Balance,  Living Abroad

Letters to a New Year (Claudia 2021)

Dear 2021,

Boy does it seem like everyone is expecting miracles from you—like everything that went wrong in 2020 will magically just disappear. I don’t want to deny that 2020 was a difficult year but I think that we spend enough time talking about all the negative things that have happened (and what might happen in 2021). If I am honest with you, and myself, all this talk about what has happened and what might happen takes away from the time we are living in and all the wonderful things that 2020 brought us as well. That is why I just want to take a minute to say I am really grateful for a lot of things this year:

Despite everything that happened, I was able to keep my job and work from home with flexible hours most of the time. I know that many people haven’t managed to keep their jobs, and those who did may have been in precarious situations, so this makes me exceptionally grateful. I am also really thankful to my family and friends for supporting me during this year. Many of the people I am closest with are living outside of Finland but I am lucky to be able to talk with them often (whether via message or video services like Skype). In addition, I have been able to get to know some friends better and even create some new friendships here in Finland over the last year. These people acting as chosen family have brought me so much joy throughout the year when I couldn’t travel to see my nuclear family.

In addition, due to the relatively stable circumstances in Helsinki, I was able to play lots of sports at different points of the year and even found a woman’s soccer team here! Considering that I haven’t played women’s soccer in years, this was a major win for me! When we could train as a team, I also improved my Gaelic football skills and decided to take up running when group sports got cancelled again in the fall. And, surprisingly for me, I spent a lot of time biking this year, including a one week cycling holiday around the islands of Turku, a classic Finnish holiday.

Finally, this year has been a good year to slow down a little bit. It was a year for checking out lots of library books and cuddling up with big mugs of tea. At different points of the year I dedicated a lot of time to self-study of the Finnish language and other areas that interest me. And, of course, there has been lots of time for resting and recovery as I think that it has been more necessary for me emotionally this year.

Of course, as 2020 comes to an end, it is only natural to keep looking forward. That is why for 2021, I want to focus on:

1.) Staying healthy

I tend to be quite active, no matter where I go or what I am doing. I would normally attribute this to my desire to participate in team sports. However, in the moments of no team sports like we are in now I realized that I was really missing out on running around, something that is good for both physical and mental health in my opinion. So, in 2021, no matter the circumstances, I want to make sure to be doing some sort of physical activity most days, if not weeks.

In addition, staying healthy doesn’t only mean doing sports and eating well (something I tend to do naturally, so I don’t worry about). In the past year I realized how much different situations can really impact my mental health and I want to make sure that I continue to work on taking care of myself emotionally over the next year. On January 1st I will be starting the Sanctuary Challenge. I am working on not adding too much to my plate but this is one thing that I want to add to my life in order to find more peace and tranquility within myself, no matter what happens next year.

2.) Be more vocal about my appreciation

Whether it be for others or for myself, I want to spend more time showing my appreciation and just being grateful in general for the people and things that already exist in my life. When I think about it practically, I know I am incredibly lucky to have the life I do. At the same time, it is so easy to forget how lucky we actually are, just to be living the lives we have, and I want to make more of an effort to do so, as well as share with people the positive impact they are having on me.

One of the practices I already started over the past months is writing down ten things I am grateful for every day. Some days they are big things but most of the time they are small things. Now, in 2021, I want to take it one step further and try to share this with others when they influence my list. Of course, this sounds weird but I have already found that people like it when they can hear how they have positively influenced your life and I am willing to make myself uncomfortable if it means I can share more with the people around me.

3.) Make more space for the little things

So often I feel like the focus is on the big things, the big wins. However, with a year like the one we just had, I want to create more space to appreciate the little things. For example, this year I went for a weekly matcha latte at a coffee shop where a friend worked. He went back to his home country in October and the shop is now officially closed, but for months we would see each other regularly and find mutual support in a quick hello and some small talk.

In the next year I want to appreciate the little moments and enjoy what life has to share with me. You never know what form the little things will show up in, which is why I would like to be open for anything from solo lunch date inspiration to plans with friends. It is good to practice saying both yes and no to things that add (or don’t) in your life and this year I want to do more of both! I also want to connect with myself by doing things like going for walks and enjoying nature or small craft projects, which I love but often forget about in day-to-day hectic life.

What joy have you found in 2020 and what are you looking to add in during the upcoming year? Let us know in the comments!


P.S. See my letter to 2018 here, my letter to 2019 here, and my letter to 2020 here.

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