I thought 2020 would be the year I got everything I wanted. Didn't we all? 2020. The year our dreams come to fruition. A new beginning. A new era. The year of perfect vision.
My 2020 vision board captures a lot of what I hoped for this year: a long-awaited trip to Japan, a book tour for the new book I was going to write, cutouts of beautiful gowns for the celebrations I planned to attend. Wellness, balance, joy… all represented in various ways.
I also had role models on my board, like Toni Morrison and Oprah Winfrey. And on February 29th, when I attended Oprah's 2020 Vision Tour, I felt a deep sense of knowing, hope and trust. This was my year. I could feel it. 2020. Fulfillment. That was my word for the year.
And then two weeks later the pandemic hit, everything shut down and panic replaced vision. I couldn't see anything beyond my fear. My eyes closed.
For the first few months, that is how I stumbled through life—eyes closed, blindly navigating worry to worry. What would happen to my twin daughters, who were 8 years old and in the middle of second grade? Before the pandemic, they had never even used a computer. Overnight, they went from going to class to going on Zoom. What would happen to my toddler son, who had just started his first class at the local kids play gym? (Which sadly has now shut down forever). What would happen to my husband, who just left a stable job at the end of January to join a startup? What would happen to my parents, especially my dad, who has chronic bronchitis and is most susceptible to a sickness like Covid? What would happen to everyone and everything? What would happen to life as we knew it? Fear closed my eyes. And then suddenly, gratitude opened them.
In July, I had a dream about my vision board. I saw everything I so deeply craved. But this time, the word that came into my mind wasn't fulfillment, it was gratitude. When I woke up, something had shifted. And so, I wrote down these words: I thought 2020 would be the year I got everything I wanted. Now I know 2020 is the year I appreciate everything I have.
"I thought 2020 would be the year I got everything I wanted. Now I know 2020 is the year I appreciate everything I have."
I began to see my world with new eyes. Gratitude for our collective resilience, as we faced our personal and communal challenges, and thrived nonetheless. My daughters now expert Zoomers, finding ways to connect with friends through FaceTime, socially-distanced outdoor playdates, and even handwritten letters to friends who had to move away due to the pandemic. I see my 2.5-year-old son, who bounces around the house with glee, so grateful that his sisters and parents are home to play with him.
I see our home, once silent for many hours of the day, now bursting with sounds of life: my kids learning and growing and playing, my husband giving his all to make an ambitious startup a success, and myself, proudly sharing Self Love Poetry for Thinkers and Feelers, the book I did end up writing and publishing after all.
I see my parents, who after going 200 miles an hour for decades, are now giving themselves permission to slow down. In staying home more, they've brought their garden to life, and with it given all of us the reminder that even through the darkest times, it is possible to grow and flourish.
My new eyes see well beyond the beauty of my bubble—something I didn't have the vision for before. I see our healthcare workers, who never gave up on us, even when it meant putting their lives on the line. I see the respect and camaraderie between us all, wearing masks but still smiling when we pass each other in the grocery store.
I see our willingness to give more, even though so much has been taken away because there are many whose lives bear no resemblance to the lives they had before. I see the working moms and dads, who somehow manage not to collapse under the pressure of working while parenting while keeping a house in order.
My daughter was the one who in the midst of the early pandemic helped me notice the clear skies, singing birds and luscious nature that thrived as we all took an unprecedented pause.
And I see myself: no longer the tight ball of panic that stayed up in the middle of the night scouring the Internet to buy Lysol wipes, but a fluid, trusting bloom, who knows that no matter what happens, I will find a way to navigate it, no stockpile of Lysol wipes, hand sanitizer or toilet paper required.
I recently reviewed my 2020 vision board, this time with my new eyes. And you know what I noticed? Not the trips, and gowns, and book tour, but this: "I love a house full of noise, music, laughter and kids running around."
In 2020, that's exactly what I got. And I am grateful.
I initially wrote this piece for Motherly, who created this touching video based on my essay.