Without mincing words or becoming hyperbolic, 2020 has been a hell of a year for many people, including myself. It has been quite easily the most grueling and painful one that I’ve had to endure, but it’s also been the one that I’ve learned the most from. Mostly about myself, but a number of other things.
This post is going to be deeply personal, and also a deep reflection on everything that has happened. It is for the most part very positive really – because hey, I’m still here and I’m writing 🙂 It’ll be mostly chronological, too, so going down memory lane of this year and summarizing it all.
A New Project and an Open Wound
At the beginning of 2020 I actually started off with quite a bang, in that I started yet another project, that being a YouTube channel dedicated to applying philosophical and psychological concepts together to create a self-help channel. It was pretty nerve wracking putting my face out there and getting into the proverbial ring of YouTube discussions, but it ended up paying dividends anyway as it bolstered my confidence and made me realize that the wisdom I hold is extremely valuable to many people. I essentially achieved what I wanted to do, which is to help people.
With it came the exposing of some old, painful wounds though that never quite fully healed. Truth be told, starting the project was a very frightening experience for me because I was terribly afraid of being judged harshly. I distinctly remember opening up about it and breaking down – and after that came a flood of very intense, deeply troubling emotions and thoughts that crippled me for a few weeks. It was difficult to handle, and while I did get past it, I now know that a weak point of mine is I don’t ask for help when I may actually need it. I’m a far better asker now than I was before, thankfully.
The reality is, while I am quite the thinker and wise, swamp dwelling frog sage, I’m also a very soft person with my own troubles, too. In my work, I generally didn’t show that, which is fine, but much of my work is based not just on knowledge gained but experiences of my own. I struggle sometimes, too – and that’s part of why I did decently with my work.
I essentially stopped with the YouTube work from about August onwards this year as I realized I needed to focus on other things, but I overall got a lot out of it and am happy I gave it a go, because it shone a light on my strengths and my weaknesses.
Losing The Light Of My Life
This moment of 2020 was easily the most difficult thing that I had to endure. Writing about it even now is still somewhat emotional because it was so harsh on me. In March, right before the COVID lockdowns, my relationship broke down, and I was left on my own in isolation.
This led me down a path of deep, deep suffering – but also enlightenment. It’s the most important event in my life because of this. In fact, I am grateful that it had happened.
I cannot put into words how much I loved my ex, and how hard it hit me when the relationship fell apart. It was like seeing the entire world that I was intending on building burn down and turn to ash right before me. I had an ideal in my mind – the house, car, picket fence kind of deal, alongside working in a new career, kids, etc. My mind had firmly grasped onto the concept that she was “the one”, and everything was on track. And all of it was wiped out in an instant.
The months following it were torture, to put it mildly. Mentally I was in a very bad place. Without mincing words, my mind was moving into thoughts of suicide and death. I recall waking up every day for a while asking “why the hell am I alive?”. But I must make clear – none of this was her fault. It had everything to do with my attachment and how I had idealized everything.
But through that despair I recognized another part of me which I never quite appreciated. It was an unbreakable, ironclad will to live and live well. For every moment of extreme pain that I felt and a random thought of “why live?”, another side broke through that pain saying “because life is worth living, even in bad times”. I knew that regardless of whatever dark thoughts came through; regardless of the physiological agony I was experiencing for a long time, I’d be alright and I always choose life. I knew that the thoughts were not mine. They were just effects from a cause – the cause that a shining light in my life was extinguished.
Through it, I also went back to basics on the way I looked at my life, and the way I looked at myself most of all. I meditated daily. Exercised. Ate better. Slept more. Wrote more (50,000+ words and counting). Regardless of whatever pain I felt, I chipped away and worked to find its root cause, to understand and to learn about myself.
So much restructuring took place. I realized that I was extraordinarily reliant on my partner and others for happiness and validation, and losing my partner led to me, on some level, believing I did not deserve to be alive because she rejected me. Through that, I realized that the love and kindness I gave to my partner should also be given to myself. I also uncovered so much shame and sadness that I had pushed deep down into my heart.
There were days where I didn’t sleep. Others where I was in such anguish from realization that I couldn’t get out of my bed. There were also days of intense euphoria and relief from letting go of old pains and memories. It was crazy, to be blunt. I was all over the place. And yet I kept at it, and meditated more. I observed whatever experience I was having, I was considering all my ideas and emotions. I was letting go.
Now, in December, I am in what I’d best describe as a state of peace. I meditate almost daily. I love myself with the love I had for my partner. I look at my life and think “this is alright, this is enough”. I’ve also made peace with many people in my past, and forgiven transgressions because I’ve realized that people change and the frozen snapshot of the person I remember is not the person that is here today. Through it, I forgave – and most importantly, I forgave myself for all the mistakes I made, all the pressure, the attachments, the anger..etc.
Do I still struggle? Yes. If I am blunt, I still do miss my ex – I still have pangs and reminders here and there, and I’m alright with that. I notice it, I appreciate what it reminds me of, and get on with my life.
