20 Things Our Creators Taught Us in 2020

As we get closer to the end of 2020, we reflected on all the lessons learned from you, our creators.

20 Things Our Creators Taught Us in 2020

A lot of things happened in 2020, most of which we couldn’t have predicted, but one thing is for sure: your stories got us through this heavy year. Our platform wouldn’t be the same if it weren’t for you, our creators. You’ve proven, once again, that creativity can move and inspire others and give us hope for a better future.

This year, your stories spoke for those who needed their voices amplified, for those who needed to be thanked for the hundreds of lives they saved, for those who needed someone to pick them back up, and for all of us who needed a virtual escape from reality through music, photography, poetry, fiction, and art. Take a look at our Year in Review to see for yourself:

As the Curation Team at Vocal, we’re constantly hand-picking stories that stand out for different reasons. Whether it’s a creator's unique use of media, or a heartfelt story calling for change, there’s always something that catches our eye. This year has been no different. As we get closer to the end of 2020, we reflected on all of these stories and the lessons learned from you, our creators:

1. We can do hard things, like adjusting to a whole new normal.

Once the pandemic hit and we all went into quarantine, the days started to run together, we started to lose motivation, and the boredom settled in. Luckily, we didn’t feel quite as alone thanks to stories like this where we challenged ourselves to find new things to occupy our time. Between the Zoom happy hours, virtual book clubs, and endless other hobbies and activities we got into this year, you all found new ways to inspire us to get through these hard times. Never in a million years did we think we’d start crocheting and cooking every meal, but we did it! When isolation got tougher and longer, we began to dream and set goals for what we’d do after the pandemic, even as simple and small as going out for pancakes. Whether you were quarantined in a 450 square foot apartment, a South Korean government facility, or paradoxically a tent, you showed us how unique each experience can be, despite the collective longing to get back to hugs and social gatherings. Thanks to your stories, adjusting to the new normal didn’t feel so scary.

2. “You’re muted,” was the most commonly used phrase, next to “Can you see my screen?”

Our commutes got much shorter, and our homes turned into our offices. We learned how to manage our time when time seemed to have no meaning. Leigh Fisher helped us keep it together with tips for staying productive, looking at the same four walls every day. Artists like Gabrielle Maryse proved that home is where the heART is. Whether we worked from the couch or our improvised standing desk, the WFH love-hate relationship was strong.

Not only did our offices move back home, but our classrooms too. Many parents became first-time teachers, sharing challenges and success stories for how to manage a new learning environment, like this Mom. And college kids had to think outside the box in hopes of building better educational systems in the future. Regardless of the hurdles we were given this year, we still met deadlines, Zoomed too much, but most importantly, found new ways to boost morale while working from home.

3. Not all heroes wear capes.

The real superheroes are our essential workers, fighting through this pandemic on the front lines. We may not ever be able to repay you for the sacrifice and compassion you have shown us, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Healthcare workers, postal workers, our delivery drivers, grocery store clerks bagging our groceries, transportation workers, and the list goes on. You shared your compassion and gratitude in the most beautiful and unique ways. We read the struggles of what it’s been like for an essential worker during this time, and never will we take for granted the services you provide us, all with your head held high, even if it felt impossible. This year prompted us to recognize those supporting us without asking for anything in return; our essential workers are like family, and they really are the unsung heroes of 2020.

4. Ask not what the planet can do for you. Ask what you can do for the planet.

The Australian and California wildfires, sea levels rising, and the ongoing climate crisis have urged us to think and act differently about our carbon footprint. We learned so much more than just recycling hacks and composting tips. We saw a glimpse of what our future will look like if we don’t change our behaviors and habits, like how our cities will be if all the ice melted. This year highlighted the ever-present environmental racism that continues to “disproportionately impact Black people, Indigenous people, and other people of color."

It’s also about time we changed the way we shop and ask ourselves how sustainable our clothing choices and shopping habits really are. Thrifting continues to trend for all the right reasons from second-hand clothing to better alternatives for gift giving. Angelica showed us that we can still throw the party of the year and celebrate with confidence that we aren’t harming the environment with these helpful party tips that truly are worth celebrating. Countless coffee shop trips add up quickly, but we learned from Dan Pittman that there’s a better way to get our caffeine fix and not contribute more unnecessary waste with eco-friendly steps to brew your cup of joe at home. We’ve learned from creators around the world how climate change is affecting them and ways they’re trying to do better, like questioning whether those gender reveal parties were a good idea or not. We’ve certainly come full circle when it comes to living a more sustainable life.

