It was a challenging and rewarding year for me and I asked myself why wouldn’t I want to write about it and share it with my community? This year was beyond any that we’ve experienced and will certainly be one that we’ll never forget. Despite how challenging 2020 has been, I do believe this year taught us unforgettable lessons that we will take with us for the rest of our lifetimes. And I wanted to make sure I documented all of mine so I can look back on this time when it’s just a distant memory (I know we’re all waiting for that day to come). Through my reflections, I realized I learned a lot about myself. The progress I made alone is reason enough to celebrate.
So with that, below are my ups and downs of 2020.
What Went Well
All things considered this year, I feel incredibly grateful. And despite everything that 2020 threw my way, I sought out opportunities to grow, to learn, and to just be.
I had my best professional year yet.
I received a promotion at the beginning of the year, something I had been working on for the last two and a half years. I started a new role within Customer Success, where I helped to build a new team within Salesforce focused on our data and identity products. My new role and team enabled me to meet and work with more people within my company. I joined a mentor circle where I was able to get exposure to leaders and work on my professional development. I was nominated by my manager to lead a workstream for my team and was recognized for my work on key strategic accounts. I went through enablement on two new product technologies at Salesforce, to boost my product expertise and become a more well-rounded marketing tech specialist.
With Lipstick & Ink, building my thought leadership in the career space was a goal of mine, and looked for more speaking and publishing opportunities. I pushed through my fear of public speaking, hosting #IamRemarkable workshops and speaking on 3 podcasts (thank you to SheFactor, Six Degrees Society, and OneHive) and at 7 virtual events (thank you to General Assembly, ALV Coaching, ChickTech, Young Professionals Connection, Potter and Clay, Renessa Boley Layne, and VCV). On top of that, I also secured my first paid speaking gig which was extremely exciting. I was published on Thrive Global and was featured in the Chicago Tribune and the Non-Fiction Author’s Association.
I soft-launched L&I’s career advising services, offering my expertise with resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn reviews/re-writes. Thank you to the 13 incredible people who trusted me in helping them with their resumes, cover letters, and LinkedIn profiles to ensure they stood out in a competitive job market. I also was selected to be a part of ALV Coaching’s COVID Coalition, where I volunteered my time to those impacted by COVID job furloughs and layoffs. I helped to critique resumes and help individuals prepare for upcoming interviews.
I began my journey as an aspiring author.
Writing a book has been a lifelong dream of mine and I committed in 2020 to make it happen. While I didn’t finish the manuscript as I had hoped (because #2020), I still am proud of the progress I made. I outlined and outlined some more to get my book in a good place for when the writing time came. I officially started writing and completed 4 of my chapters. I hired a book coach and cover illustrator, to help me make my book the best it can be. I uncomfortably put myself out there, sharing the idea and mission behind the book, as well as all of the behind the scenes (which isn’t always sunshine and rainbows).
I was fortunate enough to travel.
I traveled to Rwanda with Venture2Impact luckily before the borders closed to teach beneficiaries English, computer skills, and entrepreneurial lessons. It was an eye-opening and impactful experience for me, especially traveling alone to a new and foreign continent. While I had gone there to teach, it was the Rwandans who ended up teaching me. I learned a lot from them, especially about confidence, kindness, and gratitude.
I was also able to travel with Adam, which is one of our favorite things to do together. We went to St. Lucia before the pandemic and then safely traveled to Denver, Mackinac Island, and the East Coast (NY, VT, NH, ME, and MA) throughout the year.
I got in touch with my spiritual side.
I had sessions with an astrologer/human design expert, two mediums, a shaman, an enneagram consultant, and a past life psychic. All of these sessions taught me more about myself, the path that I’m on, and what I’m destined for. It was the best kind of clarity that I needed during such a confusing and overwhelming year. I finally got into a better groove with meditation (something I struggled with for years to get into) and realized how much I love going for walks and doing restorative yoga to calm my mind and rampant anxiety. I made every effort this year to prioritize my mental health and listen to my body, especially when I needed to rest.
What Didn’t Go So Well
My work-life balance became unbalanced.
When I started my new role in March, I had no idea what I was doing. I mean, that’s typical with any new role that we start. But I was the only one on my team that didn’t live on the west or east coast, so I was already navigating new territory alone. Once the lockdowns happened and I began working from home full-time, I immediately became overwhelmed. I was trying to figure out my place on my team and in my new organization that I had no experience in. I put an undue amount of pressure on myself to excel. I coped with the uncertainty and loss of normalcy of the pandemic by throwing myself into work, working 12 hour days with no sense of boundaries. After three months of that nonsense, I took control of the situation, being upfront with my manager about my workload and getting permission to decline meetings out of my working hours. This year above any others, I learned the importance of establishing boundaries to protect my energy and my work-life balance.
COVID-19 had personal effects on my family.
