12 things I learned in 2020

5 min read

I was watching FlashForward – a TV show focused on high-concept narrative around a mysterious event, that caused nearly everyone on the planet to simultaneously lose consciousness for 137 seconds, during which time people see what appears to be a vision of their own life approximately six months in the future: a global “flashforward“.
It boggled my mind. 2020 pandemic reminds me a lot like that. A black swan at global scale. Nobody, not even the brightest of minds on this planet, could have predicted that. Well, Bill Gates did. But that’s debatable.

As I survived through the pandemic, I feel fortunate and grateful to be surrounded by the people I love, who made the over-long lockdown worthwhile. The black devastating year was a great teacher, and a living testament of my emotional intelligence – patience, perseverance, pluck, and compassion. Someone once asked me, if I have learned anything at all. So let me tell you what I learned. I have learned that nothing in life is permanent. I have learned that nothing can replace the pain of losing a loved one. Life is fickle. Everybody dies at the end. But if we mean something to someone, if we loved someone, we are not truly gone. As long as our memories remain in the heart of those we love, our tales are told, our music is listened, our books are read, our paintings are admired, a part of us, though little, continues to live in this world.
I have learned that happiness can be found in darkest of times. I have learned that little things in life can be beautiful beyond imagination. Sitting on the porch, and watching the sun fade into the sky – lying on the rooftop, and counting the stars as they emerge from the blanket of darkness – strolling on the crosswalk, holding hands of a loved one, while they whisper something in your ear – enjoying exquisite delicacies someone you prepared only for you.
I have learned that nature always finds a way to heal itself. Covid19, while it deeply scarred the lives of people across the globe, there are things in nature which we never realized were there. Dolphins returned to Venice. Himalayan ranges can be seen from certain parts of Punjab. Clear blue skies, vibrant sunsets — colours that I so wanted to see in Hyderabad for the last 7 years– were all here.
I have learned that you can find love in weirdest of places in weirdest of ways. And that lockdowns can be beautiful. Nothing can really replace the feeling of spending the moments with someone you love. No materialistic thing in this world is, and will ever, be capable of that.
I have learned that sometimes we should follow our hearts, and take its guidance. If you want to meet someone, spend time with someone, never ever think twice. Life rarely gives a second chance.
I have learned that as you grow, the number of friends trims down. Fake and pretentious people leave, and those who are true remain. It’s a process of selection.

Having lived a good part of the year in silent contemplation of various aspects of life, I’ve come to realize that nothing in life holds permanent. A year filled with pain of losing a loved one, joy of finding new love, opportunities missed, chances not taken (which sometimes never come), decisions – good and bad, lost friends, regrets. I realized that life is fickle after-all. Humans are minuscule in grand scheme of things, and sometimes we don’t have a choice. All we can do is wait, and watch events unfold in mysterious unpredictable ways.

Last year was truly special because of two major events in my life. I met a wonderful woman, Keeya, my life partner, because of whom the lockdown turned out to be the best gift I could’ve asked for.
I also took a difficult decision relocating to North American shore. As much deeply as I want to pen about it, perhaps it’s a long story for another time.

When everything is over, when the worst has happened… there’s still one thing left in Pandora’s box — hope — hope that everything will be okay. It has to be. It’s a cycle of life.

March 23, 2020 – A date that still sends the shivers down me. I saw my net worth plummet like a rock to 47%. Nifty was at 7600, and I just didn’t know how to react. Wonderful businesses were selling at throw away prices, and I had no clue if I should buy or sell. As I reminisce those unprecedented times, I am fortunate to have held onto the businesses I believed in. I kept calm, and pretended I was living under a rock, as if nothing has happened. Albeit my floccinaucinihilipilification of the market bottom lost me a multi-decadal opportunity, the feeling of coming out of it unscathed is unparalleled, and can’t be expressed in words. Patience is the silent acceptance that things can unfold in a different order than planned.

As we’re at the fag end of an unfortunate year, here is a list of things I learned in 2020.

  1. It is often when one least expects it that fate arrives at our door. We can’t foresee it any more than we can escape it. No matter how hard we run or hide, fate, like death, will always find us.
    You can’t always plan for unprecedented times. Be flexible. Learn to adapt
  2. You don’t seek love. Oftentimes, you find it in weirdest of places in weirdest of times
  3. You don’t find excellence. You build it and then it takes you places
  4. Developed countries are not always developed in everything. The first thing that I missed in Vancouver is the disruption from Mukesh Ambani in India
  5. Loneliness is real. It’s hard to make friends abroad
  6. Stay away from pretentious, dishonest people. They suck all your energy and positivity. If you spot a pathological liar, run as far, and as fast as you can
  7. The colour of Autumn is worth all the hype. Despite being ephemeral, and a showstopper of destruction, it oozes positivity. I realize why writers have been musing over romantic October evenings, Cinnamon brown leaves, benches filled with dried leaves, for eons.
  8. Life doesn’t always give second chances
  9. Plan for FIRE as early in your life as you can. Timing the market is a futile exercise. Time in the market matters
  10. Lockdowns can be beautiful – if you’re stuck with the right person
  11. Be grateful for the good health you got. Other things in life may not hold much value, if you’re not healthy
  12. Never ever tie your happiness with wealth. Your wealth can erode in a single unfortunate day

Cheers to yet another year! And remember, Anni, amori e bicchieri di vino, nun se contano mai – “Years, Lovers and Glasses of wine… these are the things never to be counted”

Copyright © 2021, Aashish Barnwal,  All rights reserved.

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