But I also am grateful that things ended, because through that loss I realized my own errors. Wherever she is now, I hope that she’s doing well. I also know that no matter what, the door to my heart is always open to her. And through that door is also love for myself, too. I once wrote that I’ll never forget her. I’d say that is accurate – she was a shining light in my life, but one I relied on too much. Through losing that light, I realized I had to relight my own – the one that she saw when she met me. I had to fall into darkness to remember the best within me.
The Artist and the Poet Returns
When one loses what one considers to be their highest value, it puts them into a position of questioning everything, including what matters.
Through my breakup, I returned to something that I have been involved with for decades – writing and painting. Since I was young, I loved to write and draw, and that expanded into my early 20’s when I was writing for a website, blogging frequently, writing personal poems and studying painting. I became quite the painter, but then it all vanished somewhere around 22-23 years old. I didn’t really do much of it after that, largely because I was focused on many other endeavors, one being moving to Japan.
But the breakup led me back to my roots – roots that burrow very deep and are the greatest expressions of my emotions and my values. This year I’ve painted dozens of pieces – some public, many private (commissions) – and it’s led to tremendous strides in my own capabilities but also a re invigoration of who I am. I’ve always been highly creative and expressive, and it took a proverbial truck hitting me alongside a concussion to get me back to that.
Likewise, I began writing again, too. This year I’ve written over 50,000+ words. Primarily in private journals, but I’ve also written many blog posts that are public, too. It’s interesting what struggle and loss does to you if you look at it the right way – it points you into the direction of what matters, and like bamboo, you learn to bounce back.
Confronting My Father
This one is a doozie and many may see it as the biggest thing on this list, but not so much to me.
This year, for the first time in my life, I had a conversation with my estranged father.
Granted it was over social media, as I’m in a completely different country, but it sure was something else. To summarize, I grew up fatherless, and my mother always told me that he had access to seeing my sister and I but never actually came around.
I’m a curious person, and me being a male and not having a father figure led to some pretty significant struggles in my childhood. What does it mean to be a man? The hell do guys do? I didn’t have many people to look up to in this sense. I didn’t know what masculinity was.
Thankfully, my curiosity led me to philosophical systems, books and other media that helped me figure it all out. It helped me identify why I was such a schmuck with women in my early 20s, for example, and these resources also gave me the tools necessary to build myself in a way that I envisioned. It’s pretty great when you’re curious.
But that curiosity led me to constantly asking the questions about my father. Why did he never visit? Is he really a bad guy? etc etc. There was a lot of frustration and anger, too – but I didn’t let that drive me. I let curiosity do that.
So I messaged him, after mustering a monumental amount of courage. And the result was…well, not much. Without going into detail, it made my mum look even more amazing than she already looks, because she was honest, to a fault, about him.
And the most interesting part about it all was that I really didn’t feel much. It’s amazing how our minds can make us feel like we’re in a glass prison, when the reality is the door was never locked to begin with. From it all I forgave him, wished him well and let it go. I had no anger, no frustration, no curiosity. I was freed of something that I had tortured myself with for decades.
I’m glad I did it. It also made me realize just how bloody brilliant I am in the way I’ve developed my own life and built myself to be a man of genuine integrity, pride, independence and honor. Ego boosting aside, confronting my father was a liberating thing to do, because it gave me the freedom to let it all go and live within the present. I was no longer shackled to the past.
Forgiving, Letting Go and Learning to Lose
Finally, through all of this I have learned the great power of letting go of hatred, anger, the past, etc, and replacing it all with kindness, compassion and the ability to enjoy losing.
What exactly do I mean by the enjoyment of losing? Well, this year, many people have lost a lot. Jobs, lives, health, money, etc. It’s a crazy year. But a realization I had with my own experiences was that the losses were fertilizers.
Yes, that’s a bizarre thing to say, but when you’re given shit, you fertilize it so apples may be grown. I lost a very important relationship and took that loss and made something of it. I grew and developed a resilience that is far beyond what it was a year ago. I had struggles and dealt with a number of things. With all of them, I learned to let go of the frustrations I felt and instead made the most out of those situations.
The ultimate reality of life is that life will simply happen, pains and pleasures alike. Winning feels good and it’s great to win, but everyone loses eventually. Impermanence is a simple fact of existence as a whole. Things change, interests fade, people age, and they die. For every moment of existence, we lose a second of time. Loss is inherently a part of life.
But that is part of why life is so good. Loss makes life valuable, because you realize that what you have now may not be there tomorrow. You can lose, just as much as you can win. So make the most of what you have. Live your life, losses and all, and grow some apple trees when you’re given the shit.
I think that about sums up my 2020. It’s a year I won’t forget because it was the year I started waking up to reality. Not the ideal, not the dream house, not the philosophies or the fantasies or anything like that.
Just what is real. And through waking up to reality, I found the best within me again. You can too.
Have a happy new year and Merry Christmas.