What I Learnt in 2020

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“It doesn’t take much to surprise others, but to surprise oneself – now that is a great feat.” — Kristen Hartley

The pandemic is still raging. 1.75M people have died and everyone knows someone who’s suffered. Some who have recovered are still dealing with terrible Long Covid symptoms. However healthy the rest of us are fortunate to be, I think we’re all fatigued.

But somewhere, amidst the gloom, I hope it has been a revealing year for you.

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My leaps from 2020

At the start of the year, I’d mused that getting super honest with myself and everyone around me would revolutionise my life. I had no idea how true that would be.

It’s hard to be motivated enough to upend everything. Especially when life is never bad enough to force a change but never good enough to be truly satisfying. Pain and depression forced my hand. It feels as if the universe is giving me an opportunity to choose a new path, and I’m taking it. This became a year of massive, personal changes in every department – career, relationships, friendships, finance, home and health.

It’s not a mid–life crisis. I’m calling it a mid–life pause. It’s a great cleansing. The only way forward is with naked truth. Anything else is a waste of time.

Loving the small moments leads to a bigger life.

While I thought I was a loner, there is such a thing as being too alone.

I worried taking a break from the film industry after 25 years would be bittersweet, but it’s a relief. Something has to end to make space for something new. 

Moving countries never gets easy, however many times I do it. 

If I can’t talk freely about a relationship for any reason, it’s not the right relationship. 

I now make big decisions based on whether it complicates or simplifies my life.

I cracked a tooth and badly injured my back this summer. My dentist and physio doctor each said they were seeing unprecedented amounts of  cracked teeth and slipped discs respectively since April 2020. Our bodies always manifest our stress!

I don’t need to hold onto something to ensure I never forget it. If I do forget, it’s because I was meant to, so I could re-learn it when it mattered.

I feel sorry for those people who refused to adopt safety measures or change how they lived this year because (aside from being entitled, clueless morons) they missed out. Anything that is an opportunity to reset ourselves is a gift. Then again, it’s always those who most need to look hard at themselves are the ones who rarely do.

I’m making peace with how I will always move through this world feeling a little left out.

Give it three tries before making a decision (therapist, date, new shoes).

The way forward involves art.

I’ve worn makeup just a few times in the last six months (and one of them was to see if I still remembered how to apply eyeliner…). I haven’t plucked my eyebrows, dyed my hair or painted my nails since March. Perhaps I’ve unshackled myself from societal pressures, though I may just ricochet to the other end soon.

I used to believe being honest would hurt other people. But by not speaking my truth, I’d been hurting myself.

I no longer outsource guidance on what my body already knows.

I no longer freak out feeling my feelings. 

I no longer ask other people for advice.

Let us never forget that nature always has the last word. 

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Quotes that resonated most with me this year

“Had I not created my whole world, I would certainly have died in other people’s.” — Anaïs Nin

“Never love anyone who treats you like you’re ordinary.” ― Oscar Wilde

“If your nerve deny you, go above your nerve.” — Emily Dickinson

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Favourites of 2020

As always, I first came across the following this year, though some were released earlier. 

films

Greta Gerwig’s Little Women. Vibrant, moving, charming and all things right. Favourite!

Bong-Joon Ho’s Parasite is a close second. 

I finally watched Incendies, directed by Denis Villeneuve. Exemplary filmmaking. 

For most of this year, I could only tolerate light and fluffy. On that end, I enjoyed Always Be My Maybe, directed by Nahnatchka Khan. It has a cameo by my favourite star playing a dick version of himself. Fun!

documentaries

Outstanding film about James Baldwin, I Am Not Your Negro, directed by Raoul Peck. 

Crip Camp, directed by James Lebrecht & Nicole Newnham. Powerful documentary about what became the American Disability Act. Judith Heumann is an incredible force.

I’d been trying to watch this film for some years and finally managed to this year, and it didn’t disappoint: Morgan Neville’s Won’t You Be My Neighbour. It was as life-affirming and thought-provoking as I hoped it to be. 

The Social Dilemma, directed by Jeff Orlowski, was sufficiently alarming and made me revise all my online settings. 

shows

I got off Netflix earlier this summer and came back to it to watch The Crown S4. It didn’t disappoint – it’s the best season yet, and my favourite show.

