Man… how is it September already? 2020 has simultaneously been just the longest, looooongest year while also seeming way to short to have had so much happen. With COVID-19, and the protests, natural disasters, extreme weather, murder hornets, and the many, many deaths of loved ones and public figures, 2020 seems like a b*tch of a year, and these final 3 months seem to be screaming ‘I bet you’re wondering what’s happening next?’
But I was reminded of a very profound truth while scrolling Instagram last weekend. This year has nothing to do with whats happening, 2020 just happened to be the year that this all came to the forefront and reminded us about the important things that effect us all. And these things existed before 2020 even started, but its up to us as to how long they last. ‘Cause they won’t simply disappear when the clock strikes 00:00 on the 1st of January 2021. It’s not a magic spell, a curse that will be broken at the magic moment. Many of these things are problems of our own making, and therefore only we can fix them. So this year needn’t be remembered as the worst year in history because of what happened. But it could be the year that everything changed, and everyone played their part to change the world for the better.
Now I am definitely not claiming to have all the answers, far from it. In actuality I feel that I have a significant place as part of the problem. But I want to be part of the solution, and I’m sure many of you reading also want to contribute to solutions too. As this is my page, I’m going to share how I believe we can begin to fix what we we know to be broken, or at least learn how we can try:
1) CLIMATE CHANGE
There is no point beating around the bush here, climate change is real and it’s killing people and our planet. Here in Korea, we have had the worst flooding on record for over 50 years, one of the hottest summers in record and 3, yes 3, typhoons. This weather has completely battered the country, and it is directly caused by the impact the world has had on the environment. We are seeing extreme and deadly weather all around the world. Wildfires, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, derechos, landslides and mass infestations of pests. can all be linked to human impact. While some may say “what difference can one person make?” think about it this way, if every person thinks that their one action wont make a difference what if instead every person instead thought “together, our impact can change everything.”
While I may not be an expert, nor do I have the financial resources to be able to go completely green, I have tried to make whatever changes I can and there are more that I would like to make. While this isn’t a complete list, I do have some ideas and tips of my own that I want to share with you:
- Try to buy food without plastic packaging and use those bags for life you have stuffed in a cupboard somewhere. You can buy reusable bags that will just fold up and fit in your work bag or handbag, or you can leave them in your car boot so that you have them every time you pop to the supermarket.
- While we’re at it, avoid supermarkets! Visit market, or a farm shop, or if possible try to grow some of your own food. Even a small windowsill can host tomato plants, spring onions and herbs. You can use food leftovers to give your plant babies a little extra nourishment, coffee grounds and eggshells can be really useful, and using them will mean less waste. Supermarkets produce tonnes of plastic waste every year, and 10 million tonnes of food and drink waste. To avoid this altogether, make conscious efforts to buy food straight from the source or from the grower. In the same way, buying from smaller organisations or businesses is actually better for you! And for small businesses!
- Use reusable coffee cups, and straws, its a small purchase that can last years and through many, many uses. You can even purchase fold-able cups, straws or bottles so it doesn’t take up too much space. And they’re super easy to clean so there is no reason not to use them.
- Ladies, people who menstruate, stop buying menstrual products and do it now! This month I used a menstrual cup for the first time and I can’t stop recommending it to people. Its simple to use, no leaks and it means I never have to buy pads or tampons again, not only saving the environment but also saving me so much money
- Stop buying kitchen towels, plastic wrap and wet tissues. It’s terrible waste and honestly they just don’t work as well as you might like. Its relatively simple to create a paperless kitchen, and to make reusable cloths to use instead of plastic wrap, and the best thing about it all, you can design them to look exactly how you’d like. The dream of having a perfectly coordinated kitchen., could be even closer then you think!
2) RACISM, SEXISM & DISCRIMINATION
First, we must acknowledge that right now, all over the world, and throughout history, there are things that are neither right nor righteous. Throughout history, full self-expression, equal rights, and basic human dignity has been discounted, challenged or not offered at all for some people. Racism, sexism and discrimination takes many forms, active and subtle, conscious and unconscious. Before we can be part of the solution, we need work to understand the problem.
