Lessons Learned From 2020

Reading Time: 5 minutes

What 2020 has taught me so far?

How many times did you ask this question to yourself this year?

While reflecting on 2020, I asked the same question to my followers on Instagram and received so many inspiring and valuable messages.

Before leaving 2020 behind, I wanted to write a brief article where I am highlighting their lessons learned and my interpretations of them.

Here we go: 

ღ The hard times are the best motivation for self-developement.

Most of the time we suffer when we encounter something that changes our lives drastically. To adapt ourselves to the change or to the new reality seems terrific at first glance. However, changes are inevitable, and we don’t have any other choice but to learn how to deal with them.

No doubt the pain you feel is an absolute fact, but don’t forget suffering is your choice of reaction. While some people ‘choose’ to feel miserable and helpless in any challenging situation, some people literally consider it as an opportunity to transform their lives and experience their greatest potential.  

Personally, I am a big fan of the famous Persian poet Rumi, and he describes the state of suffering as a “wound”. Sharing one of my favorite quotes of him saying:  “A wound is a doorway to a higher state of consciousness, towards enlightenment; it is indeed the very point where ‘light’ can gush into our lives”

I admit this mindset is indeed very difficult to obtain. However, once you obtain this mindset you will enrich your life and expand your mind.

rumi quote

ღ You cannot control everything.

Don’t feel like a victim toward the situations that happens to what you don’t have control over. Focusing on your strengths and your attitude towards the situations definitely will be a game-changer in your life.

At the very beginning of this year, when the lockdown was announced for the first time, I somehow immersed myself into my philosophy books which I had left untouched and dusted on my bookshelf. I become more and more intrigued by the philosophy of stoicism which serves different perspectives on how to perceive our life

One of the famous Stoic philosophers Epictetus wrote “Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: Some things are within our control, and some things not. The chief task in life is simply this: To identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control”

ღ Everyone feels and thinks in different ways.

Recently, I’ve been reading a book called “Conversations with God” written by Neale Donald Walsh. He is bringing upfront one of the most controversial messages saying there is no absolute right and no absolute wrong in God’s universe. Right and Wrong are just two products that change according to time and place. 

“I do not love hot more than I love cold, high more than low, left more than right. It is all relative. It is all part of what is.”

ღ Appreciate what you already own.

“Don’t try to be happy. We’re programmed to be dissatisfied” – Frank T McAndrew

According to research that I have recently read says that happiness is something that is about to happen. In fact, dopamine increases just before we get what we want and drops right away when we get what we want. 

This explains one of the reasons why we suddenly immersed ourselves in online shopping even though we were hardly going out. We all get trapped in chasing the instant feel-good rush by buying more and more. However, since we developed an understanding of “I will be happy if I get that!”, each of us has become more and more hungry and unsatisfied individuals. In fact, the world today faces humanity that is more dissatisfied than ever before. 

So personally, I tried my best to get rid of those intrusive consumer-focused ads (I mean, you can never completely get rid of them, that’s for sure) and unfollowed many of those influencers telling me that my life could be better if I buy this or that. Oh, such a big relief! You know what, focusing on the present moment and practicing the act of appreciation makes life easier, happier, and healthier. 

ღ Let go of negative people

Among all the self-development quotes I read so far, none  of them impacted my life more than this: “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with” – Jim Rohn

The people we surround ourselves with determine the way we are perceiving the world and ourselves. You are very likely to think and behave like them at a certain point. “According to research by social psychologist Dr. David McClelland of Harvard, [the people you habitually associate with] determine as much as 95 percent of your success or failure in life.” That’s a big percentage, right? So don’t surround yourself with negative, unhappy, and constantly complaining people. Some people literally choose to be unhappy, helpless, and depressed which causes you to feel exactly the same. One of the best things to do for ourselves is to allow people to let go and free ourselves.

ღ Never take things for granted.

Again, we always think that things that are about to happen will bring joy and happiness. We have this tendency of thinking the future will be better than our present.

