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Blog: Let's take back 2020!

From The Shoulders of Giants
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Written by: Dr. Foland
Published on: November 3, 2020

We’ve all seen the hashtags: #Because2020, #IHate2020, and (who could forget) #2020WorstYear… our social media feeds seem to have been filled with pandemic updates, quarantine memes, and political turmoil for over half of this calendar year. It’s hard not to get sucked into it all.

I’ve made a lot of posts on our Discord over the last 3 months discussing my own mental health and have encouraged others to reach out if they are also struggling. Since then, our #random channels and my own DMs have been flooded with both support and with tales of similar hardship. My heart goes out to all of the students, educators, and young professionals who have been hit hardest by the abrupt transition from the ‘real world’ we all knew to a new, virtual landscape.

On one hand, I am thrilled that we began transitioning the TSoG community to a virtual format prior to all this; COVID-19 would have financially ruined us in our former “bunch of kids hanging out in a lab” mentorship model. On the other hand, COVID-19 left me a bit unsure where we stood in the world of supplementary education. Prior to March of this year, I saw our live-streams and virtual collaborations as a welcome change of pace to business-as-usual academia; after March of this year, I started to feel a bit lost amidst a sea of complaints I was hearing about online classes, excessive screen time, and out-of-touch professors trying to hold their office hours on Twitch (oof ). As a result, I pulled away from the camera and turned toward building what I felt students needed most: a supportive, inclusive community that could preserve as much of the prosocial normalcy that, in many ways, was the best facet of our original, in-person mentorship days.

Now, about six months later, we have built an incredible team of volunteers, have launched numerous successful student projects, and have hung in there together through the worst that 2020 could throw our way. I owe so much to our students, our alumni, our volunteers, and our donors who have stood by us and made this organization and our community what it is today. All that being said, it’s hard to shake that sense of 2020 malaise that, prior to this year, I never thought I would see on this scale outside of a Lars von Trier film. It’s time to work together to change that!

At time of writing, there are 60 days left for us to #TakeBack2020. I hope to lead this charge within our community by example. I hope you will join me in setting goals to further your mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Here’s how I plan to close out this year strong:

  1. Break into a new engineering industry. Next week, I'll be starting on an exciting new professional project in a field I've never experienced before. I'll post more details in Discord and will likely write a separate blog about it later.
  2. Study for the PE exam. A professional engineering license is not generally required in the industries I work in, even less so when you have a PhD. Still, it's a significant achievement that I've always had on my wish list.
  3. Get back on a regular streaming schedule. I'll post more about this later, but expect Work in Progress, Foundations, and Hodgkin pt. 2 on the calendar very soon, as well as two special series for Patrons.
  4. Take physical fitness seriously again. I haven't gained any weight since March, but lockdown has turned me into a bit of a couch potato. I'll be setting and tracking some specific goals for this to stay on course.
  5. Pick back up an old hobby. I'm not 100% settled on which one (I've lost a lot of hobbies over the last decade), but right now I'm thinking about getting back into playing guitar.

I know this sounds like a lot to take on - don't @ me, I am already well aware. I need a big change; I think we all do. I'm ready to turn this year around!

I would like to encourage you all to post your own #TakeBack2020 goals in our Discord - I look forward to working together on them in the coming weeks. As a special perk for our loyal Patrons (all levels) who I've neglected a bit throughout lockdown, I'll be hosting twice-a-week, interactive 'VLOG-like' sessions in our Discord Patrons-only voice channel. I hope to discuss our progress and help keep ourselves accountable together!

If you're not already a Patron, please consider becoming one for as little as $5 a month - every bit goes a long way towards keeping this community sustainable.