but we are now looking at buying our first house in 2021. Fingers crossed!

Of course, I realise how incredibly lucky we are and I’m so grateful that we had this opportunity to save during a very uncertain and difficult time. I will never take that for granted.

What are my goals for next year?

I’m planning to keep my goals fairly simple for 2021. I have a few big things that I hope to accomplish, and I’ll be dedicating an entire blog post to my resolutions for next year. Keep an eye out!

In summary, how did 2020 turn out?

2020 was nothing like I had imagined. I had envisioned myself marrying Elliott in a whirlwind of autumn leaves and then jetting off to spend our honeymoon in Japan.

In reality I spent 90% of the year at home, working away on my laptop.

We experienced the highest of highs (hitting our savings goals, buying a new car, spending more time together) and the lowest of lows (delaying our wedding, receiving scary health news, worrying about family members)

Covid turned our lives upside down, and simple things like visiting our favourite Japanese food stall or catching the train into central London became scary or even impossible. But despite everything, I’m choosing to focus on the positives. I’ve spent far too much time this year feeling anxious and fearful about the future, when in reality I am immensely privileged.

Instead of thinking about myself, I want to start thinking about how I can serve and help others. 2020 has taught me that there is nothing more important than family, friendship and human connection. Let’s invite more of that into our lives.

I’m half-excited for 2021, and half completely terrified. Either way, it’s coming and I’m going to make the best of it.

See you on the other side!

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