2020 realisations: Lessons learned in a year of inclement weather

A storm rolling in over a sports oval in Brunswick, Victoria. Half the sky is blue, half the sky is storm clouds.

This post was created in the lands of the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation and I pay respect to their Elders past, present, and emerging. 

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A crisp breeze wafts over my hands as I tickle the keys on my iPad keyboard as I look out onto an overcast and grey Melbourne morning. Summer seems to be hiding away from us, coy in its teasing with the odd sunny day, but mostly it’s been mild and comfortable. 

But you’re not here to read about the weather, are you? At least not THAT kind of weather – perhaps you’re already battling your own internal storm and are seeking refuge here, nestled in the warmth of my prose. 

I woke up this morning with a desire to write. Not for my clients or for my business, but just for me. Likely because I’ve been reading Julia Cameron’s book The Right to Write each night before bed this week, but also as a response to yesterday’s full moon in Cancer (many feels, much wow). 

I’m so glad you’re here. Whatever brought you to this article, whatever solace you’re trying to cultivate, it’s but a few millimetres from your grasp. Let’s take pause together and extend our fingertips a little further beyond reach – there’s lessons to be learned and connection to be found.

Marion Piper sitting on her balcony looking out into the distance wistfully.
Look at me, wistfully gazing into the distance. Thank GOD for camera timers.

You must be *this high* (holds a thumbtack between fingers) to ride the Coronacoaster

As restrictions clamped down on the world in March, it was all a fun experiment. Zoom dance parties, virtual dinners and drinks with friends, we were (for all intensive purposes) on top of the world! I don’t know about you, but the novelty wore off pretty quickly for me.

That’s when the REAL fun began.

What started out as a mandate to ‘stay home’ to avoid spreading COVID-19, ended up becoming a game of wits – with myself. 

Melbourne used to be the world’s most liveable city, but it quickly turned into a post-apocalyptic holding pen where I couldn’t see or touch anyone (I also live alone) yet I could still get sushi delivered in less than 30 minutes. Go figure. 

As a veteran of the uphill battle (see my PhD for a glimpse into my journey), I felt the lights start to dim and a well of fear and sadness rise inside me like a king tide. So I did something I’d seen in thousands of memes the world over: I leaned in. 

Realisation 1: If you can’t go out, go within

I picked a great time to start a business. I launched into freelance life in July 2019 with gusto, quickly building momentum and finding clients. I knew it would take time and sacrifice, but I didn’t think I’d have to navigate a global pandemic in my first year (who would?!).

When the world started pooping its pants, I knew I had actually done myself a massive favour by flying solo…but try telling that to my 2 million year old brain, desperate to keep me safe. My flavour of suffering is high-functioning anxiety, so you can imagine the kind of chatter and babble bouncing around my head. 

In case no one has told you yet, mindset IS everything, regardless of where you’re at in life. It’s the one thing, over and over, that can turn that internal tide and either instigate a cyclone or calm the waters. 

I made a conscious choice to double down on the self work in lockdown. Melbourne’s restrictions were some of the harshest in the world, too. For nearly 3 months, I didn’t see anyone I knew IRL (but you better believe I befriended my local baristas at Lobbs Cafe on Sydney Rd).  

The surprising thing is that my internal world expanded and opened up to me. I discovered parts of myself that had lain dormant (maybe forever) and a level of mental fortitude I didn’t believe I was capable of holding. But as much as I want to take the credit for riding out the storm of 2020 on my own, I didn’t go it alone. 

Realisation 2: Tony Robbins knows his shit

Don’t worry, I only sipped the Kool-aid, but in September I attended the virtual iteration of his signature event, Unleash the Power Within. From the comfort of my tiny living room, I – along with 12,000 other people from around 160 countries – listened, took notes, cried, laughed and danced my way through 4 days of personal development. 

Despite not being there in person, it was transformational. Why? I fully immersed myself in taking responsibility for my life. It’s really as simple as that. When I made the commitment to stick it out for up to 15 hours a day at UPW, I silently devoted myself to not letting external circumstances dictate my fate. 

I felt, for the first time in months, ALIVE. Connected to the thumping heart of a global community who gathered together to make the most of the hand we were dealt. I felt understood, accepted and even celebrated for my enthusiastic approach to life.

Realisation 3: We’re all hungry to connect, so WHERE are you?

We’re all on our own journey. This year has illuminated the many different paths available for us to choose to get to where we want to go. No way is right, no way is wrong – but it’s all about how you want to FEEL. 

One of the most fascinating things I discovered in 2020 was just how hungry we were to connect. Not in a superficial way, but at a much deeper level than was typically allowed. I reconnected with friends near and far, but also lost touch with people I thought were in it with me for the long haul.

I’ve always actively put myself out there in life and this year was no different. Rather than wait for all the invitations to arrive, I intentionally created some experiences of my own. I wasn’t going to let Rona be the thief of my joy, even on the days when I couldn’t get out o f bed. 

In April, I joined the Cool Wow Collective which ushered in new friendships, support and bi-weekly virtual co-working (I’m still a member today). 

In May, I embraced my local neighbourhood and set out each day for a long ass walk, tracking a path through tree lined streets and sports ovals. 

