Looking for balance in life, work, and relationships. #1000 days because the first 365 were pretty easy.
86909 words

Lesson 13: Anxiety


20 Lessons From 2020

It's not hard for me to be anxious. To live in that weird state of constantly being afraid. Of simple, normal things. But also of the big thing that is life as a whole.

I've struggled with it for a long time, and still do from time to time. It's gotten under control now, I'd say.

I went into this year in a very weird personal situation that carried quite a lot of anxiety with it. It spiked truly at the end of January. Then it calmed down. And then the pandemic happened, and it spiked again. It stayed there for some time. But then, around May, it fell. I felt more calm than ever before in my life. This has carried through up until now, with a few minor exceptions.

Anxiety doesn't happen out of nothing. It's a response our body gives; a symptom, not a cause. The only way to minimize it is to find its cause. Maybe it's ego. Maybe a weak identity. Maybe too much input. Maybe not enough output. Or the other way around. The cause can be anything and everything, but it is there, and it can be solved. Don't be anxious of being anxious. If you can't fix the cause yourself, seek help. It's not an easy task.

Don't try to get rid of anxiety without looking for the cause(s).

Lesson thirteen: see behind the symptoms.

Lesson 12: Flexibility


20 Lessons From 2020

For a long time I tried to figure out what it means to be flexible.

I wanted to be able to adapt to the ever-changing world. To be responsive, tender, available when needed.

But I knew too much flexibility meant little identity, a weak moral compass, poor decision-making.

How to balance this out? How to be flexible enough but not too much?

This year I came up with a hierarchy for the things I do in life:


On the bottom there are values. These are the foundations. The things I most deeply believe in. They take time to shape, to build up. Values are what everything else is based on, and I care about them very deeply. They allow me to have an identity, to be coherent in my actions. To know what to do in an emergency.

Then there are systems. Notice how small this layer is compared to others. Systems should be invisible - that's when they work best. Systems are the ways I think, organize, interact, communicate. They're also intentionally built, like values, but they're built more on-the-go.

At the top, of course, there are actions - the things I actually do. They take up most space, because I focus on them most. That focus allows me to be flexible, spontaneous, not too rigid. I'm willing to do things I've never done before. An emphasis on living an interesting life.

This visualization finally allowed me to understand how to know what to do, but also do whatever comes my way.

Lesson twelve: values -> systems -> actions.

Lesson 11: Pressure


20 Lessons From 2020

I changed my view on pressure in the aspect of work quite a few times. Some times I thought it was the necessary evil, the powerful good, or the absolute atrocity. Last year I hinged onto the "necessary evil" approach.

Now I'm back on the atrocity side.

I hate being pressured to work on something. I hate pressuring others to work on something. If someone doesn't want to do something, then why they should do it?

Working under pressure takes a toll. And the bill you have to pay is (in my opinion) always bigger than the benefit of having done the work. Thus, everyone should focus on doing only stuff they want to do, and eradicate pressure from their work.

It's not a flip of a switch, but is something that we should strive for in the long term. Almost all of us do some things under pressure; that's fine. But the goal should be to minimize that as much as possible.

Let's enjoy the live we have, aye? Do amazing work, meaningfully, willingly, without killing ourselves over it.

Lesson eleven: don't put others under pressure; don't let yourself be put under it.

Lesson 10: Ego


20 Lessons From 2020

Ego is my worst enemy - knew that for a while. Been fighting it for a long time.

This year provided the opportunity for a fascinating experiment. Ego acts up most when in front of an audience - but, this year, no one was watching. Not in the traditional sense at least. There was a lot of solitude, much more than ever before. It was more of a blow to the ego than I could've ever wished.

(Un)surprisingly, the results were real good; that lack of audience to perform in front of, that forced solitude, helped. Summer was the best summer in a long time, in that I didn't carry the mental weight and anxiety from the academic year. Ego got a restraining order. It didn't learn how to perform over Zoom, haha.

Still much work lies ahead of me in that regard. But at least now I know one more tactic to help me with the work.

Lesson ten: to best fight the ego, simply remove its air supply.

Lesson 9: Privileges


20 Lessons From 2020

It's easy to want more. More things, cool stuff, people, experiences.

What we don't realize here in the developed world is that we already have more.

We have more of almost everything. More freedom, more resources, more health, more time even, since we don't have to care about basic survival.

All of these are privileges - things some people have, but others don't, and they give an advantage to people who have them.

These privileges should on their own fulfill any desire for more. I already have more, I don't need more more. All I need is to use the "more" I have to help others who don't have as much as I do.

With great power comes great responsibility.

Lesson nine: you have all that you need, so don't bitch around.

Lesson 8: Control


20 Lessons From 2020

Out of all the thins I dislike about myself there's one that I dislike the most: the need for control.

It got burned so hard this year. In so many deliriously beautiful ways. This year things that I had controlled, or I thought I had controlled were taken away, not just pandemic-related stuff.

Control gives you the illusion that everything is right, that everything is yours, so it has to be right. It's truly the peak of ego. And one that I embraced for too long. It's the worst thing I've ever done; trying to control.

Lesson eight: let the world be, let yourself be.

Lesson 7: Small


20 Lessons Of 2020

Big is impressive. Big is overwhelmingly impressive. Even if it takes little effort; only the results need to be big. Oh, and big is sexy. It just is, and we all love it by nature.

This year, for the first time, truly, I started to appreciate small. Small results, small growth, small effect. Tiny things that are nothing when directly compared to what I consider big.

