2020: Reflections and Resolutions

January 17, 2021

I had written one of these for 2019. In the spirit of one of my resolutions for this year, which is to be consistent, I thought of writing one for this year too. At the onset of 2020, I was feeling quite hopeful. Maybe that’s what starting a new year does to you. New beginnings always brim with hope and optimism. I had just marked one year at work and started to take on a more permanent role with pay I was quite satisfied with. In the 2019 piece, I had talked about how I had made BDT 200K entirely of working from home and was eyeing the 400K mark. In the first four months of 2020, I had saved BDT 100K and was very much well on my way to reaching that goal. Sometime in March, I received an assignment. Apparently, there was a virus outbreak in Wuhan, China. Hmm, interesting.

Out of nowhere, the COVID pandemic took the world by storm. A pandemic of this magnitude was unprecedented for our generation. I was somewhat aware of the events that unfolded during the Swine flu pandemic of 2009 when I was in 9th grade and the Ebola outbreak of 2014 when I was in university. Neither I nor anybody I knew was affected by these two. I saw the events unfold in other parts of the world from the television screen. It is easy for anybody to distance themselves from any event that is taking place far far away. But this time around, it hit really hard and right at home. I don’t know of any country in the world that was completely unfazed by the corona mayhem. Also at this exact moment, I felt I had reached a plateau. My days blended on to one another. I decided to leave work.

I was surely in a rut. I had also burned out from having worked extremely hard and pulling all-nighters after all-nighters. I wanted to feel appreciated at work and therefore didn’t mind going extra hours at the expense of my well-being. I had violated one of the resolutions I had made in 2019 – Work smarter, not harder. I took in some comfort in the knowledge that I had enough savings to see me through this experimental phase. There was also news of businesses taking a massive hit because of the lockdown issued and people getting laid off as a result. It reminded me of the importance of saving. I had also read somewhere that you should have saved 0.5 x your annual expense by the age of 25 which I had followed. Despite how much we look forward to forgetting this dreadful year, it has truly been a year of learning. I want to share a few today.

Save money...and then some more

By now we have pretty much all realized the importance of savings. Until businesses were forced to shut overnight or people getting laid off, it didn’t dawn on everyone that creating a healthy financial safety net should be our utmost priority in case of an emergency. And emergency it was in the most blown-out fashion imaginable. Most of us didn’t have a Plan B. I had also talked about diversifying income streams in my 2019 piece which if you had followed would have better helped you absorb the shock. I, for instance, published a digital product mid-year which brought some passive income. It wasn’t significant but the prospect of having several digital products is something I am looking into this year.

Getting comfortable with loneliness

After the citywide lockdown, social life for many people became practically non-existent. It was a nightmare for anybody who had not spent so much time being by himself/herself before. I, however, felt right at home. Pun intended. I thoroughly enjoy spending time alone in front of my computer. Nobody knows me better than me. I wouldn’t say I am introverted but sometimes I just want to cut off the world and enjoy my own company. Sooner or later, the lockdown will get lifted and you will get your Saturday nights back. Until then, spend time to know yourself better. Schedule some me time and savor the few hours of solitude that you can get. Reflect on certain life decisions perhaps. You will not get a moment like this when all of this is all over. 

Keeping hands clean

One of the most important recommendations WHO has for people as a preventive measure for COVID is to wash hands every now and then, preferably with a disinfectant hand wash. It’s not just limited to COVID though. Practicing good hygiene protects your body from all sorts of viruses and bacteria. Let me share a very peculiar way of forming a habit around it. Associate the act of thoroughly washing hands with visiting washrooms. That way any time and every time you need to visit the washroom, you are washing your hands. When you wash your hands with a hand wash, they smell a certain way. The smell stays for some time afterwards and then slowly wears off. Take notice of that. When you keep notice, you realize that you haven’t washed your hands in some time. It’s quite strange, but it works. Carry a sanitizer too when you go out. A quick rub and you are good to go. Don’t forget your masks aswell.

Consistency over Perfection

One of the reasons why I put out so little work is because I criticize my work too harshly. Most of my writings don’t see the light of day because I think they are complete rubbish. I may be right, but they also point towards a stage of my growth. There was a time when I couldn’t bring myself to write one page on anything. I was somewhat married to the idea of getting it right in the first attempt. I realized in 2020 that perfection is unattainable. And that’s okay. It’s also not a fixed destination. It keeps changing as you progress through life. A more pragmatic approach is to try to be better than what you were yesterday. That way you can keep on growing indefinitely. In 2020, I wrote several articles and chose to publish 12. I plan to publish at least 20 articles this year, including this one of course. Should be doable if I am less stringent about discarding. 

Short-term Planning, Long-term Dreaming

2020 has taught me, and I am sure most of you, that long-term plans don’t usually work out. They fail because life is very unpredictable and it is impossible to account for everything. I am the kind of person who would make weekly plans from January to December. Okay, that may be a little bit of an exaggeration perhaps. Instead of spending time and resources on going down the nitty-gritty of long-term planning, it’s better to prepare for what’s in front of you right now. It may sound contradictory to me sharing my desire to write 20 articles for this year but there’s a difference. Let me explain. I think in fact it’s quite healthy to have some idea of where you expect your trajectory to lead, or where you are heading towards. The point that I am trying to put across is that it’s more effective to paint the future with broad strokes and not obsess with the specifics. That way you are apt to ever-changing circumstances around you and swiftly organize your plans around them.

On a more personal front, I have lost family members to COVID. Nothing can fill the void they have left behind. But we must gather our strength and march on and live for those who are still around us. We have to believe that we all play a very important role in making this world a beautiful place to live in for all. That brings me to the end. Make this your best year! 

© Amitabha Dey. All rights reserved.