Life Lessons

20 Things I Learned in 2020

This year I challenged myself to start learning more and growing myself as a person. In making this website, I learned so much. First, I learned how to make the website, and then I learned more about research and checking sources.

With the different things that I researched, I learned even more about the things I researched and myself. Here is a condensed list of some of the things that I learned this year. Enjoy!

1. Making a website is hard.

I had been thinking about starting a website or a blog for a long time, but I couldn’t decide on an idea of what the website would be for. I feel like I have a lot of knowledge in random areas, but not one particular area where I felt confident enough to claim myself as an “expert.”

I thought you needed to have a specialty to make a good site, but I decided to use my curiosity instead. There’s so much that I want to learn, so I thought, why not use that?

Once I had my idea, I thought I could quickly set up and be on my way towards making content within no time. Little did I know, making a website was a lot easier said than done.

2. There are different pillow sizes.

Growing up, I’ve always had just a regular pillow. Within the past couple of years, my husband and I upgraded to a California king-sized bed, and the pillowcases were bigger. I thought that was weird but didn’t think much about it.

A trip to IKEA and a room filled with different sized pillows made the light bulb pop on. There are bigger pillows for bigger beds! Who knew? (Apparently, everyone but me.)

3. Sometimes the hardest thing is the best thing for you.

This past year, I had a terrible year of teaching. I mean, really, really bad. COVID ended up being the saving grace for my sanity–you can read about that more in my post about the worst year of teaching (once I post it).

At the end of the school year, I was still trying to find another teaching job, and I was having problems because of COVID–you can read about that more in my post about finding a job during the quarantine. I finally got to the acceptance phase of grief, where I accepted that I would be back in the same role with the same employer next year. On the last day of school, I found out that that wasn’t even an option.

My employer decided to move my placement without any warning or discussion, and it felt pretty personal. After processing this, I decided that I would be leaving even if I couldn’t find another teaching position. I decided that I would sign up to be a substitute teacher before going back to work for this employer, which was the most liberating decision yet.

Luckily, I did find a new position. I was so relieved that I cried while still on the phone with the HR rep. It’s hard because any change is hard, but this was especially hard with my students and colleagues’ lack of closure. Even with that, leaving was the best choice for me and my sanity.

4. Taking care of your mental health is not selfish.

When I was a new teacher, I spent a ridiculous amount of time on lessons, activities, grading, and other various tasks. I worked almost the entire time I was awake from Monday through Friday, and then some on the weekend. It wasn’t a surprise that I started having some serious mental health problems–more than I already had.

Taking time for myself to do anything felt like I was wasting time that I could be working. That mindset is what caused me to hate my job. Hint to new teachers: the to-do list will never end. If you finish all of your tasks, ten more will pop up in their place. Taking time for yourself is more important than you know.

As the saying goes: “You can’t pour from an empty cup.”

5. The Washington Monument is older than the Eiffel Tower.

In my research of the World’s Fair, I learned a lot about different monuments in history. The Washington Monument is way older than I thought, and the Eiffel tower was built after it. You can read more about that in my post about the 1889 World’s Fair.

6. The Spanish Flu affected one in three people.

With the current pandemic and the numbers that keep getting shown on the news, I’ve been horrified by the number of deaths and how little people seem to care about it.

While reading one of my “I Survived books,” one of the characters died from the Spanish Flu in 1918. I was curious about it, and I researched the global numbers. One in three people were infected with the virus, which is ridiculous. I wonder how people would react to those numbers in the news.

7. There is no “u” in “curiosity”, but there is in “curious”.

When looking for domains for this website, I tried out different combinations of words. I learned that “curiosity” does not have the letter “u,” but the word “curious” does. I’m glad I checked that before buying a domain with the incorrect spelling.

8. Molasses was used to make weapons in WWI.

I knew that molasses was used in many different baked goods, but in learning about the Great Molasses Flood of 1919, I learned that the kitchen condiment had more uses than just baking.

Molasses was used before the 1900s as a sweetener in food because sugar was so expensive. In WWI, it was used in explosive weapons because of the fermentation process in an industrial-sized amount.

9. Mount Vesuvius is still active, and is due for a major eruption any day now.

In another “I Survived” book that I read, I re-learned about Mount Vesuvius’s eruption in AD 79–and the destruction of Pompeii. I remember learning about this in sixth-grade social studies and being fascinated by it. I wanted to dig deeper.

I didn’t have to dig too deep to learn that Mount Vesuvius is still an active volcano–one of the most dangerous ones–and it is due for another massive eruption. You can learn more about that in my post about the destruction of Pompeii.

10. Teaching online can be really fun.

This year, we have had to adapt our lives in so many ways because of the pandemic. If you asked me in February if I would ever think about being an online teacher, I would have laughed at you. After being forced into a virtual situation pretty much overnight, I ended up teaching special education for a few months with no training, no resources, and no guidance. It was horrible, and I was glad when the year was over.

Fast forward to a new school year, and I am still teaching virtually. I’m teaching virtually all year, no matter what. After a week and a half of trying to get the hang of everything, I think I’m going to have a lot of fun this year.

