What 2020 Taught Me
(My dress is from last year, but it’s still available in a few sizes/prints!)
Happy (almost) New Year! I always have mixed feelings about resolutions, but this year, it felt vital for me to take some time to unpack everything that happened the past 12 months. I thought 2019 was a hard year, guys ? The December 31st, 2019 Lauren had NO idea what was coming.
But I now know that there were lessons to be learned in each piece of devastating news or scary new developments. This year has forced us to rethink what it means to be happy, fulfilled, and kind. It’s shown us the very selfish parts of humanity, while also revealing incredible bravery and compassion amongst us.
The following post is a result of a whole lot of reflecting and writing the past few days. I’ll admit that it is a bit long winded, but I wrote it for me just as much as I wrote it for you. My hope is that it helps even one of you feel less alone as we head into 2021 with a fresh perspective and new hope.
Life doesn’t always go as planned.
At the beginning of 2020, I thought this was going to be my YEAR. How could I have ever predicted that I’d have to postpone my wedding twice? How could I have known that my tears of excitement when booking our honeymoon to Italy would be followed by more tears when we had to cancel? And that doesn’t even cover the small moments that we missed out on this year – safe interactions with friends and family, quick trips, my bachelorette weekend, the list goes on. But if we’re all being really honest, pandemic or not, some things are simply out of our control. This year just amplified that… by a LOT. All we can really do is take each day as it comes, focus on being the best person we can be, and be grateful for what we have.
Feel your feelings, then keep going.
Rolling with the punches is easier said than done, right? This was the year that I learned about comparative suffering and how it really doesn’t do anyone any good. I needed to feel sad about each wedding postponement, each time I saw my family but couldn’t hug them, each time I really missed my friends. Honestly, sometimes I still need to feel sad about the fact that I don’t know if it will even be safe for us to get married in June! This stuff is EMOTIONAL!
I could let people tell me I’m being stupid or convince myself that I have no right to feel sad because a wedding is so superficial in comparison to someone losing a loved one or being a victim of racism. And that is absolutely correct. But I’ve found that it’s been important to let myself feel sad every once in a while so that I can then set those feeling aside and move forward with more compassion and perspective. I forget where I read this a few months ago, but someone very wise said “You need to feel your feelings to learn from them.” A-freaking-men.
Empathy is everything.
The word empathy took on a whole new meaning this year. Empathy has always been important to me, but I’ve always thought about it as a feeling. This was the year it required action. At first, I could practice empathy for the vulnerable and health care workers by staying home to flatten the curve. Then it was about wearing a mask. After that, going beyond posting a black square and being open to learning about anti-racism and my own bias. I mean, for me, the whole election was about empathy! Overall, it has been a really sad year of realizing how many people only care about themselves… but it’s also been a pretty amazing year of seeing how many people are willing to make sacrifices to keep others safe.
Anti Racism requires continuous work.
It is not enough to say “I’m not racist” anymore. We must continually work to acknowledge and fight against racism in our society – whether that is providing educational resources to close minded friends/family, being more inclusive in your communities, supporting Black owned businesses, marching in the streets, or creating meaningful policy changes. This needs to be a lifelong commitment – and even though I will likely mess up as I learn and unlearn, it is so important.
Exercise is about more than how we look.
Practicing what I preach when it comes to health and body positivity can be really hard sometimes, especially in a year like 2020. It’s been a tough one for me and my body image… which is not only vulnerable to talk about with thousands of strangers, but I also know how triggering these kinds of conversations can be for some.
Someone who has really inspired me and shifted my perspective is Amanda Kloots. Through her husband’s battle with COVID and even after he passed, she always says that the ability to move our bodies is a PRIVILEGE. It shouldn’t be punishment for what we ate or something we have to do to look a certain way. It’s something we GET TO do for both our physical and mental health, and that is a blessing.
Even though I didn’t feel very confident about my body for a large part of this year, I’m grateful that I kept getting on the bike or my yoga mat regardless. It helped me feel less stuck when we were literally stuck at home, and reminded me that health is about far more than how much I weigh or what jean size I wear.
I am worthy of the time it takes to prepare healthy meals.
To be honest, this just clicked for me a few days ago. I am worthy of the time it takes to prepare healthy meals. I think that it’s very important to resist diet culture and stay away from discussing “good” foods and “bad” foods… but I let that talking point become an excuse for me this year, and it led to a cycle of snacking on processed foods, comfort foods, and whatever we had on hand. I’m giving myself grace for finding comfort in food this year… but I’ve realized that I often reached for those things because it was just easier to ignore what my body really needed instead of putting the effort in.
My point with this is, if you really want a cookie or pizza, eat the damn cookie or pizza. But if your body is telling you it needs fresh vegetables and fruits so you can have more energy and feel better, don’t eat the cookie instead just because it’s there. You are worthy of the time it takes to prepare healthy meals.
I can do things just for me.
Back in March, all we knew was that the pandemic was serious and the world was shutting down. Multiple collaborations were cancelled for me, and Adam’s business majorly slowed down, too. To put it simply, I felt a need to always be productive to prevent everything from falling apart. Overworking was how I coped with so much uncertainty. I am an Enneagram 3, after all!
