The 6 Lessons We Learned in 2020 (And Are Bringing Into 2021)

Last March, I packed it in for quarantine at the same time I ran out of foundation. After years of experimentation with beauty blenders, high-coverage formulas, and primers, I’d settled on the NARS Velvet Matte Skin Tint as my daily hero product. I could apply it with my fingers, and it lasted all day. It had a light and natural finish, but just enough coverage to smooth over some hormonal acne and discoloration—the coveted “no makeup makeup” look. Except for my roommate and my boyfriend, no one saw me without it. It was my skin.

When I went to order another bottle, I saw my beloved skin tint had been discontinued. Stuck at home, I couldn’t test samples from Sephora or raid our beauty closet. I wasn’t ready to commit to a product that might be higher maintenance or higher coverage, especially under quarantine. I logged into my first zoom call with bare skin and felt naked. I reminded myself that in these times, no one cares about the acne scar on my chin. When I attended my first socially distanced gatherings, I expected my friends to tell me I looked tired. But soon, I felt like myself. I applied some fun eyeshadow and even felt beautiful. My skin had become my skin again.

Kathryn Vandervalk, editorial and strategy director

Kathryn Vandervalk

Kathryn Vandervalk

Though I’ve found a new low-maintenance, low-coverage hero foundation to add to my routine—Ilia’s Super Serum Skin Tint (read our review here!)—I want to hold on to this feeling. For those of us lucky enough to be working from home, there’s been both radical changes to the rhythms of our lives and the space to reflect on them. There’s a lot I’m ready to leave behind about 2020, but there’s also discoveries I want to take with me.

I sat down with some fellow Byrdie editors to hear the lessons, habits, and coping mechanisms they’re bringing into the new year.

Star Donaldson, social media editor

"This year has literally schooled me in so many lessons that it’s honestly hard to choose. But I would say the biggest one is to create (and stand by) my boundaries—whether it be physically by switching from my dining table to my couch for a different WFH vibe or deciding not to see my family for the holidays when pandemic numbers spiked. I admit that I can often be a people pleaser, and it is sometimes very difficult for me to remember my voice or even get in touch with how I feel. I’ve learned this year that creating boundaries is not only self-respect but also self-care. While situations may challenge my boundaries, it has become increasingly clear to me that it’s up to me to protect them. I’ve only just started embarking on this process, but I think in 2021 I will be able to grow even more and become a stronger/happier person because of this."

Avery Stone, commerce editor

"I moved to New York almost seven years ago, but this year was the first in which I spent the majority of my time at home. I'm a massive extrovert, and much of my pre-pandemic life was spent going to events, shows, restaurants, and museums—all the wonderful New York things!—but in 2020, I started investing in my space simply because it became the center of my world. I organized my belongings and donated items I no longer used. I bought small things that made my room feel bright and comforting, like candles, pretty glasses, and wall art (including a print made by our coworker, Alisha Wilkerson). Many days were not easy—some were anxiety-inducing, claustrophobic, or lonely—but those small investments went a long way. In 2021, I want to continue that energy so that whenever I do go out, in the future, coming home will feel even better."

Alisha Illustrates
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Hallie Gould, senior editor

"This year has certainly been a doozy. In the wake of isolation and stay-at-home orders, I've learned the profound impact of my friendships and the intimacy spending time together brings. I've been having a really hard time with the distance. But then, when there's a connection (a long phone call, a safe get-together, etc.), I'm flooded with intense gratitude for those relationships. I've learned the importance of maintaining that intimacy, communicating more frequently, and sharing how I'm feeling no matter how ridiculous it sounds. While I miss the cocktails and crowded bars, I miss the deeper stuff more. I miss hugging my friends and listening to them tell a story. I miss conversations that happen outside of a Zoom call or text message. I'm going to take those learnings with me into the new year, hopefully focusing more pointed attention and love on the people I care about most."

Kelly Gallagher, senior social media manager

"In 2021, I'm going to bring my air-dry hair routine with me. This year has taught me to work *with* my hair's natural texture and letting it air dry every day instead of blowdrying it or putting it in a ponytail. Over the summer, I challenged myself to not use any hot tools on my hair for 3 months. The result? Long, healthy hair. This has inspired me to continue to avoid hot tools as much as possible to give my hair a break. I'm learning to play around with my air-dried hair and enjoy the texture I have."

Eden Stuart, associate editor

"Since moving to New York City, I have somehow deluded myself into thinking that the act of walking everywhere is, in and of itself, enough physical activity—an excuse I used to basically never work out. Then lockdown began, and that reason went fully out the window. With a tiny living room and yearning for an excuse to safely leave my apartment, I returned to an activity I hadn’t done in decades: running. And guess what? Turns out the experts (and Karlie Kloss) were right—running is really rewarding! While the physical benefits are well known, I primarily laced back up for the mental health benefit; it does wonders for my anxiety. In 2021, I hope to find running as enjoyable as I find it fulfilling."

Faith Xue, editorial director

"The biggest lesson I've learned from 2020 is that rituals—no matter how small or seemingly insignificant—can make all the difference on my mental health. I used to be the kind of person who would rush from one task or event to another—it was how I operated best, and I told myself I thrived off the high-paced and harried franticness of my daily life. But throughout 2020, I've discovered a newfound appreciation for taking a moment to breathe and pause, plus doing small rituals throughout the day to recharge, reset, and bring me back to center. Whether it's making myself a latte in the morning with a dollop of Peak and Valley Ashwaganda powder, or lighting my favorite candle, or just (being forced by my boyfriend) to meditate for five minutes during my lunch break, I see now the value and necessity of these small, seemingly insignificant moments and routines. They've brought small moments of joy into my life, and these days, I'll take as much of that as I can get. "

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