A Look Back on 2020: Review, Reflect, and Restart

I don’t typically do year-end reviews and set goals for the new year. But, as most would agree, 2020 is such a wild year that I’m convinced I should do something different. So as the year comes to a close, I’m writing this brief note to sum up happenings around me in the past 12 months, how I feel about them, and what I plan to do next year.

Review

January actually started off with quite a bang for me and my family: we started a monthly social club at our home, aka the Salon, to share food, wine, art, and conversations with liked-minded people in our community; my husband started a food business and was getting some promising interests from prospective clients; and I completed 2 semesters in my MBA program.

Everything seemed to be on the right track, until March, when Covid hit and all in-person social gatherings became almost non-existent and the food industry pretty much went bust. No more salons at home and my husband had to figure out how to keep his budding business afloat. The only saving grace was that I continued to thrive in my MBA program and was able to keep my job and work from home.

It didn’t help that there was an endless flow of bad news coming out of my hometown Hong Kong throughout the year: high profile activists and regular folks were being arrested and sent to jail one after another. To avoid jail time, a few of them had to flee the city and went into exile.

As a result of all of these, different groups from around the world had sprung up to try to get international support for the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. Other groups were formed with a simple goal of helping Hongkongers who came to the US for fear of political prosecution to start a new life in their new country. I got involved with a couple of these groups and started to contribute my time and expertise in some of their projects.

By summer, my husband figured out a way to pivot his business and keep it in survival mode. With the time and freedom he had on hand, he decided to launch a grassroot program to feed some of the food-insecured in our community. He started the program with some seed funding from our church and recruited volunteers from and beyond our church to prepare, package, and distribute meals to those in need in the Greater Boston area. From August to December, the program has given away over 2,000 meals.

Days before Christmas, just as we thought the worst would be behind us soon, we received the worst news of all: someone very very dear to us lost his life in a senseless gun violence. He was shot and killed in a robbery at the store he was working at. No words can describe the sorrow and pain we feel. We are still coping with the loss, but we’re okay. We have a strong family to support each other, and we also received an abundance of love and support from our church and local community. For that, we are grateful.

Reflect

Looking back to all the challenges we faced in 2020, I don’t know I can say I learned any new lessons. But the wildly unpredictable year did serve as a good reminder of things that I already knew but did not always pay attention to:

Be appreciative of what you have: it’s wonderful to have dreams and goals. But do not lose sight on people and things that you already have — whether it’s your family, friends, neighbors, or the fact that you’re alive — because those are the foundations on which you build your dreams. Without a good support system, there will be no dreams come true.

Focus on what you can do: Do not stress about things that are not in your control. We cannot control when there will be a pandemic, but we can all do our part to keep it manageable. We don’t know when we will lose someone we love, but we can make sure we do our best to keep a strong, loving relationship with those alive. Tell your loved ones you love them every day.

Forget about “normal”: As this year has so boldly told us, there is no such thing as “normal.” What is a routine in the past 100 years can become irrelevant in a second. Keep an open mind and prepare to adapt and evolve. Things might be different, but there’s always a way, as long as there’s a will.

Know yourself: No self improvement can come without a good understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses. It’s important to know who we are, what we want, and what makes us happy. The pandemic has shown a lot of us that what we thought was important actually meant very little to us. Finding out what makes you tick is the first step to finding true happiness. I found this free personality assessment very helpful (and accurate in my case). If you must know, I’m a Mediator.

Restart

I’m an optimist at heart. I choose to believe there’s alway light at the end of the tunnel. I see 2021 as a hopeful yet challenging year. I believe we have to continue to work hard and be ready to adapt in the coming months. But behind every challenge, there lies a new opportunity. I don’t have a lot of lofty goals for the new year, but I do have a few things I’m looking forward to:

Graduation: I’ll be graduating with my MBA in May 2021, with a double concentration in Marketing and Business Analytics. On top of that, my teenager is graduating from high school this summer. There’s a lot to celebrate!

Entrepreneurship: While my husband’s budding business had been kept on hold, the two of us do have other ideas about potential new businesses. We just started to work on a couple of those ideas and I’m excited to see where they will take us.

Family: I’m committed to putting more effort to strengthen the bond with our extended family. Between my husband and I, we have a big family that is spreadout across the country and the world. I haven’t done enough in the past, but this year, I’ll work harder to build and sustain those relationships.

Hong Kong: From all the negative news, it is hard to imagine a better Hong Kong. But I’m here for the long haul. With all of these new groups springing up here in the US and elsewhere in the world, I’m hopeful that the tide will gradually change for the better.

Whether 2020 was a triumph or struggle for you, let’s keep our heads up in the new year! Wishing you a wondrous new year filled with joy and blessings! The best is yet to come!

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