What a year 2020 was. Unprecedented, unpredictable, unrelenting, unjust.
As the year came to an end, two friends brought up Year Compass as a tool for reflecting and intentionally planning for the new year. I'm only about halfway through as I'm giving myself permission to go slowly but have already found it helpful in facing the year that was. This year, they've also got a pandemic supplement to try to process the messiness that was. And - it's completely free.
Here's a quick round-up of 3 personal reflections and 3 professional outcomes from 2020.
Personally, this year forced me to spend a lot of time in my own company.
- Leaning into self-reflection and growth: This year brought about a lot of inward change: making strides towards minimalism, learning more about zero-waste living, setting boundaries around my energy/time/work/worth, figuring out my (non)interactions with social media, taking more control of my personal finances, getting clear about my values and basically taking aligned action in all areas. I've been taking more time to sit with all the things and figure out how to create a life I want, do the work I care about and in a way that honours my body and mind.
- Essay I wrote early in April 2020: Chronic Illness, Access and Non-Productivity during COVID-19
- Dealing with more unexpected health hurdles: As I continue to balance having multiple chronic symptoms, it has been challenging to lose the external supports that I used to rely on because of the pandemic and the lockdowns. I spent a good several months of the year recovering from a semi-serious concussion, and the reliance on tech to communicate made recovering from a concussion at this time quite isolating. It is what it is.
- Free tool I've been using to access different types of meditation tracks: Insight Timer
- Sharing and continuous gratitude for what is: I'm fortunate that my housing and financial situation have been stable and that I've been able to do what I can to support those around me in my immediate circle and more broadly. As a PhD student, this is not often the case and the reason I can do this is through the Vanier Scholarship and I have never been more grateful and relieved to have a recurring source of funding.
There are so many community groups responding to the rising need stemming from systemic issues, here are just a couple responding to increased homelessness, food insecurity, injustice in Toronto:
Professionally, I am incredibly grateful and fortunate that I've been able to do work at the intersections of public health x equity x public space:
- Completed PhD Comprehensive 2: For my PhD, I was finally able to complete my second comprehensive exam - an interdisciplinary course syllabus and lectures on "Critical Perspectives on Race, Place and Health" (after having to postpone it several months due to the concussion). I'm proud of this work and look forward to it finding places to land and resonate.
- Collaborated on a project with The Bentway Conservancy: I was able to take on a creative project with The Bentway Conservancy's Safe in Public Space Initiative, a self-guided audio tour through two neighbourhoods in downtown Toronto exploring the links between public space and public health from an equity lens - "The Unequal Urban: Exploring Health Equity and Public Space Across Two Toronto Neighbourhoods." You can check the project here - you can either physically move through all the stops and listen to the audio tracks or the script and photos are also available. The resource/reference list is available here.
- Other opportunities to discuss taking health equity and intersectional anti-racism lenses to creating equitable, healthy built and natural environments.
- CBC article: Finding a patch of green: COVID-19 highlights inequities in Toronto park space, experts say (July, 2020)
- Park People Webinar From 7 Questions Series: Biodiversity Webinar Key Insights and Recording (Nov 2020)
- One from the archives by Jake Tobin Garrett, Park People: When it comes to parks, it's quality that counts (2017)
Lessons learned and things to take forward:
- Relationships above all. I have an incredible support network and I couldn't have made it through 2020 without the people who brought me food and groceries, accompanied me to doctor's appointments and medical tests, checked in on me and provided virtual emotional support and nurtured me when I couldn't do it for myself. I hold these relationships and hope to continue nurturing them.
- I can't take care of others if I don't take care of me first. Like many, I still struggle with asking for support/help. I have trauma and triggers that spill out and affect those around me if I don't do the work myself. I'm working to dispel myself of the notion that taking care of myself is selfish. I'm trying to do the work.
- Aligned work with aligned people. The projects and work I take on moving forward need to be aligned with my values/principles. This is where I learn, grow and feel like I can make a contribution. I'm excited about what's to come.
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE TO CHECK OUT
Why We Should Prioritize Slowing Down
We all seem to be rushed off our feet. We know all too well the pressures that face those of us trying to earn a living while pursuing something we are passionate about and just to live a meaningful life. Being intentional about our lives starts with slowing down. In some ways, this piece is more relevant today than when I first wrote it. Read more.
Labels have power. They can inspire but they can also box us in and feel limiting. I've grappled with what it means to be a cancer survivor and how this impacts my identity and sense of self. Read more.
I'm doing and sharing work, resources and information at the intersections of public health x equity x public space. For more on Research (Questioning): articles, evidence, knowledge of all kinds, Lived Experiences (Being): stories, art, community, connections and Practice & Action (Doing): curated resources, advocacy, workshops, join up to my free newsletter. Sign up here.