I bet none of us expected 2020 to turn out the way it did. I still remember having a good laugh reading some memes last year. Take this one as an example – The one asking you where you see yourself in 5 years time never considered COVID-19. It was a strange year in so many ways, our health was threatened, we lost loved ones, the source of income of many dried up and the entire way of life was shaken. And yet, Ikenna you refer to 2021 as an awesome year? I’ll get back to that one in a minute.

Let me give you a short brief of the strangest Christmas holidays I have ever had. I will begin with what Christmas used to be growing up in Nigeria. As we get into the festive period, there tends to be more gatherings of people, with all cousins and uncles having traveled back to the village to celebrate with the family. The final days running up to Christmas will see us going on or receiving other children singing carols every evening. Can you imagine having different live ‘orchestras’ singing for you? OK, they may not be as good as Andre in London, yet it is something hearing these little voices.

We would also go around the village watching what can best be described as a carnival with different cultural groups singing and dancing. This is probably one of the most colourful events we have, that brings out Igbo masquerades to entertain the community (Ikenna, what on earth is that?). For us the children, aside from watching and enjoying all these activities, we would also go around the village eating at different households and just celebrating the season.

Coming to The Netherlands, the winter period wouldn’t allow me to do the same as back home. Yet, you could normally take advantage of the Christmas markets which would at least give you the opportunity to enjoy different events and foods. But this year, there was none of that. We would also normally have guests at our house and loads of food to eat and share with one another. Again, this year was none of the above. If you don’t have lots of people over, the motivation to cook/eat reduces, which was good for my weight I must add.

Yet, we found a way to still enjoy being together, calling loved ones and playing games. For me, I could also finalize my writing and hand it over for the initial editing.

So why do I declare 2021 to be an awesome year?

January is typically a month to be optimistic, we make New Year resolutions and try to see the best in the coming period. I am not here to encourage you to make these resolutions since they typically don’t last. But I read something recently which stuck with me – ‘Being optimistic is being able to look at the glass, noticing that is it half empty and yet choosing to focus on the water which is already in the glass.’

Did you know that optimism is a choice which you can make? Even more importantly, there are simple things which you can do that will help you focus on the water in the glass?

  1. Learn from 2020, don’t ignore the past year. We typically come into the new year celebrating that the past one has come to an end, believing we now need to look at the future. However, the future is firmly anchored upon the past. We experienced many things in 2020, regardless of if they were good or bad, take the lessons from it and bring it into 2021.
  2. Be intentional about what you want. The old maxim goes something like this, ‘if you fail to plan, you plan to fail’. You have a responsibility to plan ahead for this new year. Does that mean, everything will come to pass according to my nice roadmap this year? Most probably not, but how would you know if you haven’t made a map?
  3. Choose your company well. If you spend most of your time with people who are pessimistic, it is only natural that this will rub off on you. Of course that doesn’t mean you should seek out only positive minded people, but realize when the other person is pulling you back instead of propelling you forwards. That way, you can react accordingly, better yet you can even become proactive if you know which way a relationship might go.
  4. Enjoy the little things. It remains a proven fact that by celebrating the small things that go well, we open ourselves up for bigger things. I can already tell you that within the first 6 days of this year, there have been some wonderful things to happen. Choose daily to ‘count your blessings’.

As we go into this year, don’t forget it is just a story waiting to be told and you still have the ability to make the story whatever you want it to be. Just like in any story, there will be ups and downs, there will be bumps in the road but it will all lead to a beautiful end.

Yes, I just peered into my crystal ball. Why don’t you do the same?

I wish you a healthy and inspiring 2021. Do take care of yourself and let us all take care of one another.