2020: The Year Of Lemons

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”, or so the saying goes. I’ve always found that statement interesting: why are lemons synonymous with something negative?, I happen to quite like lemons; and why is lemonade synonymous with positive results? Not everyone likes lemonade. But I digress. The question that’s really been bugging me of late is: What happens when life gives you lemons but you don’t have the utensils or even a recipe to make anything resembling lemonade? And these are no ordinary lemons, they are twice as big as your head and weigh a ton. You look to your neighbours for help but turns out life didn’t forget them either. They all have lemons just as big as yours and just as heavy that they have to focus on. Though a much more layered and complex situation, this analogy is essentially what most of 2020 looked like for the majority of the world’s population. Seemingly overnight, we all had to deal with a global disaster more akin to fiction than reality. And we have all had to find our ways through it individually and collectively. Things are far from back to normal, but the light at the end of the tunnel is finally visible. It might still be unclear when we’ll reach that light or even what it would look like. But one certainty we didn’t have just less than a year ago is that an attainable end exists to all this. So at this focal point, it only feels right to at least acknowledge some of the instances we have actually remarkably managed to make some lemonade.

Now it goes without saying, the last year has seen a lot of loss and hardship: Loss of jobs, livelihoods, normality, but worst of all, loss of life and loved ones. We have all been shaped and altered in ways that are immeasurable and in some cases, irreversible. Too many of these changes have been negative, but that’s all the more reason to acknowledge the positives. If you’re reading this, you’re still here. On so many levels, that in itself is remarkable and worth celebrating. Many of us have been made stronger and more aware of who we are. We’ve learned new ways to make the most out of things with so little. We rediscovered the value in so many things and people we would normally have taken for granted. We discovered new ways to appreciate the things we have, and indeed new things to appreciate in their entirety. It’s not all been smooth sailing getting there. In making our lemonade we’ve had a few spillages, broken some utensils and in some cases had to reassess our whole recipe and even restart some or all of the process. We battled mental-health issues, isolation from those we love, heartbreak and so much more. But the lessons some of these experiences have taught us and the strength they’ve given us cannot be overstated or unlearned. Many of us now have a much deeper understanding of our abilities, strengths and limitations. A lot of us have had to confront some ideas on what we had accepted as “normal” for so long. Or maybe even enduring far more significant discomfort and suffering only to still pull through and keep moving forward. Whichever the case, our eyes have been opened to experiences, concepts and even knowledge of our own resilience we previously weren’t aware of. All of which can now be used to better inform our experiences going forward. Not all of us have gained the same things from the same experiences. Not all of us have had the same or even similar experiences. And even those of us who gained some positives also endured some negatives. No two people have had the same experiences let alone the same outcomes. We are not even at the end of all this. Some difficulties still lie ahead, but with every hardship comes a possible opportunity for growth, blessings, insight and hope. Every lemon has the potential to become lemonade. And we’ve all been given lemons.

We don’t all have the same resources, knowledge base or of us have already made, tasted and even been able to sell some lemonade. Some of us aren’t even halfway there. Some of us may have to get a taste from others. Some of us may end up having to settle for water. But, we all have one thing in common. We’ve all been giving lemons.

So, I was initially going to end this post in the last paragraph. But I’m trying to get you to understand you’ve more than likely made lemonade already and to acknowledge that, maybe even share what that lemonade might be. As such I think I’d be remiss if I didn’t let you know mine. So here goes.

You may remember I started 2020 on bedrest so the year was already off to a shaky start. I had been working on a few personal projects from before Christmas and in March, though I wasn’t fully healed, I look forward to attending a big event that could have acted as a massive stepping stone in my career. Well, you know what happened next. The UK went into lockdown, the event was cancelled and though on one hand I probably saved aggravating my health, on the other, I’d missed a massive opportunity that at the time looked like it might never come again. And now, like everyone else, I had to navigate the insanity that is lockdown. The first bit of lemonade I squeezed out of the situation came when my brother, who I hadn’t seen in 2 years, was grounded at home with me through that first lockdown. A planned one-month holiday became 5 months with one of the few people whose mere existence brings me joy. I know for a fact I never felt the full effect of lockdown until he left. He was my biggest utensil to tackle that lemon. As if that wasn’t enough, he shared a few recipes with me for making more lemonade. Being the hard-working entrepreneur he is, he left me with a few nuggets of knowledge to feed into my life and career (his own recipes if you will). I quickly got over the event I missed in March and started looking ahead. At first, I didn’t see anything, but I kept looking. Then within the span of a week, I was contacted by a massive organisation wanting to hear and share my story AND, I was separately made aware of a position I’d be interested in within the same organisation. I obliged, shared my story, and also applied for that position. One place, 2 different types of interviews and endless possibilities. The event I’d missed in March was a social work conference. The organisation I was now involved with, in 2 different ways was Social Work England: the official regulator for social work in the country. Lemonade never tasted so good. The interview with them where I share my story was well received and is now published on their website. My application and subsequent interview to work with them was a success. In November 2020, I officially became a member of the National Advisory Forum for Social Work England. An achievement I’m extremely proud of and an opportunity to make some positive change. I went into Christmas happy fairly satisfied with the year I’d had. But it gets better. Stemming from the interview posted on their website, I was invited to give a keynote speech as part of the inaugural Social Work Week coming up next month. From the 8th to the 12th of March, Social Work Week will be home to a whole host of online events celebrating, teaching and exploring everything about social work to anyone and everyone who wishes to take part. On Wednesday the 10th, at 9:30 AM, I will be talking about my experiences with social work and disability, live, during my first-ever keynote speech. It’s the first time I’ll be speaking publicly on this scale and would be beyond honoured to have as many of you watching as possible. Tickets are free and available HERE or on the picture below..

The best part of all this is I know it’s only the beginning. This pandemic will pass, but the lemonade we make can last beyond our lifetimes. If that’s not worth acknowledging, I’m not sure what is.

So go ahead. In what ways have you been able to get rid of lemons from 2020? Share your stories in the comments below or drop me a message. Maybe I’ll even make a little compilation of some of the positive things to come out of 2020. Goodness knows we could all do with some extra positivity right now.

Published by pencilpicasso

Well hey there! If you're reading this then I'm assuming you want to know a bit about me. If I'm right YOU'RE IN LUCK!, if not then... well... I think you're lost. So without further ado, here goes. My full name's Ifeanyi Nwokoro, or Ify for short. I was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria and now live in the north-east of England. Like many I know, I moved here for Higher Education and have now settled here. It's a peaceful existence which I very much appreciate. And that's the basics of me. A few other key things you should probably know though: I was involved in a car accident in 2010 that left me "clinically" paralysed from the shoulders down. It's been a bit of a struggle but now in my mid-20's, I am very happy with the stability in every aspect of my life. So yes, I will be talking about my disability on here... a lot. Most of my topics will Revolve around things most important to me: family, good health, football, movies, animation, everything superhero related, care, everything vegetarian/pescatarian and of course, my physical condition. I love engaging conversation, welcome constructive criticism and am always open to suggestion So feel free to get in touch. ;)

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