• Courtney Phillips

What 2020 taught me about myself…


Well, here we are in the home stretch of this wretched year that was 2020. I have spent the last month truly focusing on my gratitude for the year – what it brought me, what I healed from, what I learned, what I won, what I lost…


Many of you may have seen this on the backside of my Christmas card (if you didn’t get it yet blame USPS… or the box of half addressed Christmas cards in my living room #sorrynotsorry) that I included the things I was most grateful for this year personally. I did this because I felt like it was a way of sharing the spirit of gratitude and positivity and hope that each reader would think back on the year in their own life to find some of the things they themselves were grateful for as well. If not, I may come off as somewhat of a braggart… always the anxious one, I can only hope the sentiment landed!


In this vein, I’ve decided to share with you the things I learned and am taking away from this year that I believe will continue to help with my continued growth and to becoming a better person – especially to myself.


1. Rest is not an option. I’ve been on a merry-go-round for as long as I can remember. This dates back to probably the sixth grade when I joined the cheer squad and basketball team. While this is not unique to me, certainly an American cultural phenomenon of our generation, I have been going nonstop ever since. This year, the world stopped for all of us globally, and for each of us individually. For me, I lost my job, moved out of the first home I felt secure in and ended my marriage. Added to that, the one thing I was working towards – the Miss Virginia pageant – I broke my foot in the middle of pageant prep and was left in a cast without the one thing that I use to slow down my brain: exercise. My aunt looked at me and said, “this is God’s way of letting the air out of your tires, baby.” (She calls me baby, and at 36, you’d think I would hate that, but I truly adore it.) She went on to tell me that she’s watched me for years skimp on rest. This was a time the world was being slowed down, so it was time for me to slow down as well. Through this time with no job, no pageant prep, no appearances, I learned that it’s ok to watch tv or read, and, I’m sorry, but it’s ok to not blog each week if it stops being about the outlet and more of a task on my ever-lengthening to-do list.

2. The people you surround yourself with create the environment you live in. This year, I have been in several toxic relationships with work, with friends and in dating. Just like what you fuel yourself within the kitchen affects your waistline, what you fuel yourself within your emotional space fuels your mental health. Have you ever had someone in your life who was surrounded with negativity – every comment was a downer; every conversation was argumentative or every situation had to revolve around them? I’m a people pleaser to a fault, so unfortunately, these people wind up in my life as I try to make everyone happy and talk through every tough situation. This behavior, of mine, is draining and depleting especially from someone who is trying to work on their own healing and tough situations. I have learned to set boundaries and community my needs from people. If they do not want to respect what is important to me to be in a relationship (of any kind), that’s totally cool, but I don’t need someone walking all over my boundaries in my life. Not this year and not in the future.

3. Community isn’t just necessary, it’s healing. I think I’ve done a blog on my love of spin class. I know I bore you to death when I talk about it. But for me, it is and has been my main coping mechanism. So, with the pandemic taking away my beloved SoulCycle, I purchased my own indoor bike and still maintained somewhat of a workout regimen… But that is what it was, a workout, a sucky bike that squeaks staring at a TV screen… I knew I missed the experience of being in a room full of strangers dancing in the dark on my bike (and I have been a part of several indoor studios, so it’s not unique to Soul). Some people love yoga, some love boxing classes, or pilates. Whatever it is, it’s a community of people you see regularly with instructors you begin to love having fun while letting your frustrations, anxieties and emotions out. My first day back on the bike – in a parking lot in the middle of union Market no less – I cried during the Soulful portion after weights. It’s the time when you’re exhausted and have almost nothing left in your tank. I looked up and looked around and saw all these people (15 feet away from each other in a parking lot) all moving in rhythm and I cried. I had missed people and being in a community. I realized that day it wasn’t the bike, it was the community that impacts me so much.