Someone extremely close to me (I don’t want to say who because I’m not sure she is okay with me sharing) ended up contracting COVID-19 in March, one of the first early cases. She had flu-like symptoms but ultimately had alarming lingering effects of the virus through nearly August, even having to see a respiratory therapist and do breathing exercises every day. The ‘long-hauler’ effects have cropped up again and she is now facing a number of symptoms that she cannot shake. She is one of the healthiest people I know, so we’re all baffled by how this is affecting her, including her doctors. No one can explain why this is happening and why all of her tests have come back normal. Watching a loved one go through this has been gut-wrenching, especially when you know there’s nothing you can do.
I lost my confidence.
Just recently, I hit a wall while writing my book. I became frozen in self-doubt and my inner critic came rushing in with thoughts: Your stories are trivial. You’re talking too much about yourself. No one cares. Your writing sucks. This book will never meet your expectations. Why are you even writing a book? I could go on and on about what’s been on repeat through my mind these last few weeks. It’s paralyzing and makes me want to give up so I can be free from this mental rollercoaster. I’m trying to remember my ‘why’ and counter my inner critic, telling myself that my story can positively impact others, even if it’s just one person. I’m hoping by mentally working through this, I can have a resurgence of my creativity and determination to keep writing.
What I Learned
Racism still exists.
I was deeply affected by George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery’s deaths this year (among so many others) and the respective awareness of racial injustice in our country. My company did a phenomenal job ensuring there was an open dialogue, resources, and emphasis on what people of color especially have been going through. I took part in as much as I could, listening and digesting. Through that exposure and delving into my own research, I learned just how difficult and unjust it can be being a person of color in America. I was honestly so disappointed with myself that I had been oblivious to it for so long. But no more. I acknowledged racism and shared my thoughts and feelings about it, even though I was incredibly uncomfortable in doing so, afraid to say the ‘wrong’ thing. But I realized that saying nothing is worse than saying something incorrectly. I created a healthy dialogue with friends and acquaintances about it, listening, and learning their perspectives. I made a vow to myself to stay woke and continue my own personal work of what I can do to ensure a more equal and equitable environment in my own community.
I’m done with busy-ness.
I am the type of person who always has a never-ending to-do list and a calendar packed full of meetings and events. Before the pandemic really got bad, I was dreading the month of March because I had so much on my plate that I had committed to. After everything began getting postponed and canceled, I felt a sense of relief. That’s when I knew I had to start setting better boundaries for myself and saying no to the things that don’t feel like a ‘hell yes.’
Nature is my medicine.
Nature calms me in a way nothing else can. I learned this starting with my walks during the lockdown and discovering a nature path a mere mile from my condo. As the weather warmed, I made every effort to get outside because I started to notice the positive effects it had on me. Adam’s and my road trip out east taught me that there is a direct correlation between being in nature and my anxiety decreasing. Since I learned that, I’m taking that with me into 2021 and ensuring that I incorporate the great outdoors into my daily life, even if that means just a stroll through my neighborhood!
Family ancestry is so freaking cool.
I loved delving into my family ancestry this year. Through speaking to some of my aunts and doing my own family tree, I discovered the Nash side of my family came to America in the 1600s, founding New Haven, CT, and settling down on the east coast. When Adam and I decided to take our road trip out east in the fall, I wanted to make a few pit stops to explore my heritage. We were able to find a graveyard dating back to the 1600s where many of my ancestors were buried. We also drove on Nash Hill Road in Massachusetts, where my ancestors lived during the 1700-1900s. This schoolhouse was on that road, across the street from two houses my ancestors lived in (that are still standing/being lived in today!). Peering inside the schoolhouse, it looked like no one had ever left. There were old desks, chalkboards, and posters hung on the wall. It was one of the coolest parts of our trip!
I can’t always be in control.
I am a control freak. I hated admitting it in the past, but now I own it. It’s part of who I am. I like to be in control of situations and always know what’s coming so I can be fully prepared. 2020 didn’t give me – or anyone for that matter – a heads up on what was coming. Needless to say, I felt completely out of control when the pandemic hit and was wrapped up in my anxiety due to the uncertainty. If this year has taught me anything, it’s that there are always going to be things I can’t control – but I can control the way I react to them.
How much I miss hugging.
Hugging and spending quality time with loved ones are things I definitely will not take for granted moving forward. I miss everyone and cannot wait for the day where we can safely and lovingly hug each other again.
Wishing you a healthy, safe, and prosperous new year, filled with lots of hugs!!
Kelly Nash is a Chicago-based writer, career coach, speaker and founder of Lipstick & Ink®. She also works full-time in technology as a Role Strategy and Employee Engagement Manager at Salesforce and has over 12 years of digital marketing experience. Kelly has been featured in Thrive Global, Chicago Tribune, International Association of Women, General Assembly, Salesforce, and SheFactor. She’s fueled by black coffee, sunshine, a good ink pen, and a bold lip.