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Learnings from 2020

Suzanne Fergus

2020 was a year that nobody planned for. Many individual stories have arisen from this collective shared global experience and this is my story. During 2020, I finally ticked off a major dream from my bucket list. We all have dreams and goals that mean the world to us and somehow, they get put off until there’s more time. But there just never seems to be enough time and our dream gets pushed further into that mystical “one day” future time. That was the same for me.

On the 31st August 2008, my life was turned upside down, literally! I was out cycling and coming towards the end of the training ride, I came off my bike. I do not remember to this day what exactly happened, but it had started to rain, and my wheel just slipped over a metal grate on the road. I was not hit by a car, but my head banged on the concrete road. Thankfully, I was wearing a helmet, if I wasn’t well, I wouldn’t be here today. It was a massive turning point in my life, I could not go to work for almost a year and when I did return, I was only able to work for a couple of hours and I had to go home again.

I had a skull fracture, half of my face was paralysed, I could not hear properly and had terrible headaches. It was scary but thankfully following a slow recovery where I wasn’t even able to read or watch tv, (imagine how bored I was) I eventually made a fully recovery. Thankfully I have had no long-term side effects other than it taking me 7 years to get back up on a bicycle again. The one thing that not being able to watch tv or read did was to give me lots of time to think. I was told I was extremely lucky, that if I did not have a helmet, I would not be alive. Those words hit me hard. I remember thinking I am not ready to die, I have so many things that I want to do.

I started to really dig into my soul and ask some deep questions about my life’s purpose, about what really motivates me. The answer I kept coming back to was making a difference to others especially in relation to learning. It’s a powerful drive inside and one of my goals was to write a book for students. I did a lot of research to really understand what makes successful studying. I interviewed students and I wanted to write a book for students, something useful that would make a difference. Not another academic book to sit on a shelf!

And I finished and published the book, Study Smarter: A lecturer’s inside guide to boost your grades in 2020. My biggest learning with my dream was if not now, when?

That’s what 2020 has taught me, stop waiting for that “one day” and make happen whatever you want. You just never know what is possible……

Karen Magid

This time last year my husband had just lost his job and I was about to go in for surgery that would take me out of my self-employment workplace for several months. We didn’t know how long his redundancy pay-out would have to last us or when I would be able to earn again – thank goodness we didn’t know at that point the joys and woes that 2020 would soon heap upon us!

2020 really excelled in testing all the inner work I’d done on myself over the years. I know I’m not alone in having had quite the time of it!! Despite possibly the most challenging year yet, there was only one moment when I really wobbled:

It was December 2019 and the Sainsburys Christmas shopping trip had come. I was looking at everyone piling stuff in their trolleys and looked down at my almost empty trolley, wondering if I could get the kids some chocolate for Christmas. Would I regret being so frivolous when the money ran out? I stood in the aisle feeling like a victim of bad luck and I wanted to cry at the unfairness of it all. My poor children. I hated the other shoppers for being so materialistic and insensitive and I hated myself for being so pathetic and dramatic. And I wanted my children to have what other children were having. And now I’m a hypocrite too.

I only usually cry at Olympic medal ceremonies so the welling up with tears brought me up short. Why was I so emotional now when we had been in exactly the same situation the day before and yet I had been laughing heartily at a particularly excellent game of Cards Against Humanity?

Nothing in my situation had changed. I was just in a different state of mind that day and that is why I was feeling different.

This is not a new concept to me but still I had momentarily got caught up in the belief that my situation was the reason for my experience. The feeling was the wake-up call to remember that I was making up a whole scenario that didn’t actually exist.

At that moment I DID have money in the bank. And I’d just have to think about HOW I could keep more coming in, rather than bemoaning my lot.

My favourite saying is that “none of us are Mystic Meg and even she was crap at telling the future!” So what had I been doing believing in the thought of a future that didn’t exist?
I looked around me, grinning through bleary eyes at the other lovely people getting ready to spend precious time with their families.

Of course the kids would have chocolate at Christmas. What was I thinking?

Steve McCabe

For me, 2020 will be summarised by the phrase, ‘just keep going’. Let’s be honest, there’s been every reason to think otherwise this year.

But there’s been some striking highlights through the year which when thinking back, really captured for me, what being resilient is all about. I’m not talking about shaking off a disappointing soufflé in Bake Off, although that must have been quite a shocker. I’m really struck more by the human spirit to keep going when everything else around us seemed to be falling apart: violence and division in the US election, the exhausted faces of our very own healthcare workers, lined by their face masks from keeping alive our most vulnerable with COVID-19 and, not wishing to dwell on it too long, the nation’s favourite topic ad nauseum – Brexit.

This year for me was also significant for delivering my first ever webinar, since becoming a Quest Cognitive Hypnotherapist. Using a wonderful platform of ‘Each One, Teach One’, those of us with a story to tell, were invited to prepare and deliver a webinar to fellow therapists on a topic of our choosing.
‘The Immune System’ was my 90-minute review of what I know about the human immune system and its myriad functions in keeping us safe and well. All of us who presented webinars delivered these to our Questie colleagues on the now world-famous Zoom technology. When thinking back how anxious I was about being judged negatively for not knowing enough but my webinar topic, even now, it sets up that flutter of butterflies.

I certainly put in a shift to get the webinar. I must have spent north of 5 hours of research, formatting and testing of the webinar and come the day; all was set. Except for one small thing.

A recent onset cough. Yes, a cough so persistent that even shouting when in the garden shed at a passing moggy, full volume in a failed attempt to shift whatever gunk I had in my throat, was doomed to fail.

What to do? I couldn’t ‘call in sick’. That’s just not me and besides, my colleagues had already ordered their fireside sofa to tune into my webinar.

