to stick or fold? how 2020 taught me lessons for the future
A practice I’ve heard a lot of people talk about before is doing a review of the year, either at the end of it, or the start of the new one.
In our household we have several cultures represented. One thing we share in common is that at least a part of our roots are in the Northern hemisphere, where the turn of the year in our modern calendar coincides with the darkness of the winter solstice. From this, we have built our own tradition that brings together the moments we cherish from our heritage ones. We eat the foods that bring us comfort in the coldest months, and observe the practices that help us find meaning during the darkest days of the year. This includes setting intentions and reviewing the year gone.
We all had an eventful 2020, whether we wanted to or not. The COVID-19 pandemic was impossible to avoid, in every corner of the plant. Maybe a handful of people in the world were physically or economically sheltered from it, but almost all of humankind experienced at least a tremor of the shared disruption in the scheduled broadcast.
It hit me too, in a number of ways that have irrevocably altered the path of my life in major ways. Creating space to review past events and their repercussions is a helpful tool for renewing my perspective on them. Sometimes an emotion or judgement forged in the heat of a moment just doesn’t stand the test of time. I try to approach each new day as an opportunity to learn new lessons, but not gonna lie: old days don’t stop teaching me as long as I don’t stop learning.
My lesson for 2020, that guided my intentions for 2021, is “knowing when to stick and when to fold”. (I’m not really a card player. In fact, a lot of the time when it comes to any and all games, I revel in the role of observer. I run a gaming collective and truly enjoy playing video games, but just watching people playing together brings me so much joy that I don’t have to participate to have fun. I can understand why talented gamers choose to become casters.)
But back to the card metaphor… It’s not even about being dealt a bad hand. Sometimes the hand itself is fine, but there’s something wrong with the cards themselves. In those moments, do we stick or fold?
During the heat of the pandemic, I parted ways with a company I had worked tirelessly at for 18 months. It wasn’t meant to end that way. I had planned for 3-4 years there, nurturing a resilient and compassionate community that thrived in sharing knowledge and resources to lift each other up, with mechanisms in place that would support others to build upon those foundations into the future. As a newcomer to the country, I was grateful for a stable income and the chance to connect broadly and deeply with others. I invested heavily in energy, enthusiasm, creativity, and sheer grit, trying to make every action count strategically, because I believed in the direction and purpose of the bigger picture.
But this coronavirus shone light in some dark places and I discovered that our values didn’t align as much as I had thought. I realized I had been trying to build a house of stone in a marsh, where even the foundations were sinking over time. Marshes play an important role in the ecosystem, diversifying life in ways that aren’t possible anywhere else, so it’s not a question of good or bad. The hand I got dealt was fine. The question that was going to define my path forward was: would I rather build with stone or build in a marsh? Was I willing to compromise certain values for the sake of security? Would I rather stick or fold?
We all know where this particular story goes, but not yet where it ends. 2021 is my year of finding alignment in all its forms. Learning where to stick and when to fold. When to follow through, and where to alter course. What are the risks and what are the gains, and how to judge the cost? I probably won’t have it figured out by this time next year, and possibly not even the one after, but here is a commitment to stay open to the lessons of the past, the present, and the future.
From reconnecting with nature and my physical surroundings, creating patterns and procedures that work with rather than against my neurodivergence, choosing employers and clients whose values I share and promote widely, to taking the necessary steps and compromises to provide love, support, and connection to those who have done the same for me, 2021 has already started teaching me.
Long may it continue.