Here goes. The content creator’s staple. My annual reflection post. I was toying with ideas of how to write this post after a year that, to me, feels conflicted. A year where so much has happened but also nothing has happened. A year where I’ve battled extreme low mood, burnout and monotony and celebrated deep connection, happiness and love. A year where all of us at once have faced new challenges, in our health, our communities, our politics, our allyship, our resilience, our creativity. A year which has tested me like no other, but has also given to me like none I’ve experienced.
When I started to write my lists and look back, I realised how much I had learned. About myself and others – those close to me and those further afield. So I thought it only fitting to try and summarise this incredibly complex year as best as I could through these lessons.
Allyship and anti-racism
On 13th March 2020 in Louisville, Kentucky, Breonna Taylor was fatally shot in her apartment when three white plain-clothed officers of the Louisville Metro Police Department forced entry into the apartment supposedly as part of an investigation into drug dealing operations. The officers fired 32 shots, six of which hit and killed Breonna.
On 25th May 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, George Perry Floyd Jr. was murdered by a white police officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds until he died. During this time, Floyd told the officers “I can’t breathe” over 20 times. These officers persisted, saying “It takes a heck of a lot of oxygen to talk” until Floyd took his last breath.
On 8th June 2020 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the body of Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells was pulled from the water near Bartram’s Garden Dock & Community Boathouse and her death soon ruled a homicide. It was reported that Fells, a 27-year-old transgender woman, was found with trauma to her face and head, and her legs were severed mid-thigh.
On 9th June 2020 in Liberty Township, Ohio, within 24 hours of Fells’ murder, Riah Milton was shot and killed as three suspects stole her car. Milton was shot twice and her body left behind on Spruce Creek Drive near Liberty Park. Milton was a 25-year-old transgender woman.
These are just a few of the names and stories of lives stolen this year. Black lives. Black trans lives. Lost to police brutality. To hatred. Racism. Transphobia.
I start my post here because it has been the most important learning I have made, and one I will continue to learn and grow from beyond 2020: allyship and anti-racism.
I have always thought of myself as an ally, I grew up in London with friends and family of all different backgrounds and races. I am empathetic. From a young age I questioned racism, I constantly recited “I don’t understand how someone could think/act/hate like that”. I have stood with Black and POC friends at protests, held their hands in solidarity, cried with them and advocated for them where I could. I have listened when I have made mistakes, and I have tried to educate myself as best as I can. I am not racist. However, I learned this year, I have not always been anti-racist.
“Being antiracist is based on the conscious efforts and actions to provide equitable opportunities for all people on an individual and systemic level. People can act against racism by acknowledging personal privileges, confronting acts of racial discrimination, and working to change personal racial biases.”National Museum of African American History and Culture
Anti-racism and allyship means going beyond comforting friends, beyond calling out use of the n-word and other racial slurs, it’s beyond reading books and attending lectures on the history of Black oppression, colonialism and white supremacy. This year, I learned anti-racism lies in challenging myself. The internal biases I know and do not know are there. Recognising I can be and have been racist in my actions even though it’s uncomfortable. Because what’s more uncomfortable, more painful, is a world led by white supremacy, led by hate. To stop this cycle of systematic oppression, of violence against people of colour, to save the lives of people like Breonna, George, Dominique and Riah, I have to recognise how my own actions may contribute to this system. And I have to continue to do this everyday.
I will continue to listen. I will continue to learn. I will continue to really do what I can to be an ally. Anti-racism lies in action and in 2020 I have made a commitment to move forward in that action.
Self-love as a radical act
This year I heard the phrase ‘self-care is a radical act’ repeated time and time again. A phrase adapted from the Black feminist writer and activist, Audre Lorde, who said
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.“Audre Lorde
However, when she wrote those words, I doubt she envisaged her (para)phrase being used by many of us around the world to cope with the kind of tragedy and difficulty of 2020. Despite using the term ‘self-care’ from time-to-time, often humorously, I have cringed at article after article, post after post this year that has claimed self-care is watching a funny movie, eating chocolate and drinking tea. Not that any of those things aren’t enjoyable, but that self-care, or for many, self-preservation, is far more challenging and profound.
I have felt very lucky this year. My loved ones are currently healthy and safe. I managed to travel to Australia in February. I moved careers and am doing a job I love. I survived and even thrived at times this year. But I have felt guilty. I have felt extreme lows and cried more this year than I can remember. I have felt angry at not doing more, not giving more, not being more.
In May, I began counselling again to help manage my creeping anxiety and start therapy on some trauma I felt was rearing its ugly head. During my sessions and with the help of loved ones outside of them, I learned to be empathetic with myself. I learned what the overused term ‘self-care’ really means. I still struggle to relax sometimes, but I have learned what “putting yourself first” means without guilt. I have learned that if I do not rest I cannot help others and I have learned to embrace empathy, for myself as much as for others. I have learned that self-love can be a radical act.
Joy in the small things
As I have written previously I am an eternal optimist. I embrace this in myself and have learned, this year, it is my innate survival tool. National lockdowns and quarantines worldwide have forced us all to challenge what we need to survive. It has often taken or limited many of our known comforts within days, even hours, notice.
This abrupt change to our day-to-day lives forced me to regroup. My busy, active life was halted. In the first lockdown, I quickly tried to gather together what I could control. I found immense comfort in cooking (as I wrote about here), in running, in spending more time with my partner, in watching all the trash TV (yes, I was right there with you all on Sunset Boulevard #TeamChrishell).
But as the months went on and we quickly realised our year had changed for good, I started to find joy in my new routine. I went for walks in my local area and discovered new places. I took time to take in the present moment – all of it. I started to act more mindfully. I took time every morning for myself – to meditate, breathe, drink my coffee and reset. I reflected on the joy I’ve had laughing with loved ones, on video-calls, in texts and voice-notes. I’ve made an effort to be present.
Being present, appreciating the small joys in our everyday, is a lesson I take with me into the future, and one I cherish 2020 for giving me – even though I wish it had come to me another way.
So to end this post I wanted to share some pictures from this year that have meant something to me. Small moments of joy in a year that has been difficult. Thank you to those who’ve supported me, who’ve read this post and any others. I hope you continue this journey with me in 2021 – I have some exciting things planned. Big love and strength to you all. Happy new year.
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