Educate yourself. Learn to be comfortable with the fact that actually, no, you don’t know everything and you aren’t as faultless as you think. CEO of North Star Forward Consulting, Lillian Green explains that racism, and many other forms of discrimination therefore, breaks down into four dimensions: internalised, interpersonal, institutional and systemic. Internalised discrimination refers to our own thoughts, feelings and actions, conscious and unconscious, as an individual. Institutional discrimination, is connected to the policies and practices that reinforce racists standards within a workplace or organisation (an institution). Interpersonal discrimination: acts of discrimination between one person and another (this is how most of us have been taught to see discrimination). And finally, systemic discrimination. This is how the other three dimensions are allowed thrive in society, both openly and in the shadows. “This is a type of [discrimination] that has been normalised in all the systems which we engage in,” Green says. It is our duty to not only learn about how these types of discrimination exist, but what our roles are in dismantling them. Whether that means speaking up, speaking out, pitching in, studying hard or shutting up and allowing someone the space and platform they need.
Whether its racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, or even discrimination based on relationship status, pregnancy or maternity, or even religious belief, we all have a duty to do, and encourage better. In every aspect of our lives, work and relationships.
3) ACTS OF LOVE
More than anything, we need to be more loving. And we need to change the ways that we express our love and appreciation of one another, and the things we hold most dear. Being abroad, and now even being away from my friends, colleagues and students in Korea because of Corona Virus, I have learned the hard way about valuing human connection (and human contact). It has become my habit to now end phone calls with my family with an “I love you” because I know how important it is to say, and to remind people that they are loved. I’ve even been saying it to my friends more and more, because you never know who needs to hear it. Including myself. For so much of this year I was really struggling. I can’t lie, I have been really unhappy for a large part of this year, and I didn’t act in a way that was loving to myself.
When someone we love is struggling to sleep well, eat well or take care of themselves, we want to help them. We gently help when needed, but we also give tough love when needed to. We give them reasons to get up, get washed and do things each day. So why don’t we do the same with ourselves. It may sound easier said than done, but I can say that I’ve finally started doing it, so you can too. The advice that the WHO gives about staying mentally healthy is a great place to start and to base your own well-being journey. But it’s important to make sure it works most effectively for you. But here are the basics anyway:
- Keep informed but ensure it’s accurate.
- Have a routine (, Get up and go to bed at similar times every day, Keep up with personal hygiene, Eat healthy meals at regular times, Exercise regularly, Allocate time for working and time for resting, Make time for doing things you enjoy)
- Minimise newsfeeds. Try to reduce how much you watch, read or listen to news that makes you feel anxious or distressed.
- Social contact is important. If your movements are restricted, keep in regular contact with people close to you by telephone and online channels.
- Limit the amount of alcohol you drink or don’t drink alcohol at all. Don’t start drinking alcohol if you have not drunk alcohol before. Avoid using alcohol and drugs as a way of dealing with fear, anxiety, boredom and social isolation.
- Be aware of how much time you spend in front of a screen every day. Make sure that you take regular breaks from on-screen activities.
- While video games can be a way to relax, it can be tempting to spend much more time on them than usual when at home for long periods.
- Use your social media accounts to promote positive and hopeful stories. Correct misinformation wherever you see it.
- Help others. If you are able to, offer support to people in your community who may need it, such as helping them with food shopping.
- Support health workers. Take opportunities online or through your community to thank your country’s health-care workers and all those working to respond to COVID-19.
- Don’t discriminate. Be kind. Don’t discriminate against people because of your fears of the spread of COVID-19. Don’t discriminate against people who you think may have coronavirus. Don’t discriminate against health workers. Health workers deserve our respect and gratitude. COVID-19 has affected people from many countries. Don’t attribute it to any specific group.
Remember, fear is a normal reaction in situations of uncertainty. But sometimes fear is expressed in ways which are hurtful to other people. The best way to combat fear and uncertainty is to love, whether that is loving yourself and others.
As I said before, I don’t have all the answers. In fact what I have are questions more than anything else. So I want to leave you with a question. How can you make a change this yeah? What can you do to make this year, this stressful, painful, and unexpected year an opportunity for growth? Please let me know in the comments what changes or goals you might want to start this year, or even if you want to let me know any other suggestions you have about the topics I included in this post. And I hope you are all safe, that you know you are valued and how much I love you, even if I’ve not had the pleasure of meeting you.