I adored Love Life with Anna Kendrick, which resonated madly and was satisfying on every level. 

I appreciated The Morning Show largely for an important point they made about sexual predators, which I didn’t see get mentioned enough elsewhere (it’s a spoiler so I won’t say it here). 

I enjoyed Little Fires Everywhere. and remember these two lines from it: “It’s not my job to make your life bearable.” (Oh! I know at least ten people I wish I’d said that to…) And: “It’s the secrets that keep you alone, isolated from the ones you love.” So true.

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books 

I sought solace in favourite cosy, delightful books this year. Some new reads included:

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman was a fun, quick read. The ending didn’t wholly satisfy but that’s okay.

Mindy Kaling’s series of essays titled Nothing Like I Imagined, is really sharp and totally hilarious. I especially loved Kind of Hindu, Help is on the Way and Big Shot. (There are six in the series, sold separately though each one is very short; free on Amazon Prime.) 

Lori Gottlieb’s memoir, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, about a psychotherapist who consults another psychotherapist was hugely enjoyable, and I talked about it endlessly all year. 

Two books by Courtney Carver on simplicity (and I thought I knew everything about simplicity): Soulful Simplicity and Project 333. Both were enlightening, and the latter made me dramatically downsize my wardrobe (though that’s not the aim of the project). 

Destination Earth by Nicos Hadjicostis is a philosophical travel book, which opened my eyes in a way that no other travelogue or travel writing has done. 

Drawing again after nearly 30 years has, more than anything else this year, changed my life for the better. Two books gave me an inspired push in that direction:

Samantha Dion Baker’s Draw Your Day made sketching seem accessible. 

And Danny Gregory’s An Illustrated Journey, a collection of different artists sharing their travel sketch journals, was a real joy.

I’m only halfway through Julia Cameron’s The Artist Way, a justifiably legendary book outlining a 12–week programme for creatives. It’s a personal journey so won’t write too much about it, though I’d highly recommend it as it’s already had significant impact.

I first attempted the programme 20 years but gave up when I came to the week where reading is restricted. This time – having (almost) done Vipassana – I know the benefits of pausing external stimuli. So many incredible ideas bloomed that week and since! The world feels expansive in its possibilities.

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Finally

This is a new thought this week (see Artist’s Way, above) though now it feels inevitable: this will be my last blog post for a very long time. 

It has been a great privilege to be read by you for more than seven years. I’ve learnt so much about you and about myself in the process. 

I know you have so much kindness, curiosity and goodness – three qualities I prize above all else. 

I know you are from all over the world and – as someone who’s known many homes on many continents, yet no one place that is entirely my own – this tells me we are much more alike than some loud voices would have us believe. 

I know you have many dreams and many talents. I am honoured you have shared some with me.

For myself, I’ve learnt I have to first believe in my own possibility before anything can change. I have often hesitated, felt too fearful, worried about looking like a clueless idiot who got it wrong. 

I turn 50 in almost a year’s time. These milestones can be as monumental as needed, and I’m choosing to use it to propel me towards the bigger life I want. I don’t know all of it yet, but it’s likely to include travel and community, and it will certainly involve art. I hope it has love (that is, finding it). And I really want it to include discovery, wonder and magic. 

I hope you will stay in touch with me – this website will be here, even if it eventually evolves into something else – and let me know how you are. 

We can also always stay in touch on Instagram where I’m sharing my daily sketches.

I thank you again for being with me through this journey. It means the absolute world to me. 

With all my heart, I wish each of you a healthy and precious 2021, full of joy, connection and kindness.

With much love,

Nupu xx

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act. The rest is mere tenacity.” — Amelia Earhart

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10 thoughts on “What I Learnt in 2020

  1. Oh dear, last blog post and I’ve only recently found your blog… I guess I’ll have to console myself with the archives ;) Wishing you all the best and looking forward to seeing more of your sketches on Instagram!

    1. Thank you, Ania! It’s rather an impulsive decision to stop posting for now, but this will site exist in some form or another, so hopefully you’ll find something here to return to eventually. Sending best wishes to you for 2021 and yes, will be lovely to connect on Instagram.

  2. Refreshing and beautiful as always. May 2021 be full of kindness, happiness and healthiness.
    p.s. -Maybe you should talk to someone- excellent read.

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