But the past few months have been some of the best of my entire blogging career. Of course, I had no way of knowing that back in March, and I’m proud of all of the hours of trial and error that went in to getting myself to this point this year. But I wish I gave myself permission to learn new things without feeling any obligation to share it or turn it into something productive. Some things can just be for me to experience.
Not only does this apply to fun topics, skills, and experiences that I am curious about – but it also applies to things like therapy and anti-racism. While I think it’s important to share and normalize uncomfortable conversations, personal growth is personal. It is okay for me to work on myself and grow offline without sharing it online.
Joy can live in small moments, too.
My sister-in-law sent me one of Camille Styles’ recent newsletters, and it resonated with me so much. She talked about two women making lasagna on a weeknight. One of them is half paying attention to what she’s doing while worrying about work and everything else she has to do. And the other woman has music on, maybe pours a glass of wine, and is enjoying the process of cooking one of her favorite meals. Same circumstances, but two totally different experiences. I know that it’s not always this simple… but everything changes when you allow yourself to be present and find joy in the small moments. It’s not the same as hugging all of your loved ones or traveling the world – but that doesn’t make it less real.
I am letting go of trying to be everything for everyone.
I hate to say that being a blogger is hard, because it’s an amazing and very flexible job. I’m not saving lives or dealing with high stakes situations. I know that. But if I’m being truthful, this was a hard year to be a blogger. I welcome and value feedback and constructive criticism, but many times, it felt like I just couldn’t do anything right.
Create all of this content for me, but don’t make money. Stop promoting over consumerism. Why do you always wear clothes that aren’t available anymore? Be genuine, but don’t talk about the things that matter to you. You’re being too controversial. You’re not doing enough with your platform. Make recipes that give me leftovers. I hate leftovers. Show your favorite Amazon finds. Never promote Amazon ever. “You built your business off of my back so I can say whatever I want to you.” Be perfect, but also be relatable. Just elope and get over it.
I’ve learned this year that there is a very big difference between thoughtful feedback and mean DMs. There is a difference between listening to constructive criticism and working to improve vs. internalizing bullying messages from people who could simply unfollow me if they don’t like me, what I do, or what I have to say. Because the truth is, the mean messages have said more about the person sending them than they do about me. I am open to respectfully disagreeing about things. I can love something that you think is overrated or vice versa. You can even be skeptical about what I do for a living! But at the end of the day, I am a human who is just trying to do my best. It is not my responsibility to hold on to your anger or disappointment because I am not everything you want me to be.
There is no shame in success.
This year made it really clear that we have internalized some deep patriarchal sh*t around women making money. We watch TV and listen to the radio with commercials. We see ads on news websites and in magazines. Yet so many people tell female bloggers not to do sponsored posts. Not to put ads on their websites. I had one women really come at me for only sharing links to make money… when some links will literally earn me 35 cents if you purchase what I share ?
I have let it bother me in the past, but I’m honestly done feeling bad about making a living and being compensated for my work. That is society telling women that we should be ashamed for making money unless it’s from a job that used to belong to a man. Nope, not interested in that opinion! As long as I stay true to myself as I run this business, I have nothing to be ashamed about.
I can be more mindful of what I dedicate my time to.
In the past, even if one person requests or likes something, I want to provide that for them. But I am only one person! It is okay for me to be more mindful about what is working and what isn’t. I am always sad to let things go, especially when they are a part of a fun series, but making space to explore new creative ideas is so important. That’s how #LSLsupperclub came about! And I have so many more ideas for 2021 that I can’t wait to share with you.
Feeling at home in your home is a blessing.
I think the first half of this year was particularly hard because I didn’t love our old apartment. Now that we are in our new condo, being home all the time feels comforting instead of suffocating. Instead of feeling stuck in a temporary space, this feels like home. A safe space. We’ve also been having a lot of fun decorating it and making it our own since we know that we’re going to be here for years to come! The whole experience has been a huge bright spot of 2020, and I am grateful beyond measure for it.
OKAY, I think that’s enough for now! If you made it all the way through, thanks for reading. I’m sending you all a big virtual hug and a very very happy new year. Thank you for supporting me through this wild ride, it means more to me than I can say. ❤️
January 1, 2021 @ 10:56 am
This was such a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! So much of this resonated.
January 2, 2021 @ 10:07 am
Thanks so much for reading, Melanie!
January 1, 2021 @ 12:17 pm
I just…love this. It was definitely a year of growth for many, but you’ve found the words to say it. I always look forward to your longer form posts. Thanks for your content and for sharing your journey.
January 2, 2021 @ 10:07 am
Thanks so much for reading, Nicki! I’m so glad it resonated <3
January 1, 2021 @ 7:39 pm
I have enjoyed how your blog has changed over the last year. Keep up the good work and being true to you!
January 2, 2021 @ 10:06 am
Thanks so much, Kelly! I so appreciate your support!
January 13, 2021 @ 6:07 pm
Loved reading this! Except for the examples of ridiculous comments/DMs you get – I got mad on your behalf at those… You are one of my absolute favorite bloggers and I love your approach. You keep doing you girl!