Lessons From A Tumultuous Year

In less than three hours, this year will be over.

I’m writing these words dressed in a hippo onesie that I bought in South Africa to survive the cold nights in the desert. My partner and I were attending Afrika Burn, the South African version of Burning Man and what I would call a mix between a festival and a community stripped from societal conventions. I was the hippo, my partner was Cookie Monster. We walked through the desert, enjoying the lights, the music, the art, the costumes, the milky way above us. A man stopped us to chat.

“Why do you hide?”, he asked. We frowned. We weren’t hiding. Everyone was wearing costumes. There were many other onesies walking around. I felt annoyed. Who did he think he was?

I never dance in public but later that night we danced under the starry sky. I unbuttoned my onesie, freed one arm, freed the other and, wearing just a tank top, my skin felt more alive than ever. I felt the cold air, my hair brushing my shoulders, my own blood rushing through my veins. It felt like I was coming out of my hippo cocoon, breaking free. I realised the man was right. Perhaps more right than he could possibly know. I was hiding. I had been hiding all my life because it never felt safe to be seen. But that night I let myself be seen by the whole universe in the vast desert. It was liberating.

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This happened in 2019, the year I decided 2020 would be the year I’d change things: quit my job, move out of the city, follow the whispers of my heart, start a new life. But 2020 had other plans. Instead of spreading my wings, I found myself confined like everyone else. Back in a cocoon. And yet, in a way, 2020 gave me exactly what I needed.

Being confined allowed me to find the stillness I desperately needed. No more distractions from the outside world. I could finally sit down with myself and ask: What do I really want? Am I really following my inner whispers? You see, it’s easy to mistake the outside noise for your own desires. Too many voices confuse us on a daily basis. And sometimes we wear outfits that hide who we really are, until one day we find ourselves shedding layers that reveal our true essence.

I needed 2020 to teach me a few lessons. I needed 2020 in order to find myself.

2020 has been the year I’ve reconciled with writing, a meeting of two lost lovers that had forgotten the way home.

2020 has been the year I’ve learned to discern between my true voice and the voices of those I deem more worthy than me.

2020 has been the year I’ve learned no one is more or less worthy than me, just different.

2020 has been the year I’ve started making art again, battling perfectionism over and over.

2020 has been the year I’ve let go of trying to fix people’s problems because it is not our job to meddle in others’ paths.

2020 has been the year I’ve realised, more than ever before, I can’t live a life that doesn’t align with my personal values, and that includes the work I do.

2020 has been the year I’ve become more aware of that which drains me and that which nourishes me, and that includes people.

2020 has been the year I’ve lost a parent in the physical realm but found him within me, more alive than ever.

2020 has been the year I’ve made peace with death, and now all I have to do is make peace with life too.

Spread your wings and fly away!
A picture from Afrika Burn.

Happy 2021 and may you find the peace and joy you seek!


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