Together with this quarantine, I started to appreciate even the simplest things in my life. Appreciate and be grateful for the existence of the people I love, for their health, for my health…I mean I had never been grateful for being able to walk in the park close to our home. Unfortunately, most of the time we start recognizing and valuing things, once we lose them. That’s why I am practicing to be more and more present and enjoying the actual moment. Otherwise, moments just keep passing by, right?

ღ Limit Your Social Media

We are constantly invaded either by the news that gives this certain illusion of everything in this world is going tremendously bad and you are in the midst of chaos, or either you get lost in this loop of social media thinking everyone’s life rocks and you clearly falling behind in life.

Well… I’ve been there. I didn’t know how constantly being exposed to the invasive ads could harm my mental health until I literally fell ill from my increased levels of cortisone and anxiety. So, I decided to cut diligently the excess distractions of my life which later helped me focus on things that really matter and on what really makes me happy.

You gotta be conscious! Be aware of how you use digital/social media and most importantly how it uses you!

ღ Just do it! Don’t wait too much!

I always wanted to have a blog for myself where I could freely articulate my thoughts. But, I had a hard time deciding the best time to launch my website or starting to create posts on my new social media account.  Obviously, there were so many serious things going on in the world so nobody would give a shit to what I am saying.  

Elizabeth Gilbert “A plan executed imperfectly now, is better than a plan executed meticulously never” 

The truth is, whether we want to admit it or not,  there is no perfect moment to start something new. You know what, that moment never arrives! At the end of the day, you are going to be the one who decides for yourself that the time is right, without depending on the outside circumstances.

Buddha Quote

What are your lessons learned of 2020?

Share with me<3

Albert Camus and a girl is reading a book

The Absurdity of Living: The Philosophy of Albert Camus

Reading Time: 4 minutes

No doubt that the whole Covid-19 process caused drastic changes in each of our lives. I still don’t know and probably will never be able to know the truth behind it whether it was a hand made thing, an accident, or a warning call from nature. Call it whatever you like, the year 2020 will be never forgotten. Certainly, a thrilling granted story to be told later to our grandkids, don’t you think?

This wasn’t the first time that the world faced such an outbreak. And probably, one of the reasons why people immersed themselves in the history of plagues and epidemics at this particular time. The book ‘La Peste’ which translates as ‘The Plague’, written by Albert Camus gained its popularity for some obvious reasons instantaneously during the outbreak. I decided to reread the book hoping to find some answers which pertained to the despairing moments of my quarantine.

A girl looking through the window

La Peste, pretty much describes the situation we are facing now. The book takes us to a slightly fictionalized town of Oran in the Algerian coast where a catastrophic outbreak of a contagious disease starts and later spreads panic and horror in every street. Every day the death count is released, everyone is worried about getting contaminated,  if someone does, the person is isolated.
Nobody can leave the town, and if they do, they could be shot. 

As much as the people living in Oran town before the plague, so are we leading a busy money-centered and denatured, status obsession lives assuming we have been granted immortality. The people of Oran related the plague with something awkward that belongs to another era. They are modern people with phones, trams, airplanes, and newspapers. They are surely not going to die like the other poor creatures. “Yes, everyone knew that, except the death” Camus adds sardonically.

the plague

At the peak of the plague, when countless people a week are dying, one of the Camus’s particular enemy steps into the scene. A Catholic priest called Peneloux.
Peneloux gives a speech in the cathedral of the main square of Oran accusing the plague as god’s punishment for immorality.  Camus points out the part of our human nature: The tendency of seeking meaning. Indeed, we are creatures who need meanings, but in fact, we’re abandoned in a universe full of meaninglessness. 

lost in space

Call it plague, COVID-19…whatever you like, all are dramatic instances of a perpetual rule: we are vulnerable towards the ruthlessness of the universe. Our lives are literally hanged by a thread and we all are fundamentally on the edge of what Albert Camus termed “the absurd”  

Albert Camus is often associated with the idea of existentialism though he did not prefer the term and was rather focused on something he referred to as the absurd or absurdism.

