I think it’s safe to say, we’re all ready to leave 2020 behind. But, how can we?
We are changed. We see the world differently. We see our friends and family differently. We have lived through a gear-grinding halt of our way of life. We’ve lived through a horror movie, literally, where a pandemic kills millions of people and scientists must rush to find a cure.
That’s a lot. Most of us haven’t really even processed this year, so the idea of jumping into 2021 with New Year’s resolutions might feel exhausting. It does for me.
But something I’ve been considering is not what I want to do in 2021. Instead, my question is: what do I want to leave in 2020?
One of my favorite home design bloggers and Instagrammers happens to live in Rhode Island, Emily Blanchard of EmilyEveryDay. As someone who’s maybe a little too proud of my 4,132 followers, Blanchard has more than 40,000 and she’s truly a brand influencer.
She shares gorgeous photos of her Warwick apartment, usually with soothing white and gray tones, plus a little nautical mixed in. She infuses her personality, sharing what’s going on her life, what’s she’s buying, and trends she’s loving.
Her popularity as a home design influencer led to her work being shared in top outlets such as HGTV and Nate Berkus. She was named a Best New Voice by Domino magazine and Best Lifestyle Blogger in Rhode Island Monthly for three years running.
Home design became Blanchard’s brand and fulltime job, with companies reaching out to her to feature their products in her place on her Instagram page and blog.
And guess what she’s leaving behind in 2020 — her home.
“I realized life isn’t about the stuff we have, it’s about memories,” Blanchard explained in her now-empty apartment on the day she was leaving to start a new adventure in a van.
That’s right, this decor and style influencer who built her whole brand around the home is now going without one. She’s joining the “van life” movement.
“This feels like a natural progression,” she said as her new puppy, Theo, investigated my delicious shoes. “My love of interior design is about finding beauty, and I want to find that in travel and seeing more of the world.”
Those who join van life typically commit to living full-time in a van that’s been reconfigured similar to an RV. Blanchard’s converted Dodge ProMaster is insulated and wired for electricity, and it has a bed, sink, cabinets, shower adaptor and portable toilet.
“I can’t wait to open my back doors and just see mountains,” she said.
Blanchard had a difficult 2020. Her mother died suddenly, and she had a very tough breakup. When discussing these changes, she explained that her choice is not only about leaving behind a place, but also leaving behind what wasn’t serving her.
“As I went through my mom’s things, I realized we spend our lives collecting and then it’s tossed away,” she said. “Why do I want dishes my mom kept in her attic to just keep them in mine?”
Something Blanchard did treasure from her mom’s house were Post-It notes her mom scribbled on, often with quotes or prayers. She framed one, and it’s hanging in her van.
Her mother had written a quote from George Bernard Shaw that reads, “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
While most of us aren’t able to literally leave everything behind in 2020, there’s a lot to consider in Blanchard’s new journey within our own lives.
Perhaps there are physical aspects we need to leave behind. Maybe it’s our space and how much stuff is in it. But it can also be our choices. How we show up for the day. Our beliefs that hold us back. Any negative and limiting narratives that play over and over in our head.
I’m not good enough to do X. I don’t have time to do Y. People would laugh if I tried Z.
Because if we’ve learned anything in this difficult year, it’s that life is short and precious. Let’s courageously fill 2021 with what’s good for our soul and leave in 2020 what’s holding us back.
Vanessa Lillie is an author who lives in Providence with her husband and young son. She is writing a weekly diary for The Providence Journal. Staff writer G. Wayne Miller is curating the diary.