I was the fool that wanted to get everything all at once. I rushed, rushed so fast no one could catch up. But life ain't fun when you're blazing so fast through it.

The process is the beauty. Small results are beautiful results. And they last.

Lesson seven: live to be small, live to last.

Lesson 6: Listen In


20 Lessons From 2020

This year, especially around April and May, I changed my listening patterns. In a metaphorical sense.

I used to listen to (care about, talk with, interact with) a lot of people. I kinda felt connected to all of them, all at the same time. I had a lot of people in my DMs.

But, when the pandemic obstructed these habits, something really changed in me. I started to listen deeply; to myself, to the few people I stayed in close contact with. I never experienced this in my life; with less connection I had better connection.

Not seeing anybody in person for 4 months was weird. And stressful. Uncomfortable. But, when I finally saw them again, I could see their whole being, their humanity, as a whole, beautiful, fragile, but virtuous thing.

And I saw my humanity as a whole thing.

Lesson six: don't dig many shallow holes, but few deep ones.

Lesson 5: Helping


20 Lessons From 2020

Helping, giving yourself to others is truly the most important activity in one's life.

Sure, you've got to have some resources built up to be able to give. You can't overlook your own sanity, capacities, growth, and pleasures.

I've helped quite a lot this year. It's nothing compared to doctors and paramedics who volunteered tons of extra time to fight the pandemic. But, in my little personal scale, I've done a lot more than in previous years.

It was tiring, challenging. Unfulfilling, at times. (When you're working 12 hours a day for free it simply may be at times).

But the fact that even just a single person benefited from the help is all I need to feel fulfilled.

That's how I want to live my life.

Lesson five: help whenever help is needed.

Lesson 4: Guarantee


20 Lessons From 2020

You take many things for granted. You feel like the world is outside your control, it's un-changeable. Nothing can break it.

Everything in our society is a construct. A contract between anyone taking part in it. All it takes is the parties simply voiding the contract. Puff, it's just gone.

The only thing that can be guaranteed are your values. And the degree you adhere to them. If you adhere to them. Everything else, everybody else, can only be expected, not guaranteed.

If there'd be no doubt, there'd be no fun.

Lesson four: everything changes, nothing perishes.

Lesson 3: Projections


20 Lessons From 2020

It's cool to know people. Even cooler to know people that are cool. Friends, family, partners? All for it.

Remember one key thing: what you have in your head is just a projection of that person. A projection made by your mind. It may differ significantly from the real person. And it usually does.

The worst thing you can do is ignore this fact; it will truly ruin any relations you have with people. Respect their boundaries, their capacities. Always assume your projection might be wrong, and never base critical decisions on it without trying to learn more about the person.

Lesson three: differentiate people in your head vs people as they are.

Lesson 2: Effortless


20 Lessons From 2020

Texting is convenient. It's asynchronous. It's available. It's effortless.

My generation loves texting. Everybody has all these messaging apps, and they spend a lot of time on them. That's just how we roll. Our parents call; we text.

Texting is great in addition to normal conversation. But it cannot be a replacement. Maybe it can be the primary medium in work-related communication. But not in personal stuff.

It ruined a few things for me this year. It made a few relations so shallow, so effortless.

I want relations that require effort, require work.

Work that pays off.

Lesson two: less text, more talk.

Lesson 1: Absolutism


Welcome to 20 Lessons From 2020 - a series of 20 posts written during the last 20 days of 2020. These are the main things I learned in this, truly, different year. I'm writing this as much for you as for myself - a reminder for the future.

There are things you may want. People you may want. Experiences you may want. And you may work really hard to get them. That's absolutely fine.

Once you're working towards something, especially when that is of value, it's easy to believe it will fix your problems. Be the one thing that makes your life fuller.

If you fail getting that thing (no matter if it's a physical things, a person, an experience, whatever), don't ever see it as the absolute solution.

Lesson one: never ever think in absolute terms, especially about people.

Let It Through


As time goes by, we build an armor around ourselves. A shell, so to say.

To protect us from the darkness of this world. To let us live every day; to not bury us with the hardships. It's a protective element, and almost all of us have developed it to some extent.

Yet, it's incredibly easy to build it too thick, to develop a level of apathy. To not feel; to not let things through. To become numb, block all incoming signal. This may happen both unintentionally and intentionally. But it's always absolute in its effects.

When you reach that point, you start depriving yourself of your own humanity. It starts to fade away, as you move forward into the grayness of your own void.

Let it through, let it in. Let it break you. Let yourself fall.

Don't avoid darkness, you'll never see light then.

Seven Days


I haven't written anything on my daily blog for seven days.

There, I said it.

I knew this moment would come; it was not an if, it was a when.

Frankly, I expected that it'd happen during an ultra-turbulent period of my life. While, sure, many things are happening right now, it's not as severe as I thought it'd be.

Writing daily has become such a key component of who I am, what I do, how I think, that living without writing daily was an interesting experiment to undertake. After all, I literally did it for 561 straight.

On one hand, I felt free. Seriously, it felt like someone gave me permission to let go, to do whatever I want. Now, I didn't have to delay getting into the bed in the evening. There was no blog to write.

Soon, two things hit me. First, I had no place to express my thoughts. And that showed during the day. I had ideas, but they were left to rot in my mind. Loosing their value and relevance, and at the same time occupying my brain unnecessarily. Awful.

It's good to be back.