Things can change from year to year, and there was no better example of that than 2020, which was about as different from 2019 as you could get, thanks to the pandemic.

And now, 2021 is turning out to be a lot different than 2020, too The pandemic’s still with us, but most of us aren’t in lockdown mode anymore, and millions of people have been vaccinated. As changes keep coming our way, we’re trying to figure out which lessons to take from last year and which bad memories to leave behind.

From career to personal life, 2020 has left us plenty of takeaways, and a lot of “leave-behinds,” too! Here are just some of the things I learned during what I call The Year of Living Strangely.

Working from home can help us identify our strengths

I was fortunate not to catch the virus or need to go into full-fledged quarantine (although, of course, I adopted social distancing like everyone else). Being a work-from-home mom as it is, I didn’t have to make the same adjustments some of my friends did in adapting to remote work.

In fact, since I create online courses for students, the pandemic tapped into skills that are right in my wheelhouse, which got me thinking: We all have skills and talents that can be adapted to working from home. We just have to identify and apply them.

So I did a little exercise. I decided to write down my strengths on a sheet of paper (because I needed a break from the computer screen!) and see how I could use them on my next home-based entrepreneurial project. I identified my skills at planning and communicating as key jumping-off points for my next professional adventure.

You can try the same thing. What will you find, and how will you apply it?

The worst can happen, but we can make the best of it

One important lesson I learned from 2020 is that I’m not invincible. I’ve always thought of myself that way, but when my next-door neighbor caught COVID and spent a week in the hospital, I realized how fragile life can be.

It wasn’t an excuse to get down or scared, though; it was more of a wake-up call. I tend to get so involved in my work that I forget to enjoy other aspects of my life, so I decided to change that. I started spending more quality time with my two daughters, and I sat down to put some serious thought into planning for their future.

I opened each a savings account for their college education — something I’d been putting off — and I wrote out an estate planning checklist for when I’m not here anymore. I made it a positive exercise to celebrate my life, and I started a personal scrapbook for them to keep later on. In the meantime, it was encouraging for me to look back on what a great life I’ve lived so far.

Even when the world seems to stop, it really doesn’t

There were times last year when it seemed like the world came to a screeching halt. Social outings, shopping excursions, dinners out, even visits with friends and family all ended. There weren’t even many cars on the road. Sometimes it felt like the whole world was a ghost town.

But in reality, the world kept right on turning, and my responsibilities in my family’s financial support system didn’t stop. That meant maximizing my earning power so I could keep paying those bills, while also keeping a cushion in case something went wrong.

So I created another checklist, to make sure my financial foundations were in place: Savings account? Check. Insurance? Check. Credit? Check … but that’s something I know I have to stay on top of, so I ordered a free credit report to find out for sure where I stood. I also made it my business to keep current on my payments so I could build my credit even further.

It’s OK not to be at your peak all the time

I tend to push myself, which has always helped me, both in business and as a mom. Sometimes, I push my girls too hard, and I’ve had to learn to give them room to fail, but I didn’t learn that lesson for myself until the pandemic hit.

After a while, I noticed I was starting to feel burned out when I hadn’t before. It wasn’t from working alone, but more from everything required of me to keep working during the pandemic. At first, I didn’t know what was happening, but then I read that more than 42% of people surveyed in December 2020 said they were having symptoms of depression or anxiety, compared to just 11% the year before.

I checked in with my doctor, started exercising more, and gave myself permission not to be perfect 100% of the time. Once I took that pressure off myself, I started to feel better. Not perfect, but better. And I learned that “perfect” isn’t really achievable, anyway. The best I can do is be the most perfect version of myself at this moment in time!

So there you have it: four lessons I learned during the pandemic that made a difference for me. What lessons have you learned that made a difference in your life? Maybe you make checklists like I did, or maybe you’ve discovered your own methods of getting through difficult times. We’re all learning, and things continue to evolve. Here’s to a different — and better — year ahead!

Jessica Larson is a married mom in the Midwest, and a solopreneur with a goal of earning a decent income for her family without sacrificing the scheduling flexibility that lets her actually spend time with them. She’s become a sort of a “serial entrepreneur,” starting and running several successful businesses through the years. Currently, she createc online courses for students, which are either taught live by her or accessed later at their convenience. It’s especially important for Jessica to act as a role model for her two young daughters, to show them how to dream big, realize their ambitions, and “be the boss” in whatever ways they want.


Image courtesy of Anna Shvets.