4. Movement and exercise should be a part of your daily routine. I just wrote about spin and I opined about losing my ability to workout after I broke my foot. But realistically, they call running pavement therapy for a reason. Once I was rocked off my routine, other things started shifting off focus until I found myself waking up barely in time for my 9:00 am daily work all! I normally have a 5 am wake-up call each morning. Daily movement – even a walk with your pup – helps ensure proper digestion, helps you get rest, keeps our bodies working, and keeps our mental health functioning. One of the things I look forward to every day is walking Lily. I try to take her on at least one long walk each day if not two. During the long days of the pandemic stay-at-home orders, we were talking around 3-4 miles a day. She’s in great shape… and sleeping really well! Lol! I challenge you to try to implement daily movement into your routine if you don’t already have a workout regimen. I can help keep you honest! I try to go every morning before work to the gym or a spin class.

5. What is meant for you will come to you, when the time is right. I’m not one to think winning a pageant is something God or the Universe set in motion, but I have been competing for 1/3 of my life and never won a state title before this year. On that stage, I was in my worst physical shape from struggling with my broken foot, and dealing with all the things I shared above. I had not spent much money at all on coaching or wardrobe – I was wearing a $60 clearance dress for everyone wandering about my gorgeous red gown. But it was my time. How do I know this? I had an interview that was like they tell you to try to have. I spoke with those judges like we were old friends and not like the normal resume regurgitating robot I envision myself to be in most pageant interviews! I was relaxed on stage and felt like I belonged, instead of feeling like a fraud in my own body. Yep, those feelings do and have existed in my brain in the past. But I was calm and relaxed and actually competed in the way that I know how and know I’m supposed to but never actually accomplished before. This concept has been shown to me in other ways as well, but this example felt right for this list. There’s no reason to obsess over something or overwork yourself. If you do the work and trust in yourself and God and the Universe, what is meant for you will come. It may just not look like how you envisioned it. It may actually be better!

6. Music heals your soul. Most of us have love of music – whatever that kind of music may be in your life. Over recent years, I’ve turned radio and streaming services off and turned more news and podcasts on as I became what can only be called a news junkie. During the first weeks and months of the pandemic, I couldn’t take it any longer. The sad news, the daily death and illness counts. The updates of no end in sight. I started slowly turning down the news channels and up the music.


What’s happened due to this? Well, besides being a bit out of touch with news updates – it hasn’t quite cured my Apple News addition – I am returned to my long lost love of music and how healing it can be for your soul. It can speak to your feelings and share emotions you didn’t know you had. You probably know this! I did as well, but long ago forgot.


In that vein, I put together a playlist of my year-in-review so you can take a look at what I’ve felt through music and maybe even have a listen. Check it out at the bottom of this post!

7. You can learn new things at any age. This fall I began teaching myself to cook! I know! I know! It’s insane to think that at nearly 37 I can’t cook. Well, just two nights ago, I burned tofu in the toaster oven, so this is not an easy thing for me! Trust! My goal in all of this is to fuel myself with healthy food that’s cooked at home. For the better part of the last 18 months, I’ve been eating raw vegetables and hummus, if it wasn’t a pre-prepared meal or from a restaurant. I realize how awful that sounds. So…. Drumroll… I’ve successfully made soup and baked some squash. And with the exception of the unfortunate tofu experience the other night, I’ve made some dang good tofu a few times! While I’m not planning to cook a meal for anyone else anytime soon, because let’s face it, we need to make sure we don’t accidentally kill anyone… [insert wide-toothed emoji]… I am learning a new skill that I never thought I’d even be interested in trying.


I hope 2020 brought you lessons as well and many things to be grateful for as well.

My 2020 Playlist

Below you'll find a curation of music defining my year learning to love myself chronologically of course in the best 2020 way - a playlist... I do miss a mix CD! I'll save you an explanation of my life and rather let you use your imagination. Just know that each song represents a month in my journey through this year with a plus one for the sum of the whole (and the name of the playlist).

[Hint the photo is a link to play it directly on Spotify, or you can go to me and follow it directly. Same screen name as my IG: @TheCourtneyPhillips. I know extremely creative, what can I say?]


© 2018 by Spinning through Life.

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