Along with the rest of the world, I’m forging ahead into 2021, making 2020 a distant memory.
I thought 2020 would be a year to remember. I had a new full-time job, the best health I’d had in years, and travel plans to see my best friend from elementary school.
It certainly was a year to remember, but for all the wrong reasons. Before February was even over, I watched all my plans begin to evaporate. The pandemic confined me to my home. Then, my health took a sudden downturn. By midyear, my full-time contract job was eliminated.
Most people would have been overwhelmed by experiencing these life changes all at once. However, having Crohn’s and primary sclerosing cholangitis more than half my life led to the resilience and adaptability that got me through the worst of 2020. The disappointment and the setbacks gave me focus for 2021.
All work, and now, play
In retrospect, losing my job became a blessing. The company had already cut my hours and salary in May, shortly after I began having elevated liver enzymes. My anxiety grew as I worried about making up lost work time for medical appointments.
By the time my job ended at the beginning of July, I was going in for weekly bloodwork. Without the pressure of missing work, my health took precedence as my transplant and gastroenterology teams worked to normalize my liver function.
Between medical appointments, I continued to send out job applications and freelance project proposals. I’ve had more first and second rounds of interviews than I can remember, but no job offers. As the end of the year came into view, I became even more discouraged.
Then, I remembered the vow I made to myself after my liver transplant: I swore that I wouldn’t let my job take priority over my life. I had let that happen during the first half of 2020. To balance my job with other commitments, I sacrificed sleep and time with my husband.
I’ve changed my career outlook for 2021. From experience, I know the perfect opportunity will come along when the time is right. Until then, I’ve been enjoying my downtime with pastimes that bring me joy.
Cheerful giving and grateful receiving
With more free time, I discovered that my neighborhood has a Buy Nothing Facebook page. The Buy Nothing Project is a worldwide social movement that encourages people in a community or neighborhood to give, borrow, and receive rather than buying something new or throwing out perfectly usable but unwanted items.
Since joining the group, I’ve decluttered my garage and spare bedrooms, which have become home to little-used knickknacks and souvenirs of my past life. Now, these treasures have found new life with my neighbors. In the process, I found long-forgotten craft projects that I never had time to finish, including a parol — a Filipino Christmas lantern made of paper — that I started at least 10 years ago.
This inspired me to create more. If I didn’t have the necessary craft supplies, I asked for them on the Buy Nothing page. Neighbors fulfilled my requests, which allowed me to avoid spending money and risk exposure by going to the store. Pretty soon, I began receiving as much as I was giving.
The sourdough starter a neighbor gifted me turned out to be the gift that keeps on giving. First of all, the process of keeping the sourdough alive has rekindled my love of baking. I’ve been baking every week, especially after I learned I can make goodies like sugar cookies and biscuits in addition to crusty sourdough bread. Also, the more I feed the starter, the more sourdough I have to share with neighbors and friends so they can make their own.
In 2020, I was so focused on living up to others’ expectations. The Buy Nothing group has reminded me to take time to nurture my creativity. Even though I work in a creative field, I’m going to spend 2021 making art and food that bring me joy.
A year of hope with no expectations
Most people say that when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. To me, that means making a good situation better. For us Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis patients, I think a more appropriate saying would be when life is crap, use it as fertilizer.
2020 gave all of us a life we never asked for and one that nobody wants again. Instead of wallowing in the stink of last year, though, I’m using the lessons I learned to feed the seeds of hope. Not all of them will sprout in 2021, but some will flourish, and I’ll reap the bounty that comes from not giving up.
Note: IBD News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of IBD News Today, or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to IBD.
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