No doubt, we are welcoming 2021 in a quieter way than usual; and since no grand parties can be organized, there may be more of us that have the free time to look back and actively reflect on the rather difficult year of 2020. I used the YearCompass guide to remind myself of my achievements of the past year, to list the lessons I have learnt and the tasks I need to carry over to the next year. It was eye-opening in more ways than I expected and I would like to encourage everyone to follow my example and save an hour or two for remembering the Old and planning the New before 2021 arrives.

As I sat down during the holiday period to actively reflect on the hectic year of 2020 I initially expected only to contemplate my greatest achievements and the most memorable events of the year. The big milestones I have achieved appear before me, like starting a PhD in a subject that I am extremely passionate about, or moving to Germany and starting my life anew, once again. I was surprised by all the little things that reminded me of the past year. Moments came up that I skipped over previously because Life and its big events got in the way.

It’s the Little Things…

It’s the little things that add up and determine our experience of years, months and days. It was even more obvious – I think – this year, when being able to go on holiday or meeting your friends in person, or even putting on make-up had special importance.

The YearCompass guide suggests that you go through your diary or notebook and stop at certain events, those that mean something to you or generate memories. You will stop at the most unexpected things. In my case, one of them was an entry about my little brother and I going to see the Rubens exhibition in the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest. I just suddenly remembered; it was the moment when he helped my coat up as we left the building – casually polite yet caring – that I realized, he grew up. All the awkwardness, the teenage clumsiness was gone, a man stood in front of me that had just visited a gallery with her sister voluntarily. I would have hated to lose that memory.

Then I stopped at the day when I had a job interview with the male editor-in-chief of a magazine. I stopped because I suddenly remembered how confused I felt when he started by saying I looked like the portrait of a model on the back of the latest issue. I was flattered but angry for not being taken seriously. Thinking back to it now, I still have no idea what to make of that whole situation, but I do feel that it is somehow important I was reminded of it. 

After that, I just kept stopping to read memory after memory: days I spent at grandma’s house (not knowing it would be the last time in months), the mornings of home school and the afternoons of home exercise with my little sister, all the silliness and laughter of my girlfriends that got us all through the year, a short family holiday in silent Tihany, Hungary after the first lock-down, the refreshing touch of the water of Lake Balaton… 

It’s the little things, no doubt!

Give a little credit to Luck

Anangsha Alammyan writes that “if you don’t realize the importance of luck in your life, you probably hold a distorted view of reality”. 

Acknowledging our luck increases our sense of gratitude  – studies show – which motivates us to give more back to the world and that eventually makes us happier. 

Studies, of course, recommend constantly reminding ourselves of our good fortune, but if we only do it occasionally, or, say, once a year, what could be a better time than just before we step into a new one, right?

In our world, where the individual is celebrated (which can be a great thing) but also put above all (which may not be so great), we tend to credit only our skills and hard work as achievements, and ignore the role luck has played in such things. 

Don’t get me wrong, talent, ambition and determination are definitely some of the major reasons why we are where we are today, but we shouldn’t ever forget that the opportunity to gain, nurture and put such skills to good use, was given to you by good fortune. 

It is way too easy to fall into the trap of thinking we deserve everything and more. In fact, I believe it does all of us good to occasionally be reminded that being able to work hard on things we enjoy is a luxury.  So many others cannot, not because they lack in skill or determination, but because of things outside of their own control.

2020 was an extremely difficult year for everyone and I am not trying to undermine this. I merely want to encourage you to actively reflect on it, as it may change your perspective on things. In my case, it was realising that despite hardship, I have been lucky for having all the little things in 2020 that made such a horrible year bearable. You may end up thinking differently, but I hope that in undertaking such a  process, you will rediscover old memories and find courage, confidence and strength to take on the tasks of the New Year. 

Written by Gréti Csernik.