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2020: In review

What a year it has been! I started this year with very high hopes. I had stopped making New Year resolutions, but I still set some goals for every new year. This year was an unusual one for all of us..... a real roller coaster. And there were many times when I felt like I wasn't making enough progress. There were days when I literally just sailed through. One of the most important things I learned that got me through the last 10 months or so is the power of reflections. Reflecting helps me keep or adjust my focus. Every time I go back to see what I have done, what challenges I should learn from, and what I could do better moving forward, I appreciate the little things and the tiny steps forward that I make.

This year, the most difficult things for me were the mental challenges. The last few months have, in many ways, tried and tested my mental health. I saw some pretty hard days. Days that all I wanted to do was stay in my room, have comfort food, and cry myself to sleep. But I had a job to go to, patients to see, and family and friends to support. And when you live in a place where very little importance is given to mental health and its challenges, it becomes even harder to talk about and deal with it. Mental health issues are hardly discussed, and even when they are, they are considered trivial or dismissed. The default response to 'how are you' is 'I'm fine' or 'Thank God.' 2020 showed me the importance of having someone you can actually pour your heart out to when they ask you how you're doing. For the last few weeks, I have been debating whether I should share this post. But like many of the posts that I share, this is my story; to own and to tell (or not tell).

After COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, everything went crazy for me as for everyone else. I'd be lying if I say the start of the pandemic wasn't terrifying. I was more scared and worried about my loved ones than I was about myself. Every time I went to see my parents or my friends, I was so anxious. I wanted to see and spend time with them, but I did not want to put them at risk of being infected should I come down with the virus. So I basically worked and went home. That was my life for many months. And every day that I got home without a COVID-related symptom was simply a gift.

In the second half of the year came some very dark clouds. Someone really close to me almost died of a brain bleed, and I tested positive for COVID-19. From then on, it was just a series of events that led me down a really dark hole, and for a while, I didn't know how to get myself out. Everything just seemed so hard. I had to put so many sticky notes with little messages that I'll read as daily affirmations and reminders every morning. My anxiety and insomnia were off the charts. I struggled to fight against my own mind. I wanted to see and hang out with my friends, but I didn't want to socialise. I wanted to be alone, but I did not want to be lonely. I feared failing and lagging behind, but I felt too tired to do anything. It's like feeling everything at once and then feeling numb. During these times, I saw the real value of having people who genuinely care about your well being. Life lesson re-emphasized: All you need around you is a few good people. Thank you to my friends and my twin brother, who hold it down for me on days when I can't hold it down myself. Thank you for hearing my silent screams. You guys are such a blessing!

As 2020 draws to a close, I have been reflecting on how it has been. I realised this year could have been a whole lot worse. I see some stories online that leave me tearing up, and I am just so grateful for every blessing in my life. In the midst of all of this craziness, I had some pretty high moments this year. For all of them, I am immensely grateful.

"Gratitude takes us farther than sorrow."

Here are some of my highlights from this very unusual year:

🖤I turned 30, and again, I was reminded that I am surrounded by an army of people who love me and go above and beyond for me. And that is something I don't take for granted.

🖤I officially graduated from University College London (UCL)

🖤I also graduated from Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU), earning a Commitment Maker Seal, and registering my 'Commitment To Action' project as a Non-Profit Social Enterprise (I'll share more information on the project in the new year 😊)

🖤I launched this blog and started writing again. Yaaaay! Writing is so therapeutic. My first blog post led me to another blogger inspired by my story and landed me a feature on her blog as a Barrier Breaker of the Month.

🖤My dissertation work was selected (and published) for Oral and Poster presentations at the European Health Economics Association and Health Systems Research conferences.

🖤 I was a panelist in a webinar organised by the University of Global Health Equity (UGHE) and International Student Surgical Network (InciSioN) on THE DISRUPTION OF COVID-19 ON MEDICAL TRAINING IN SURGERY AND ANESTHESIA IN SUB SAHARAN AFRICA, AND INNOVATIONS FOR THE FUTURE. It was a truly wonderful experience and opportunity to discuss global surgery with colleagues and leaders in the field.

🖤I got more involved in research and Global Surgery through InciSioN and Gender Equity Initiative in Global Surgery (GEIGS).

🖤2020 was full of firsts for me in the theatre. I have become the Ortho goddess (lol... I am the only female in the ortho clan). I am thankful for the opportunity to learn new skills and humbled to serve.

I stepped out of my comfort zone and did so many other things that I never even fathomed. I loved. I lost. I learned. I survived. And I am so thankful for all the little victories.

Thank you to all of you who have been reading, sharing, and following my blog since I launched it in July. When I started this blog, I wondered if the stories and contents I share will interest people. But here we are: 2555 views 1707 unique visitors from all over the world. Through these blog posts, I have met some really pretty amazing people and made new friends. You all are the reasons I feel free and inspired to share my thoughts. You are all truly awesome people.

May the new year be full of love and light. Happy 2K21!!

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