Let’s agree there are some expressions we’ll never want to hear again after 2020. The new normal. Unprecedented times. Difficult times. Lockdown lessons.

As Australia unfurls itself from a long and troubled sleep, we can see life returning to normal. Although it will be a different version of normal. OK, I guess that is a new normal.

The big question is: what will we keep from our pre-COVID lives, and what will we leave back in the heady days of kissing cheeks, touching our faces and feeling free with toilet paper usage?

I’ve learnt some personal lessons, like the fact that I probably won’t die if I don’t have social events lined up weeks in advance. Here I am, still alive!

Financially speaking, I think nearly everyone has reassessed their money relationship in some ways.

For people who’ve lost their jobs or incomes, it’s been a rude shock. I won’t pretend to know how it feels, but I can certainly empathise.

But now that we are creeping back to a more normal life, I have drawn some lockdown lessons. Please indulge me.

‘Career planning’ is sometimes just working out what you don’t want

I may have picked the worst ever year to decide ‘oh I don’t need job security, I’ll just contract or freelance or whatever’. I had a contract that was set to end in June. It was not very … relaxing. I veered between ‘she’ll be right’ to ‘you’re a f*#king idiot for following your dreams’.

In the end I have been given a permanent gig and I’m really happy about it. When I quit my job last year it was with a strong sense of what I didn’t want in a career, but wasn’t very clear on what I did want.

I realised what I was missing was cultural fit, a team of like-minded people and the freedom to do Fierce Girl. This job gives me those things, as well as a secure income, which is important to me (it turns out). So anyway, that was my 2020 adventure in career planning.

The lesson I took is that you can mess around and see what happens with your career if you have a strong savings buffer and a solid professional network. A friend and ex-colleague introduced me to my new job.

Tell you what was completely useless during this time? A recruiter putting me forward for a job where I knew nobody. I’ve never got a job that way.

Invest in your networks Fierce Girls! Stay in contact with your ex-colleagues. Stay active on LinkedIn. Make an effort to catch up with industry colleagues. Don’t just get a job and disappear into obscurity.

Frugal is in fashion – finally!

Someone said to me that this next phase would see a return to conservative spending and saving. I suspect they are right.

One of my besties was hit hard by the lockdown because she owns an events business. She told me she’s ended up doing “what Fierce Girl has been telling us all along”. As in, being thrifty.  The time of the tight-arse has arrived! (as I declared a couple of months back).

On the other hand, I think there will also be a sense of pent-up excitement to go out and spend again. Although, I keep filling up my shopping cart online then abandonding it with ‘nah I don’t really need this.

So, maybe it will be a bit of both.

You just never f know what’s gonna happen.

This is one of my life mantras. Your life can change in a moment.

Even when change seems to take a long time, it usually has a turning point: a moment of clarity. I can pinpoint the exact moment my divorce became a foregone conclusion. I know exactly which moments prompted me to leave my last three jobs (my memory blurs before then).

Whatever caused COVID-19, we all know the moments when life changed. Like ScoMo’s shutdown press conference – the one where he didn’t know how to pronounce Barre classes. That was a moment. It was the point when thousands of people knew their jobs no longer existed.

And so, we all know now why we need an emergency savings fund. No matter how successful your employer is, no matter how much your boss loves you, you never know when your entire career could come crashing down.

It turns out that family, friends and community are what really matter

Sounds obvious right? But so many people have told me they’ve loved parts of the lockdown because it brought them closer to people – even remotely.

I’ve had the opportunity to live with my parents (and their dogs) for weeks at a time. How often do you get to do that as an adult?

A lot of my friends have loved the time with kids and the lack of rushing around. Ok, maybe not the homeschool part, but the slower pace of life.

And the lack of other options has seen many of us get into nature much more often (like my bushwalk in the photo above).

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Working from home with the fluffiest and laziest coworker was so great

I was touched by how many people reached out to me to see if I was ok living on my own. I had Zoom calls with people I haven’t seen in years. I had regular video catch-ups with my philosophy class crew.

I realise it was also traumatic for a lot of people and wouldn’t seek to minimise that. But for all the bad there was also good.

But, as my friend and I concluded after a lot of wine last weekend, 2020 is the year when we worked out our priorities.