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Photo by Jeswin Thomas on Unsplash

No one really asked for the pandemic to start and definitely, no one asked for COVID-19 to take over the world. Seriously. The transition from in-person and people-centered learning has now transitioned into a virtual world where we stay connected and we learn, we do work, we do everything possible under the sun in a digital space behind a screen.

I’ve had to pivot learning in graduate school remotely for the last 10 months. Aside from dealing with assignment deadlines, COVID-xiety (anxieties about COVID), and just living day by day, my motivation bank was draining, fast. But alas I, and…

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Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

It’s mutually agreed upon, and society will agree, that 2020 sucked. This year has pushed humanity to a metaphorical edge, and we were clinging on by a sliver of a pebble. Yet, those of us who were privileged enough and in good health, made it to 2021. Even though the past year was a shitty one, it still pushed me to sack up and continue my trajectory and journey of bettering myself. From all the tears, blood, copious amounts of sweat, and some minor hair loss, here are 20 lessons that I learned in 2020:

1. I don’t have to explain myself, my goals, dreams, hopes, aspirations, or anywhere I was going to anyone. Period.

2. I normalized cutting out people in my social circles who do not support me or my goals.

3. I’ve made saying “no” into my superpower. Are people mad about that? Yes. Am I? No.

4. I stopped giving a shit about hurting peoples’ feeling and said “fuck you” to people and stopped caring about them.

5. I’ve been constantly vocal about my boundaries and my comfort level hanging out with people during a pandemic. Sorry, no crazy ragers or “Olyvia time” people.

6. I don’t give two shits about validation from peers, I care more about affirmations and if I’m doing something right more so than being “right”.

7. Dealing with Imposter Syndrome required me to be comfortable with making mistakes and forgiving myself for past mistakes I’ve made.

8. My efforts will never betray me, unless I don’t put in any, then that’s the result of my efforts: nothing.

9. Saying “no” has helped me understand to prioritize and has helped me prioritize my life has helped me in more clear about my goals, my intentions, the people that I wanna keep in my friend circle, and just all-around having space and power to say “no”.

10. I confirmed I’m still a pen and paper person. I reverted back to the basic way of getting an idea is putting on paper. It has help me cut into a place in my brain where I had shut off and repressed for the longest time.

11. I stopped overthinking, rethinking, and regretting past decisions I’ve made by recognizing that I don’t half-asses decisions; once I decide to cut someone or thing out of my life, I do it with intention and for my personal peace.

12. I saved time to have an honest conversation with closet financial-literate friends to reevaluate my financial situation; I was able to improve my credit score from 600s to 750s.

13. I was able to off all my credit cards within 6 months.

14. I made the risky decision to quit a 4-year clinical healthcare career and pursue a career in advertising; taking a risk for self-betterment paid off when I discovered a wealth of knowledge and personal growth in my new career journey.

15. I dove deeper in my practice of minimalism and reduced my anxiety and increased my self-confidence by letting go of unnecessary things/objects.

16. I lived on my own for 4 months and was able to center myself, find inner peace, and channeled my motivation level to increase my productivity.

17. I openly communicated with my parents about my future career goals and education plans without fearing their disapproval; they are fully supportive, I was just siking myself out.

18. I pretended during my Zoom calls that people were physically sitting across from me in the room to increase my level of connectedness with my graduate cohort mates; we were able to create the fucking best final project in a mere 10 weeks.

19. I prioritized sleeping at least 7 hours every night and I have become more productive and alert throughout the work day.

20. I’ve made it a habit to laugh at all the dumb shit that kept happening to me, instead of getting angry, and I felt more at peace with myself.

— —

Welcome to 2021…

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Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

As a practicing minimalist, I am about two years into my journey and have adapted principles of minimalism with a lot of patience, strategic thinking, and of course, dealing with emotionally parting with items as I was decluttering. Needless to say, I have gained immense perspective and revolving mindfulness about living with less and having more joy and creativity in life because of minimalism. Yet with the global pandemic at hand and the ridiculous societal fear of no toilet paper, I have broken a few minimalist rules I spent the last two years developing — and I’m not so proud…

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Photo by Gabrielle Henderson on Unsplash

I am finding lately that I’ve been more distracted than normal and it’s been driving me up a fucking wall. As a creative person and someone who is trying to make a break through in the creative industry, I have been digitally connected to the internet world 24/7, 365.

I tend to sleep with my phone on “LOUD” to get the latest news (or that awkward 1am text from an old fling). That confined connected-ness started to take a toll on my creative focus and again, I fucking hate it; the digital clutter is giving me hardcore migraines.

I’m also…

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Photo by Stéphan Valentin on Unsplash

At the end of 2018, I realized that my relationship with alcohol had to absolutely change. I was always the life of the party in my friend circles and I could drink all night long, be comfortably drunk but not too sloppy that I hurt myself or others around me. Of course I was mature enough and drank responsibly, never hazing others or pressuring them to drink in order to have fun. …

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Photo by Matt Ragland on Unsplash

I used to think that setting aside free time to do side hustle or creative work aside from my 9–5 day job, meant setting aside 3 or more hours a day to get that work done. I thought it was about “setting” that fat chunk of time to “actually get shit done” was so important that in reality, I never got jack shit done. I felt so unproductive and to say the least, unmotivated to even doing anything.

Sure this “time chunking” method used to work when I was in undergrad and only have classes during the day or once…

3. Nice guys are enablers of other’s poor behavior

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Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

I want to contribute to this great (and long growing) debate of “Why Nice Guys Always Finish Last” and drop my two cents. Sadly enough, I recently discovered why nice guys finish last (platonically and romantically) over a two-year span of time. I’ll be thorough in sharing my two cents about this said nice guy and of course, sparing his dignity by securing his identity.

I want to be transparent in the fact that he was a good person to me during our friendship that turned into a one-sided thing. Yet in the end, he and I are no longer…

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Photo by Matt Ragland on Unsplash

Being children of Vietnamese immigrants and refugees, my parents placed a heavy value on education and the privilege to be citizens in a country that also valued education. My parents were definitely firm believers in “knowledge is power” and made sure my younger sister and I both went to college to get our bachelors. And we both did that. We earned our Bachelors of Science and did the whole “college” thing. But my dad knew that his daughters were not stopping their education with just our bachelors and urged us to go back to school to get our Master’s.


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Photo by Prateek Katyal on Unsplash

Afew months before my 27th birthday, I started feeling the crippling effects of over stimulation from social media and the demand for staying digitally connected. It was something indescribable until I paid close attention to my breaking points with technology and all the devices I owned; my Apple watch, my iPhone, 2 iPads (I got one for Christmas one year and then upgraded to the one), and my Smart TV.

All of my devices were not the culprit but the accomplice as I was still the culprit operating them to cause an effect. I didn’t know what to call what…

Olyvia Chac-Nguyen

I write about traveling, minimalism, my Vietnamese heritage, life struggles, & sometimes coffee.

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