“I have always hated my legs, boots would never fit these calves”, wrote the inspirational Vickie Remoe on one of her Instagram posts. The photograph accompanying her comment was of her looking sensational and with a pair of pins that most would be jealous of! She has fabulous legs. It struck me that perhaps the problem has never been Vickie’s amazing legs, perhaps the problem has always been that the boots available out there are not good enough to adorn them! Why as women do we tend to assume the problem is with us? We all do it. Anyway, back to the boots later…

I don’t want to talk about the pandemic in my 2020 reflections. Not really. We are all a little fed-up with talking about it right? In England it has replaced the usual ‘weather small talk’ at the start of every conversation. However, any blog post reflecting on the year gone by without mention of COVID-19 would seem discordant. 2020 has been a year of global seismic shifts that have reverberated in all of our personal lives, mine included. So, I will begin with the perils of the pandemic, and get the introduction out of the way. 2020 was, and for most will always be, the year of the novel coronavirus.

At the beginning of 2020 I performed what has become a ritual for me, I chose a word to have as a focus. Every year I choose a word for the next year, rather than a resolution. I choose a word I want to adopt and explore in the coming year… I started this tradition following in the footsteps of someone I still consider a life mentor, the fabulous Lola Akinmade Åkerström. My word for 2020 was ALIGN. I felt as though I had been through a time of brokenness and preparation that had led me to point of coming into my purpose professionally and personally. I stood at the precipice of 2020 declaring, ‘I am made for a time such as this.’ Then the pandemic came.

I am fortunate, I have suffered no personal loss through COVID-19 and my family and I have been in work that has not been curtailed by the virus. I have been acutely aware though of the societal losses incurred this year. It strikes me that as a world we have not really made time to grieve the loss. We have all been so caught up in the day-to-day changes and reactions that perhaps we have not yet had space to step back and acknowledge the way life is changing or to notice the empty chairs around our our collective table.

According to Henry Kissinger, the global pandemic will “forever alter the world order”. Yet our world is changing with or without the pandemic. We have seen the rise of populist politics, growing inequality gaps and the mass displacement of people (as just three examples) in recent years – COVID-19 has simply exacerbated many of these issues or shone a spotlight on them. This has happened at a local level too. In my home town the ‘death of the high street’ was already a topic of concern, now it is almost a foregone conclusion. The ground beneath us is moving. Some will say we are shifting from globalism to isolationism, from multilateralism to unilateralism, from multiculturalism to racism. Others will declare the pandemic could beckon in a new era of community and compassion born out of a realisation we are all human and all connected. The optimist in me hopes for the latter.

As I draw on my own reflections on 2020, I think all we have been through is a timely reminder of humanity’s interdependence in this changing world. For me, it has been a confirmation of the need to step in to my full potential – because the world needs more of us ready to do that. The world needs more of us standing up for love, and grace, and kindness and compassion. These are not weak words or ‘soft’ tokens – I believe now more than ever that we thrive in community and in connection. We need love. We need each other. Human agency or autonomy is a capacity that is best realised in communicative and social interaction. The loneliness of lockdowns, and the failure of Zoom calls to fully capture the essence of what it means to share coffee with a dose of in-person eye contact, the absence of touch – all of these things have been reminders to me of what is most essential and human to us all.

So back to my word for the year – Did I align with my purpose in 2020?

Yes. Though as Tupac Shakur once said, “God ain’t finished with me yet”.

I return to the boots analogy. In 2020 I feel as if I have grown into my own boots. I have always known what my dream boots would look like, but this is the first year I feel comfortable as I walk about in them. It is not that I wasn’t good enough for the boots, or even that they were the wrong fit, I just hadn’t learnt to wear them well. This year I have. So what does this mean in practice? Well, here are some things I have learnt in 2020, many of these are lessons my readers may have already learnt. Kudos to all ahead of me in the game of life.

My 2020 lessons on alignment

  • You can be both broken and whole at the same time.
  • I am an intense person who lives life burning brightly. This means sometimes I burn out which I need to look out for. But I used to think I was too intense, or ‘too much’, this year I have decided this is my superpower and I embrace it! It gets stuff done.
  • I need sleep. More sleep than most. When I get good sleep I am far more productive in my purpose.
  • If you ask you just might get! Be bold, be presumptuous.
  • You can’t be all things to all people.
  • Just because something is a strength doesn’t mean it doesn’t need work too. Work on your strengths as well as your weaknesses.
  • I am because we are – there is great joy in community. Equally, and conversely, I am a really introverted extravert and get a lot of peace from time on my own painting and being in nature. Alignment for me has been finding the balance.

We live an epochal period, and things are going to be very dark in the coming months and years in our world. Climate change, economic recessions and depressions, conflicts and discord… there is a lot against us. But imagine the possibilities if we all found boots that fit our fabulous selves? Imagine if we all walked in purpose and potential. Perhaps out of the shaken foundations of a fragile world, together we could create something beautiful.

My word for 2021 is loading… Watch this space.

Photo by Caitlyn Wilson on Unsplash