The end of 2020 is rapidly bearing down on us. Sitting here at the end of this year trying to reflect is an almost impossible task. The world, and everyday life, has changed in ways we didn’t think possible this time a year ago.
Personally it has been one of the most difficult years, both personally and professionally. My ability to deal with the heavy workload I gave myself reached stretching point, and snapped. A year ago, in the first few months of my PhD, I excitedly snapped up every opportunity coming. Perhaps on other years it would have worked. This year it did not. Rather than diving into all these new roles and doing all the exciting things I planned, I have ended up doing them all rather poorly: this blog included.
A feature of social media this month has been people talking about things that they achieved this year. I have enjoyed seeing this celebration of things being achieved in a difficult year. Ending this year on a positive seems to be the only sensible thing to do. So much of what has happened is completely out of our control and it is good to remember that we live within our environment and our ability to thrive is affected by that.
Looking back on my own year I have achieved some things to be proud of, but overwhelmingly the feeling is that it was a year that was simply survived. I know I am not the only one who will look back on this year and have no idea what we did or what was achieved. Personally, I see deadlines missed and opportunities not taken advantage of as well as a string of personal failures.
However, I am a strong believer in failure being the best thing to learn from. Repeated success feels wonderful, and should be celebrated, but in terms of growth, understanding how and why things went wrong can be a powerful place to grow from. I think for me the most important lesson learned is getting know what to prioritise and that it is also fine to let things slip by sometimes. There are a wide range of opportunities out there for PhD students, which is wonderful. However, I have learned that although I want to do them all, it is physically impossible. Thrive at what you can and if there is any energy left over, use it however you see fit.
I think we are all glad to see this year go. Important social and religious social events have been missed, some with more warning than others. Toilet roll unexpectedly became an important and rare commodity. Binging TV shows became a thing that brought communities together.
Looking forward to what happens in 2021 and beyond is impossible. There are too many variables and we will have to ride out whatever is thrown at us as best we can.
In an attempt to end this on a positive note, we are selected for our PhD programs on merit. What we achieve is what is possible for us, even where we fail to meet our own standards. There is a global pandemic in amongst some of the most difficult political events in decades, very few are working at full capacity.
As well as kindness to ourselves, kindness to one another is also important. Look to the networks we have and talk to one another. Admitting when we are struggling can be a lifeline to others who feel like they are struggling in isolation.
Looking back at my time running this blog this year I am disappointed I did not manage to do more. I had grand ideas when I took this over and was incredibly excited to take over the post. On that note, I would like to thank the guest bloggers for their patience with slow replies. The SGSAH have been incredibly supportive, patient and kind with me, and huge thanks are due to them. I hope there have been some useful posts to have come from my time here.
Lastly, many of us will be spending this New Year sitting alone or away from loved ones. We are a broad and dispersed community, but let us all raise a glass to one another in solidarity and battle on as best we can.
We’ll tak a cup o’kindness yet, For auld lang syne.