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What 2020 Has Taught Us (So Far)

Five Women of the Week share the challenges they’ve faced and the lessons they’ve learned over the last six months.

By Caitlin Abber

Take a deep breath. We are now more than halfway through 2020—phew. For many of us, this has been an incredibly challenging, transformative, and life-changing year. In some ways, life went on as usual—we were still expected to show up at work, babies were born, Lady Gaga put out an album. But in other ways, it was like no other year we’ve experienced in our lifetimes. 

For better or worse, the last six months have changed us. And now, looking back, we can see that the lessons we’ve learned—about health, resilience, community, and our shared history as Americans—are lessons that will hopefully stick with us for the rest of our lives.

Below, five Women of the Week share the challenges they’ve faced and the lessons they’ve learned over the last six months, from the importance of having a personal sanctuary, to interrogating our racist systems. 


Author and TV Host

In 2020, I’ve learned how to surrender with grace, whether I wanted to or not. At the end of 2019, I launched my first book, Modern Manhood: Conversations About the Complicated World of Being a Good Man Today, and I planned to tour the country for events all year. As Covid-19 unfurled, and my plans and income started to crumble, I kicked into action as I often do with Plan B… and then Plan C… until I was out of plans. Instead, I was forced to surrender the year of my dreams to the year of 2020’s reality. In truth, the events of Covid-19, as well as the more recent movement for justice and freedom in our nation, have made clear what really matters to me as a woman and human: health, family, and the well-being and safety of my community.”

CEO of Girl Be Heard

“2020 has presented some unforeseen challenges, but it has also given me a tremendous opportunity to slow down, pause, and do some deep thinking around my life, my commitment to things I care deeply about, and my core values. 

As an activist and a community leader, I engage every day with all kinds of people. One thing I have been reflecting on is how closely our lives are intertwined and bound together. The way communities have had to rally around solutions to address the global pandemic is the clearest example of this, and now with the pandemic as a backdrop, we see a powerful national and global surge of actions in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. People everywhere are harnessing their collective power to truly push for change.

How we as individuals choose to act in this moment speaks directly what we bring to our world. A word I use a lot is Ubuntu. It is a southern African philosophy which states, ‘I am because you are,’ or more generally, an acknowledgement that our humanity binds us together in compassion and care for others. 

The challenges (and opportunities!) of 2020 have highlighted this concept for me in a way few other things have.”

 

Founder of Context & Co.

“2020 has been a lesson in rituals, creating space and finding presence. 

My year started with a girls’ trip I’d considered for two years in a row, when travel was easy: a 12-hour car ride to our mom, who’s an essential- and miracle-worker. I pivotied to digital everything—therapy, friend and family catch-ups, and creative workshops. And I grounded myself in many forms of wellness. I keep coming back to the idea of community care and collective healing during a time of things I’ve never seen before—as a black woman, as a New York transplant, as an entrepreneur, all of it. As the pandemic intersects with heart-breaking days on the news and in cities I know and love, I continue to circle back to the practices that I was cultivating in brighter days: centering loved ones, creating boundaries (and trying to stick to them!), staying informed and engaged, and giving myself grace.”

 

 

COO of Unbound

“It has been important for me to practice radical self-care, and this doesn’t simply mean taking bubble baths or buying things because they make me feel good. I have become very protective of particular places in my apartment, like my home office, which I’ve outfitted with plants and nice candles, because having this space allows me to do deep work when I am ‘at work’ and to decompress and meditate when I am ‘out of the office.’ Keeping strict working hours and not working beyond 5pm in the evening has been an extremely important boundary. I have a ritual that I practice to end each working day. I shut my computer in my desk drawer, light a candle, meditate for five to ten minutes, then breathe and quietly say, ‘I let go of everything that is not mine.’ Preserving ritual in a time when there is a lot that is unpredictable is the greatest form of self-care that I practice.”

Actress and Activist

“I have learned to be so deeply and humbly appreciative for my health, and even more concerned for the health of the planet.

I have learned in a new way, seeing it in action and moving me to tears, that I have an incredible beloved community of friends fighting for freedom, justice, and equality for all.

I have learned how outrageously grateful I am that I not only love my husband and child and dog, but love, love, looooove spending time with just them; they are truly wise, creative, inventive, hilarious, joyful, optimistic, playful, entertaining, and inspiring humans, even in a pandemic.

But most of all, I have learned how ignorant I am. That I—a liberal, well-educated, democratic feminist who believes in equality, justice, peace, and freedom for all, who fights for the health of the planet and the rights of undocumented people and incarcerated people—I am a racist. Because I grew up in a racist system. 

I learned that racism is not about me or anyone being good or bad, it’s about a system we all live in—seeing it, exposing it, and understanding it so we can change it. So the biggest thing I learned is that I have a lot of work to do, a lot to unlearn.

And I learned to hope that if I can do it, if I can admit to this massive flaw in my own being, anyone can—and together we can change this world.”

 

 

Caitlin Abber

Written By

Caitlin Abber

Caitlin Abber is the Brand Editor at M.M. LaFleur, and an award-winning writer and content creator. Over the last decade she has held senior editorial positions at MTV, Women's Health, Public Radio International, and Bustle, and has bylines at InStyle and OprahMag.com.

See more of Caitlin's articles

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