Humans find meaning in a seemingly meaningless universe… It’s the conflict that arises between the need for rationality and the fundamentally chaotic nature of the universe. Sometimes I imagine the universe saying: “Ah, you wish for meaning? Sprinkle sprinkle and, voila: plague, pandemic…” It seems like our need for meaning the universe is totally indifferent towards it. Indeed the whole situation is absurd, and according to Camus, the absurd cannot be negated. This means that we can react to it in two ways:
we can live it or we can escape from it.
What do I mean by that?

thinking man

Albert Camus points to the Greek mythological figure Sisyphus. Sisyphus was the founder and King of Ephyra and was also a quite deceitful person.
He was later punished for pushing a rock uphill which rolls down every time Sisyphus nears it to the top. This process repeats for eternity. Sisyphus existence is so meaningless and hopeless that trying to give to his repetitive action any meaning is totally absurd. Sisyphus becomes conscious of the absurd predicament of life, but yet he keeps pushing the rock at his best.
Despite this hopeless fate faced by Sisyphus, Camus tells us that we should imagine Sisyphus happy so we ourselves can face
the absurdity of life:

“The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”
Albert Camus

According to Camus, this is the time we are capable of living fully once we accept the fact we live in an absurd world. And yet at this moment of self-consciousness and confrontation, we are the happiest.
So maybe the salvation is to not just embrace the absurd, but also revolt against it. Embracing that rock of Sisyphus, and refusing to bow for the pain that life has tossed at us, and still push it at our greatest. 

“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”
Albert Camus


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Try "Virtual Fika" for Distant Socializing

Reading Time: 3 minutes

We are now a society at a distance, and we are all going through very difficult times.

While the government and media strongly advice to stay at home, many of us struggle with loneliness and anxiety. 

Humans are innately social and tend to reach out to touch or be close to others when feeling unwell or afraid.

But, being isolated from each other doesn’t mean staying socially disconnected.

On the contrary, it’s more crucial than ever to stay connected with each other during this unprecedented time.

staying connected during COVID-19

Nonetheless, we are too busy with our work, studies, successes, and failures, as well as our future concerns that we almost forget what really matters to us now. 

We forget to stay connected. 

Especially at this time when we need each other’s support more than ever.

My advice to stay connected while socially distancing is to have a “Virtual Fika” per day.

But, wait a minute, is that a pill?

What is Fika?

girl taking fika

Fika is a phenomenal Swedish word which basically means “coffee break”

But, it’s more than that. 

Fika is a moment when you slow down your life. 

A moment when you sit down and appreciate the good things of your life while taking a sip from your cup of coffee. 

This precious moment becomes even more enjoyable when you have your sweet bun on the side (preferably a cinnamon bun) and a good company. 

a man having fika

Swedish people make sure they have at least one Fika break during the day.

No matter how hectic their day gets, it’s important to slow down and spare time for themselves, and to their loved ones.

buddhist monk having tea

Swedish people are not the only ones to have pointed out the importance of having a coffee/tea break during the day.

Vietnamese Zen Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh, who is known as the world’s calmest man, also takes a full hour to drink a cup of tea with other monks every day.

He explains

“At that moment you are real, and the cup of tea is real. You are not lost in the past, in the future, in your projects, in your worries. You are free from all these afflictions. And in that state of being free, you enjoy your tea. That is the moment of happiness, and of peace”

One US psychologist rightly noted rather than talking about social distancing, we should be practicing distant socializing.

So, let yourself to have a coffee break and align yourself to the present. 

Make yourself a cup of coffee, have your favorite biscuit,

Call your friend, your mom, your lover and ask:

“Let’s have a virtual Fika”

Because why not?

We are all in this together.

video chat

All great, but not familiar with the digital world?
No worries, here I find a very nice article that explains the best video chat apps all free.

Find the most suitable app for you, and enjoy your “Virtual Fika” with your loved ones.

Aslı Erdogan