My webinar got off to what I felt was a good start: I felt confident, cracked a shockingly bad joke and got a laugh. Probably out of pity than mirth.

But, the more I got into my flow, the harder my cough decided, ‘enough’ s enough’. Slurping on my water bottle (yes, honestly it was just H20), I was making no headway in stopping the blasted cough. It got to the stage midway through where my voice started to pack in. At first, sounding like a Swiss yodel, then later, mouthing words that wouldn’t come out. My voice was shot.

But I kept on. I ended the webinar to much love and warmth from my fellow Questies and in text messages thereafter.

So, for me, 2020 will always have a splinter of warm light that shined through a year of pain.
I kept going.

Jackie Cooper

As we start to come towards the end of this year with the hope of a new ‘normal’ life again around the corner with the anticipation of a vaccine and a light at the end of the tunnel (which is hopefully not a train) I hear many people talking about ‘what they have learned about themselves in lockdown’.

I wanted to reach out to you and say my story during lockdown is that I am a COVID and Cancer Survivor.

It has been a hugely humbling experience and I am feeling fantastic after adopting a healthier lifestyle with a positive mental attitude. That attitude was fuelled by the parallel journey I have had as a student of Q42 where I can honestly say I have had my mind literally opened seemingly for the first time! All I can say is Wow to the Quest family and a huge thank you for both inspiration and support.

I am sure you have become aware through the media how difficult it has been to have medical treatment during the pandemic -but my journey has made me full of awe for an amazingly selfless team both in hospital and my family at home who put me first and I can’t be more grateful to them all!

Telling my teenagers was one of the hardest things I have had to do but I felt duty bound to help them to create a good relationship with the C word!

Not only has this experience made them more mature they have also been amazingly supportive and we are closer because of it. They too have had a year of uncertainty as they had exams cancelled and had to learn new skills teaching themselves from their bedrooms. But as a family we are more communicative and certainly more tolerant as we have all been locked together away from the freedoms we became so reliant on.

My message to you is even though life can deal you an unexpected hand on occasions – always look for the positives – I feel so lucky to be OK and this whole experience has made me fitter, slimmer, more appreciative and once healed eager to get back to full fitness again!

Exercise was extremely significant before surgery as this helped to clear my mind and make me feel invincible – I will be training for a 300 mile bike ride next August from London to Paris where I will ride with some of my friends and colleagues – I will now ride in bright pink for Breast Cancer awareness 😊

As we head to New Year many have said they’re looking forward to saying good bye to a tough year and for the 55’000 families who have lost family members this year I will definitely be raising a glass in respect. But I will also reflect on a year that has made me value life more, worry less about the small things you can’t change and let go of the insecurities while loving more those we take for granted.

Thank You 2020 for so many life lessons and Here’s to 2021 to as many cuddles and hugs as we can fit in as well as qualifying as a Cognitive Hypnotherapist and starting my journey to help others who may be facing a similar uncertain journey that I have walked this year.

Kate Blackford

This year has been an interesting and hugely challenging year for many. We have lost freedoms, friends, family members in some cases. There have been tragedies, but there have also been opportunities. Here’s my story…

I launched my Cognitive Hypnotherapy practice in February this year, about one month before the first lockdown. I was just starting to build up my client base and was filled with optimism and enthusiasm at what the year might bring, and then COVID hit.

I have to admit, I surprised myself! Before my Quest journey I would have spiralled into a panic, anxiety would have set in and depression would have reared its ugly head. Instead I stood back, I looked at what I could do, and I did that. I faced my fear of video calling and started working online.

Yes, it was uncomfortable at first. But I persevered and my business is continuing to grow. I learned that I could effectively do therapy online. I worked on my marketing skills and am in the process of relaunching my website (www.origami-life.com) with the help of an incredible copywriter. I continued my therapeutic training, adding more skills and experience to the fantastic foundation I had gained through Quest.

But my learning has been far more wide reaching than my work life. About three weeks into lockdown 1 I had an urge to paint (art, not the house!) I ignored it for a while because I am very good at enthusiastically starting things that never get finished. You wouldn’t believe the number of half-finished projects stuffed in cupboards around the house! The urge to paint remained, so I followed my desire to create. Seven months on I now create and sell acrylic art. It is my hobby, my joy and my creative release. I get completely absorbed in the art.

But it has brought me so much more than creative release. It has brought me connection with other artists, a new perspective on the world around me as I constantly seek beauty and inspiration and mostly, it has brought me greater faith in myself. Before lockdown I had always believed I couldn’t paint. I was no good at it. I couldn’t do shading and get colours ‘right’. I reflected back on school art class and the disappointment in myself as I failed to create what I intended to. But that was not true! I did online tutorials, while maintaining my own sense of self in my artwork – my own unique style. I practiced. I made a huge mess many, many times.

I grew. I grew as an artist, as a therapist, as a friend. I learned that the only things we can’t do are the things we tell ourselves we can’t. That if we practice, learn and keep an open mind, we can achieve what we set out to.

So what has COVID given me? More insight into who I am. Reconnection with my creativity. Greater adaptability in all areas of my life. Deep connection with community, friends and family. Opportunities to practice kindness to those who might be struggling. New ways of working. New ways of being. A new rescue dog in our family. Faith in myself to do whatever I set my mind to. All of this has been the result of the year we have had.

I am incredibly fortunate to have the support of wonderful family, friends and the Quest community and that has kept me going, kept me positive and kept me on track. It is only by working together and supporting each other that we are truly able to thrive. Believe me, this year has not been easy, but it has been possible and I for one am choosing to focus on the good things that will stay with me on my journey. So, here’s what I offer you – Hope. There are ways through, there is light at the end of the tunnel, there is hope. ♥️