Over the last few weeks, institutions across different countries have been publishing their word of the year. Based on either the most frequently used word, most searched word and collective sentiment, this word tries to sum up the biggest topic of the year for most. There’s not much surprise this year, with Germany’s Society for German Language (GfdS) choosing “Corona-pandemie” for 2020 and “pandemic” falling at number one for the American Merriam Webster Dictionary, China’s Language Monitoring society and Greece, to name a few. In typical abbreviation fashion, “Iso” (short for isolation”) was voted Australia’s word and while the UK’s Collin’s Dictionary chose Lockdown, the Oxford Dictionary struggled to put one word behind this “unprecedented year”.
Although we’ve probably had enough of speaking these words by now, officials at Merriam Webster summed it up up well:
“the pandemic’s power to affect everyone on the globe is reflected in the very etymology of the word. The Greek roots of this word tell a clear story: pan means ‘all’ or ‘every,’ and dēmos means ‘people’; its literal meaning is ‘of all the people. The related word ‘epidemic’ comes from roots that mean ‘on or upon the people.”.
And while this takes me back to the many discussions I had with my grandfather about understanding the origins of greek words growing up, it is remarkable to think that this situation really did impact everyone’s lives in one way or another on a global scale.
Everyone has their own story to tell from this year, and while I’m writing this from a place of privilege, I took inspiration from this and asked myself what my word of the year was. Surprisingly, it wasn’t hard for me to land on a word that summed up my sentiment and mindset for 2020:
- Practising patience through more than 6 months of lockdown and counting;
- Practising patience as I wait for the moment to travel home and reunite with my parents and family in Australia and the UK;
- Practising patience through a difficult work situation;
- Patiently waiting for that moment to hug my family and friends and resume a social life beyond socially-distanced 1:1 walks and zoom catch-ups;
- Patience with this mask-on, mask-off, mask-swap routine;
- Patiently waiting for the supermarket to restock toilet paper;
- Practising patience to resume planning of my covid-cancelled wedding;
- Practising patience with the leaders that decide our ever changing and often illogical restrictions; and
- Patience for everything that this year has changed: to see my favourite bands, to go out dancing, to eat at my favourite restaurants and to see Berlin alive again.
Playing Tame Impala’s songs Patience and Breathe Deeper on loop definitely helped support my 2020 mantra. Now a strong two months into the second lockdown in Germany, with no real end in sight, it’s without a doubt that I’ll have to muster up a little more patience as the calendar rolls over into 2021.
Now while patience is one of my strong suits, “practising patience” definitely hasn’t been easy this year. I even approached this most recent lockdown differently from the first. For me it was a shift from “Wow, no travel, no trip to Sydney, no social life – ok: this’ll be over by autumn, how many things can I knock off my apartment to-do list by then”, to – “How can I make the most out of this time? What things did I enjoy in lockdown one that I can continue? What do I need to change? How can I take control of this situation for – me- “. Between the lockdowns, my personal situation also changed from being in non-stop zoom calls, to finishing up my job and having a lot more time to focus on me. This was daunting at first, but after deciding to face one day at a time, I embraced the time to be a little selfish.
Although 2020 played out a little differently to how we all imagined, I’m happy. I challenged myself mentally and physically, I trailed the pavements of Berlin’s suburbs day-in-day-out, I preserved lemons and dusted off many recipe books, I became an open-water-diver in Berlin’s lakes!, I picked up the flute again, saw more of Berlin and Brandenburg by water, re-read some favourite books, embraced the colours of autumn throughout the city, connected with special friends around the world, joined the mask-sewing club, won and lost many scrabble matches, freed myself from a job that was dragging me down, rocked the first year of marriage, dreamed into space and am still on my longest yoga streak ever. And while I’m very excited for a life without lockdowns, I’ll be taking away some new perspectives, new habits and skills in to the new decade ahead.
In true 2020 style, I’ll finish up this year with a long forest walk, some great food, champagne and dancing around my apartment with my favourite human at my side.
As a side note – other top favourites in my word of the year list were resilience, Muffelmasken, and covid-cancellation.
What’s your word of the year? I’d love to hear it!