Back in January, I had a plan and expectations of how 2020 was going to be a better year than 2019, magnifying what had been a period of intense personal growth for me- but now? Now I’m doing pretty similar things but the way I’m going about doing them is pretty different, to say the least.
My flight back from Ghana landed at JFK International Airport in New York on January 28th; I had just come back from a week-long trip with a seminar group from my university. In approximately a week and a half, I would be on another flight from Logan International Airport in Boston, Massachusetts to Charles de Gaulle Airport (yea- the one in France), passing through Germany on my way there.
I began my Spring 2020 semester studying in Paris, taking some challenging courses and absolutely thrilled to finally be presented with the chance to use my French skills and take my French to the next level through rapid application. After 4 of my monthly projects the previous year being successful, I mapped out what each month would be for the coming year. I was able to maintain my online community involvements despite being in a time-zone 6 hours ahead. I was ready to learn from DaVinci himself by visiting the Louvre several times. Heck, I was thinking how great it would be to make videos on the study abroad lifestyle.
Things were off to a great start. I had plans in place. I had a system. I had routine. I had habits- then I got sent home halfway through the semester. I’m someone whose interests lie in many areas of life. I study Computer Science, Psychology, and Linguistics; outside of school I make videos, edit videos freelance(ish), am a community manager, mess around with Blender 3D from time to time, practice the piano, and a few other things. As a way to rapidly explore different projects, I wanted to do one project every month that would take learning, applied in methods of practice, which then culminates in a final product by the end of the month. I had this idea in 2018, and only took action on it in September of 2019: September was Duolingo vs. Rosetta Stone, October was the making of a portfolio website, November was getting pretty far on a short film, and December was learning to write with my left hand. January of 2020 became my month of art, ranging from online art lectures to drawing 250 boxes, February was increasing my 140wpm typing speed to 180wpm (I got to 165), March was music theory- at least, it was supposed to be… in theory…
In Paris, we had to travel from where we were living to the NYU Academic Center which had pianos. For my month of music theory, I needed those to practice my sheet music and work on my improv skills. Then everything began to fall apart on the second Monday of March.
The first email stated we would not have classes that day, due to the pandemic making its way around the globe, but classes on Tuesday would resume in person. My last in-person classes were on that Tuesday. Tuesday evening we were informed that while we would not be kicked out of our living spaces, our classes would resume on Thursday entirely remote. By Friday we were told we needed to get home (for me, that’s the US).
I had plans in place. I had a system. I had routine. I had habits. I had my schedule figured out. I had communicated with others when I would be available for hosting events and getting things done. Then, as each of these fell apart, so did I.
“Planning is essential, but plans are useless”. A famous adage I never understood until I experienced my plans crumbling in front of my eyes. My classes were at 3 and 4 in the morning and, while we were excused from them and could watch them online at more reasonable times, I held on to synchronous participation because it was all I had left to lean on.
Picking Up the Pieces
Fast forward to today, I’m back on top of things- but dang is it different. My monthly projects have not resumed, unfortunately, but the time has been filled. Since all my classes are online, and its a medium of learning I trust myself to stay on top of, I chose to take on an extra class this semester so I can graduate university a semester early. I made incredible progress over the summer; I stayed consistent with YouTube videos, I got my habits back on track, I lost weight (healthily!) again, found a love for running, and a lot more.
If a small strand of RNA hadn’t perused the globe as of late, I’m not quite sure I would be where I am right now. Perhaps I’d be “behind”, or perhaps I’d be “ahead”. However, one of the most valuable things I discovered in this time was stoic philosophy- and as they say, it doesn’t matter what the environment we live in is or what Nature throws at us. All that matters is how we respond to it- and right now, I’m happy with how I’ve responded to the past couple of months.
Putting Them Back Together Again (and again and again…)
2019 was a huge year for me; I met long-time friends, I lost over 40 pounds in about three and a half months, I found the practice of karate again… but to achieve those things, I had to lose a lot of things first. And just like then, losing my systems and habits when the whole world was falling into disarray in the 2020 craziness took away a lot from me: when I say I fell apart, I really mean it. It felt like the rug was tugged out from under me and I had only a few things to hold on to. Sometimes, however, this foundation needs to be ripped from under us for us to move forward. Some say we need to take a step backward to take a step forward, but if you are pushed hundreds- if not thousands- of steps backward, don’t force yourself to follow the same trail. You never know which fork in the road you might be able to explore this time around.