A kid's ranger toy car parked on the footpath on Ovens St, Brunswick.
Bad parking job on Ovens St, Brunswick.

In June, I hosted a 21 day creative self soothing challenge aptly named Spiral Up in June. I also marched through the city in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and began confronting my own white privilege. 

9 image squares from Instagram of Marion Piper's Spiral Up challenge.
Spiral Up, 21 days of creative self soothing delivered via a private Instagram account.

Crowd of protesters marching for Black Lives Matter in Melbourne's CBD holding signs.
Black Lives Matter protest march, June 6, Melbourne CBD.

In August, I threw myself a virtual birthday party on the first day of stage 4 lockdowns. 

A room decorated with streamers and party accessories.

In September, there was Tony Robbins UPW, mentioned above (check me out after I broke my board of limiting beliefs).

Marion Piper holding a board broken in half.
I busted that board with all my grit.

In October, we started to emerge from lockdown as virus case numbers plummeted, but after months of solitude, freedom was a scary prospect. 

An empty street in Melbourne's CBD towards the end of lockdown with no people.
Melbourne’s CBD was empty for so long, even after restrictions were eased.

These are just a handful of the experiences I had this year but I hope you’ve picked up on my point: it’s up to YOU to decide on your destiny. No one else can live this one precious life for you, so don’t let your fear of being alone stop you from getting the connection you so desperately need. 

Realisation 4: Ritual creates freedom

Speaking of connection, one of the things I missed most about 2020 was travel. It’s how I connect to and understand the world, myself and other humans. At the heart of travel is the concept of freedom, which I had to work really hard to redefine this year. 

I’ve always struggled with rigid structures (like academia or the 9 to 5, for example). I realised that what my daily life was missing was more opportunities to engage with the ‘sacred’. Not the religious flavour, but the one that’s grounded in presence and acceptance.

Rituals like lighting a candle or incense everyday before I started work. Or doing my ‘morning pages’ (shoutout to Julia Cameron here and The Artist’s Way series of creative bibles). Or showing up on my yoga mat even when my body was aching. 

It’s so easy for life to become mundane and predictable. For the magic that once possessed us in childhood to fade. Ritual taps into that low energetic hum, the one that if you sit still for a few minutes will unfurl in front of you. The one that reveals the beauty inherent in a flickering flame, the sound of pen to paper or a moment in time when the world pauses, together. 

Ritual IS freedom. Creating sacred spaces in each day allowed me to escape the reality of the pandemic, even if only for a few seconds, releasing my exhausted brain from the anxiety of compounding restrictions, death tolls and the loneliness of isolation. And try as I might to ignore it, a small voice began whispering to me, one that I thought had abandoned me long ago. 

Realisation 5: Passion can’t be forgotten, only ignored

As a copywriter, I’ve had the privilege of being the voice for so many different businesses over the years. Property developers, startups, master planned communities, snack boxes, banks, super funds, life coaches, graphic designers…the list is endless. But it wasn’t always this way.

Before I fell in love with copywriting, I was an artist. I made conceptual work that explored the relationship of text and image; for as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with how we express ourselves. It’s what led me to my PhD project and what drives me to take big risks in art and life.

In 2020 I (re)discovered that at the heart of it all was creativity. That big, scary, juicy idea that we are all creators began to surface amidst the chaos of a crumbling world order. It didn’t matter how many websites I collaborated on or blog posts I penned, my passion for creativity could not be ignored or set aside any longer.

I spoke about it on Kristy Unedited and the Human to Human podcast. I gave a masterclass on it to the Cool Wow Collective babes. I could no longer ignore what was trying to come through – my skill for harnessing language to offer clarity and meaning to the world had finally come full circle. 

The top of a white desk with a white keyboard, notebooks, highlighter and pen.
My desk – forever ground zero for lists, notebooks and post-its.

Realisation 6: ‘Get creative’ is the answer to most questions

In the face of all of these realisations, the answer was simple: CREATE. I don’t need to know all of the information or have every detail ironed out. The same is true for you, too. Your path will unfold before you as a result of each step, every decision moving you closer to that far flung destination. The question isn’t “how do I get there”, but rather, “where do I want to go?”

Creativity is about connecting the dots. 

It’s observing the information you have, gathering more of what you need and looking for the overlaps. 

It’s not giving into the pressures of ‘building a 6 figure business in 3 easy steps’. 

It’s not letting that negative voice in your head pull you down, because dear one, the world desperately needs the best of you. 

Creativity can be drawing, writing, painting, singing and dancing, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be cooking, telling a story to your kids or even decorating your apartment to look like a tropical oasis in the middle of winter to celebrate your first  virtual birthday completely on your own. 

Every moment is sacred. Every moment is meaningful. Every THING is an act of creation.

So, where to from here? 

On the last day of the first year of a new decade, I’m sitting here doing what I love most: writing. No matter what awaits us when the calendar resets, our ability to create a future brighter than our past will be accessible to us if we’re brave enough to open ourselves to it.

Thank you for making it this far with me friend, I hope my musings gave you a reprieve from the complexities of being human, even if just for a moment. 

My glass is raised to you and to 2020 – and to 2021 I say, BRING IT ON. 

Marion Piper wearing a mask giving a peace sign with her left hand.
Peace out legends, WE GOT THIS.

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