11. The Parts of a Computer

My husband, Jeremy, is a computer engineer and is in graduate school working towards a master’s and a PhD. I’ve actually helped him build two desktop computers in the past (one for him, one for me). He’s explained computer basics to be more than once, but I feel like I could not wrap my brain around it.

Recently, I’ve been looking for a laptop to buy so I can start taking writing more seriously. Looking for a perfect laptop is so overwhelming because there are so many different types for different uses. I knew that I didn’t need anything super expensive and fancy, but I did want something that I could multitask with. I asked many questions, and I feel like I am more confident in my research on computers now. You can read more about this in my Searching for a Laptop post.

12. A LOT About my Political Beliefs

Politics were avoided in almost every discussion with everyone I knew. Those types of conversations were almost taboo–and if you wanted to learn more, it was tough to without huffs and puffs about how everyone around you “just hates politics.”

As I’ve gotten older and more aware of the country’s state, I’ve found myself discovering what politics really are and how I feel about them. With the election happening this year (I’m writing this blurb before the actual election), I’ve found it more important than ever to be informed and use my voice. You can read more about this in my Thoughts Before the Election post.

13. Work/Life Balance

I’ve always had problems with work/life balance because, for a while, my work was my identity. I knew that I wanted to be a teacher for almost my whole life and that I wanted to help people. Ever since I started teaching my first year, I spent ridiculous hours staying after school to work, or I would bring my work home.

I started trying to work through that because I felt defeated after a couple of really rough years of teaching. I felt like I was failing at life because education was my life. Teaching is something that I love, but as I’m getting older, I realize that teaching is not my whole life.

This year has been really hard working from home because now I don’t have physical boundaries between work and home. I learned that I have to set time boundaries and space boundaries to not work to death. I have a “teaching corner” that I use from 8-4. At 4:00, I push everything back into the corner, and I force myself to stop working. It’s done wonders for my mental health.

14. There’s a Loophole in the 13th Amendment

In school, you learn about the civil war and the abolition of slavery. Still, I don’t remember ever hearing the wording of the actual amendment written into the constitution.

I did some research to educate myself about black history better and be a more informed advocate. I didn’t realize that the amendment added in a clause allowing for the forced labor of prisoners. This caused a surge in black people being arrested for little to nothing. Slavery is still alive, but it’s disguised with a new title. I’ll be posting about this topic once I finish my research.

15. The Newsies is about a specific event in history

I finally got around to watching the Newsies this year. I’ve heard songs from the movie and the Broadway play before, but I never knew that the Broadway show started as a Disney movie and that it was about a real strike in 1899.

16. Mayonnaise is dairy-free

I’ve known that I was lactose-intolerant for a while now, but this year I’ve noticed just how severe it is. I cut dairy because it makes me feel horrible no matter how little I have. In doing my research about what I can eat, I found out that mayonnaise doesn’t have dairy.

17. Eating dairy-free isn’t that hard

As I said above, I made a huge change in my diet within the past couple of months. With cheese and chocolate being my favorite food groups, I continued eating foods with lactose in them for far too long–even though I felt awful every time. I decided to try cutting back on dairy and ended up cutting it out of my diet altogether when I discovered that it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.

I do miss cheese and eating whatever looks good, but finding alternatives without lactose in it is making me feel so much better.

18. Urine was used in medicine and for cleaning

Before modern medicine existed, urine was used as an antiseptic. It was also used as a cleaner because urine has ammonia in it. I don’t remember what on Earth I was researching when I stumbled across this information, but I found it fascinating and disgusting.

19. I’m stronger than I thought

I’ve always been a passive person. I’m not too fond of confrontation, and I try to avoid it if possible. If there is ever an argument brewing, I find myself trying to diffuse the situation or avoid getting involved. Within the past year, I feel like I’ve grown so much as a person, and I’ve gotten better at standing up for myself.

In the past, I’ve doubted myself or second-guessed decisions that I’ve made if someone else questioned me. If someone told me that something was my fault, I believed them without question. With therapy and a good support system, I’ve not only grown my confidence, but I’ve been able to stand up for myself to family members and coworkers. I’ve felt more comfortable sharing my thoughts and opinions at times that I would never have in the past.

I’ve had family members and friends tell me that they’ve noticed a difference, and that makes me even happier knowing that it’s an external change as well as an internal one.

20. I Love Writing.

While I was growing up, reading and writing were always things that I loved to do. I loved getting lost in a book–sometimes to the point where my mom would have to force me to go outside. I always loved writing too, but I never once thought about writing as a career.

Obviously, writing is not my current career, but I’ve started to take it more seriously. I finished writing my first novel this year during quarantine, and I already have my next one plotted out. I also started this website, and my favorite thing to do for myself is to read and write. I would love to make writing a career, but for now, I’m just enjoying writing in my free time.


It’s good to look back and reflect on the year, and this was no exception. I am so glad that I kept track of the different things that I learned through this website. I’ve truly enjoyed sharing what I’ve learned with you, and I plan to continue that in 2021. Happy new year, and happy learning!