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  • Shannon Brault

And that's a wrap...



I don’t think I need to sit here and type that this year has been a whirlwind. I think we all get the point by now. What I wasn’t expecting was to look back and see the growth that came with this year. I figured since this year put a lot of things on pause, it would feel like that was on pause too, but that was not the case.


In this post, I’m going to be talking about my own personal experiences and lessons learned in 2020, but it is impossible to reflect on the year without the context of the year that has affected everyone in different ways. There are so many things that happened this year that we need to acknowledge and take with us instead of letting these events turn into just another moment that we move on without. 2020 brought the deaths of George Floyd, among many other Black men and women who were killed at the hands of police. This, along with the obvious pandemic, has really shown people’s true colors and who will go out of their way to care about and for other people. Social media has made people’s lives very public and this year, this has shown if people are social distancing, wearing masks, and lifting up marginalized voices. You could see when people went on vacations, went to parties, and were continuing life as if nothing was happening outside of their bubbles. It has personally taught me a lot about the people in my life and in some cases has taught me who is taking this pandemic seriously and who is putting in the work to make this world a better place. With that being said, this work is never done and there is so much that all of us can do to improve. I wanted to preface this post by acknowledging that the work in both race relations and the pandemic are far from over.


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For people that have been in my life for a while, you know that I have been keeping a journal for four years now in which I sit down and write down the positive things that happen every day, and the things that I want to remember in an effort to remind myself that even when things aren’t great, there is beauty in every day. I finished up my 2020 journal today and looked back at the entirety of this year for this post.


January started out pretty lonely over my winter break, but it was also super busy. I went from orientation at UMN, to leaving for a 10-day trip the next day, to starting school and coaching the day after I got back. I also had a few ski races thrown in when I got back, so I had a lot going on. January was so special since I got to go on the Civil Rights Pilgrimage, where I got to learn the history that isn’t taught in school, meet some lifelong friends, and make some memories that I will take with me forever. I also transferred which was a huge turning point and growth point for me. It was a big change and it was part of the process I will be in for years to come of figuring out the world. February was more school and coaching, declaring my major, and completing my first Birkie which was so hard, but quite fun. Perhaps the coolest thing that happened this year was being interviewed and featured in the WithAll gala video. Being apart of WithAll, the gala prep, and that video was incredible and I feel so lucky to have had that in my life.




Of course, March brought Covid and I don’t think I need to go into how that affected me because there are many more important things to focus on from the year. March-August was super tough mental health-wise, it took me until August to find a therapist and get some information that helped me take the next steps, but it was all part of the process.


Throughout the year I watched more Netflix shows and series than I would like to admit, more Youtube than I would like to admit, and more cliche romcoms than I would like to admit. I made playlists, took up sewing, had some weird cooking endeavors, listened to so many podcasts, and read a lot of books. I also got most of my social interaction through phone calls with friends across the country and halfway around the world (Thank goodness for technology this year because I miss them so much!)


I’ve also met some of my closest friends within the last year, even if I’ve only seen them a few times in person. They are some of my favorite people and my heart feels so full to have them in my life. I feel a lot closer with the people in my life and more distant from a lot of people simultaneously, which is a weird thing to navigate. I was stressing myself out most of the year feeling like I’m behind and not succeeding in life and college, but I know that’s been a common theme for a lot of people this year. I woke up and did my best every day, and that's all any of us can really do.





There were so many different eras and themes of this year, but one overarching theme I have found is that I’ve really reconnected with a lot of parts of myself that I tried to hide for so long. I’ve had more than enough time to reflect alone on who I am and I realized that there were so many parts of me that I hid because I constantly fear being too much for people. I never felt like I had a group of people that accepted me fully, but how can other people accept me if I haven’t fully accepted parts of me in fear that other people won’t? (What a cycle) I’ve focused on setting healthy boundaries, checking in with myself, and focusing on what I truly want to do and be instead of what I think others are expecting of me. This year has also reemphasized that quality means so much more than quantity any day of the week. I am much more fulfilled by my strong small-group friendships than I am by being in a big group of people.




I’ve learned how to take breaks (for the most part), which is huge. For a good portion of the year, when I got overwhelmed, I would turn my phone off for the day and read a book, or go hike at a state park. Of course, I couldn’t do this with school because I was a busy bee, but there were other ways around that. I'm a go-go-go kind of person, so having things slow down and really taking in what's happening around me was a really important lesson. I also learned that I'm allowed to take these breaks. I'm allowed to set boundaries with people, activities, and the news. I'm allowed to take a step back. We're all allowed to check in with ourselves and take care of our own needs, and quite frankly, we all need to learn how to do it. It's not selfish to take care of yourself. Checking in on people is also something that is really important to me. I focus so much on trying to make sure that other people are happy, that I forget to ask myself if I'm doing okay. This year taught me that sometimes you simply do not have the energy to "do it all" and that's okay. A friend told me recently that they were certain I could handle it all, but that doesn't mean that I should have to. That has stuck with me and I think everyone should learn that.


Speaking of things that friends and people in my life have told me that have stuck with me this year - I wanted to make a list of a few of them because I think they can speak for themselves:


  1. You're allowed to show up with all of your personality. You're allowed to be big and take up space. You don't have to shrink yourself to make other people comfortable.

  2. Someone else doesn't have to be wrong for you to be right.

  3. Being brave isn't always flashy and being a leader isn't always obvious.

  4. Nobody succeeds alone.

  5. Just because someone else is winning, doesn't mean you're failing.

  6. You will eventually settle where you need to be. There will be ups and downs along the way, but you will get to where you need to be.

  7. You don't have to have it all figured out.


This year has been a whirlwind for more reasons than one. I really wanted to stay away from the cliches, but it's the truth. Looking back on the year is weird considering that I haven't processed a lot of it and my mind still thinks that it's March, but it's also crazy to see the amount of growth I have personally made from the beginning of the year. I look back on days in my journal and I can feel the difference between the mindset that I had then, and the one that I have now. I feel stronger and more at peace with myself than I have in a while and this year has made me realize so many things about myself that I either ignored before or just never knew.


It was a trying year for us all, but I am so incredibly proud of all of you reading this and myself for making it through. You're kicking ass and I hope you're proud of yourselves as well.



Onto another year, another day, and more learning and growing.


With much love, remember that you are a badass,


Shannon










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