It’s fair to say that 2020 has been a year filled with trials and tribulations for all. We have been subject to drastic changes, sacrifices, and losses. I firmly believe that our greatest growth stems from our deepest struggles, and I cannot deny that I’ve experienced my own sense of struggle throughout this year. I have had highs and lows in my own sense of mental wellness, felt a loss of meaning in my work, and have had to trust the process of painfully establishing boundaries in my relationships.
While all of this is worthwhile of self-reflection, it is of the utmost importance to me that I explore and seek out my areas of success and triumph throughout this year. Thus, I reflect on 2020 by not fixating on the tribulations and instead acknowledging their existence, honoring the thoughts and feelings that arise, and then intentionally shifting my focus toward areas of personal growth and gratitude. I challenge anyone reading this to do the same…to dig deep and reflect month-by-month, week-by-week, or day-by-day to capture areas of gratitude.
2020 at a Glance
January: Read Thunder Dog and Haatchi and Little B, Became an official therapy dog team with Pinella through Alliance of Therapy Dogs, & Maintained my health through exercise
February: Read Outside the Lines and The Gifts of Imperfection, Pinella and I began volunteering with the Embark therapy dog program, I applied to Wilmington University for doctoral studies, & Alex and I attended a local fire and ice festival with family
March: Read Scent of the Missing and The Possibility Dogs, Began working from home, Jigsaw puzzles became a newfound hobby, Received my first (and last) haircut of 2020, Interviewed for doctoral candidacy at Wilmington University, & Was invited to interview for doctoral studies at Shippensburg University
April: Read An Invisible Thread, Dear John, Life After Suicide, and Craig and Fred, Gratefully continued working from home, Was accepted into Wilmington University to earn a Doctorate in Prevention Science, & Implemented a new exercise regimen
May: Read Me Before You, Celebrated my birthday quarantine-style, Pinella continued serving as a “pawsome” coworker in my work-from-home venture, Received a birthday self-care package from my wonderful sister, Gained a beautiful new niece, Fresh veggies and new flowers were planted in the garden, & I started a 350-Mile Bike Across PA challenge
June: Read The Rescue, One Thousand Gifts, The Gift of Therapy, and Dog Medicine, Gained peace and clarity in continuing to work from home, Exercised 1 to 2 times daily to maintain a sense of mental wellness, & Finished a running challenge for a local victim services organization
July: Read Murder and Misunderstanding, Behind Closed Doors, Born to Shine, and Tuesday’s Promise, Started a Disaster Mental Health Counseling certificate program, Exercised at an all-time high for a healthy escape, Fresh veggies started sprouting in the garden, Completed a walking challenge for a local nonprofit organization, & I won a giveaway through KCD Designs
August: Read The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog and After You, Had to forego our annual trip to Myrtle Beach but replaced it with a more COVID-safe trip to a secluded bay in Maryland, Was able to vacation with Pinella and see her natural enjoyment of the beach unfold, Took time away from work and gained clarity into my need to prioritize myself and establish boundaries in all spheres of my life, Completed the 350-Mile Bike Across PA challenge, Completed course #2 in my Animal-Assisted Psychotherapy Certification course, & Started my journey as a doctorate student
September: Read Report from Ground Zero, Began cohosting the Neurolawgical Podcast, Was able to bake a birthday cake for my precious niece, Alex and I celebrated our six-year anniversary, Pinella celebrated her fifth birthday, Completing schoolwork provided me with increased clarity into my professional goals and aspirations, Submitted final edits for a paper I was authoring, & A praying mantis waiting outside my door eased my anxiety-riddled body as I embarked on a day of working in-person
October: I became a published author (more about that to come…), Completed a running challenge for my alma matter, Explored the fall foliage with Pinella and Alex, Accessed my passion for photography, My mums bloomed in the garden and we purchased pumpkins from a local farm stand, A thoughtful neighbor left beautiful flowers at our doorstep, & I purchased a bookshelf to complete our reading room
November: Read The Weathering of Sea Glass, Mustered the courage to apply and interview for my dream opportunity, Assisted in a major fundraising event for Susquehanna Service Dogs where we raised $10,001, Christmas cactus bloomed for the first time in four years, Virtually watched my brother get sworn into the military (Congrats, B!), & I participated in at-home voting
December: Read Man’s Search for Meaning, Completed my Goodreads 2020 Reading Challenge (25/20 books), Pinella had a satisfactory wellness visit and was blessed with another year of good health, Completed the first semester of my doctorate studies, Thankfully resumed working from home, A rare December snowstorm allowed me to get my much sought after holiday photos of Pinella in the snow, I prioritized supporting small businesses, & I was eager for the holidays for the first time in many, many years
As is typical for me, I did not initiate 2020 by setting new year’s resolutions. I instead focused on establishing daily intentions for myself — intentions to maintain balance in my life, live healthier, strive for peace, and prioritize self-care. Amid the throes of 2020, I quickly adapted my intentions to ensure that I created meaning and opportunity from each hardship I endured. For me, there’s a simple prescription for navigating life’s challenges, namely, finding opportunities. Viewing life through a lens of opportunity is hope-instilling and was undoubtedly what contributed to each area of reflection above.
I share this reflection not to boast or brag but to instead model how there is always something worthy of being grateful for…yes, even in a year like 2020. As you see, gratitude can be found in the biggest of life’s events, like pursuing your dream to achieve a doctorate degree, as well as the smallest moments, such as being greeted out the door by a praying mantis. As we embark on a new year together, I challenge you to set the intention to prioritize gratitude. Understand that, while turning the page on a calendar to now read 2021 doesn’t change the world around us, it can change our perceptions. I intend to see the good, embrace life, and find opportunity in everything I do. What are your intentions?
Until next time,