5. Our mental health still, and always will, matter.

Instead of mind over matter, it’s our minds that really matter. With stories helping us to destigmatize mental health in the Black community and better understand the centuries-long systemic problems facing Native American populations, more voices are being heard from years of suppression. In-person sessions were canceled, but therapy online has changed the game for the better, providing more accessibility virtually. Taking more time for ourselves became more apparent this year than ever—something that stood out during our Mindful Strides Challenge. With meditation to-go and taking only what we need, we learned the difference between striving for happiness and not perfection. Even in the darkest moments, we’re shown that creativity proves to be the antidote for these challenging times. From self-care tips to keep us sane and showing up for ourselves so we can continue fighting the good fight, or the ways in which this year helped us love ourselves more, we recognize that we are resilient beings in the face of adversity. Your stories granted new perspectives, reminding us that men shouldn’t have to suffer in silence alone. Sometimes the road to feeling better starts with a mindful walk with your dog, like Henrietta below. Wherever you’re writing from, your mental health matters, and there will always be a safe space to share your stories around mental health here on Vocal.

6. There’s nothing like having your furry best friends by your side.

Animals continued to have the best year ever, despite the news and a pandemic. There were so many furry family members introduced as the adoption rate skyrocketed at the height of the stay-at-home order. Feeling a little lonely and find yourself not leaving the house very much? Pet adoption was a sure-fire way to combat the 2020 blues. Many creators adopted a dog or started a TikTok for their cat, which paved the way for some more pawsitivity. We were reminded just how lucky we are to have them at home with us — even the chickens, dragons, and groundhogs too!

7. Silence Is Not An Option.

This really has been the year to use your platform to educate others, combat injustice, and demand a change. With your help, we’ve amplified Black voices and called out our justice system on the undeniable racism that has seeped into their practices and protocols. You educated us on the Breonna Taylor shooting and the historical precedents that have allowed crimes such as this one to even happen. But, beyond words, you’ve taken action. Whether sharing important stories and knowledge online, joining a march, or donating money towards foundations like the Black Lives Matter organization, you've raised your voices for change. Through stories like, “Daughters, Mothers, Aunts, Sisters, Heroes,” you’ve taught us to be caring like Breonna Taylor, strong like Erica Garner, compassionate like Atatiana Jefferson, and most importantly, to never forget their names.

8. Women owned 2020.

Who runs the world? Yup, you guessed right, girls. Women have truly shown up all year and made a name for themselves in every field. Whether in STEM, music, business, medicine, or entrepreneurship, women have literally owned 2020. In March we celebrated Women’s History Month by highlighting all the incredible women in our lives via the Women Who Inspire Challenge, and week after week we’ve read your stories about women who are saving our world through their leadership, activism, and even music.

This year we also collectively mourned the loss of one of our greatest trailblazers, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And, as we reminisced on her legacy we were able to highlight all her contributions and rejoice in knowing that her work paved the way for generations. Stories like that of, “RBG: "Notorious" was more than a moniker,” captured the essence of the great Justice and it’s truly no understatement to say that Ginsburg single-handedly changed the futures of millions of American women and members of the LGBTQ community. That change is evident in the list of "Books By Influential Women of Today" by Paula C Henderson, which accurately depicts all the work women around the globe are doing to perpetuate a change.

9. You can still go big while shopping small.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that small businesses are the gems of our society. Whether you’re shopping for skincare, clothing, food, interior decor, or even holiday gifts, you can find quality products while making a positive impact on people’s lives. Creators who have joined our challenges, such as the Pay It Forward Challenge, and the Gift Guide Challenge, have especially highlighted great alternatives! Did you know that by purchasing a simple cup of coffee you’d be Supporting Refugees all while enjoying a specialty brew? Or, that by supporting a Black-owned business you’d be providing representation for Black children who otherwise are not reflected in items such as bookbags, barbies, and action figures sold by major brands? There are multiple small businesses seeking to make a genuine difference, like Rosemarine Textiles, and you’ve helped us discover and uplift them—thank you!

10. “Simple sourdough starters” are not simple...

If there’s one thing quarantine did, it was keep us all in the kitchen. Our Feast community has kept our mouths watering the entire year with delicious recipes. The Recipe Swap Challenge and the Cookie Swap Challenge showed us just how tasty creativity can be—like remaking Harry Potter’s favorite butterbeer cookies! It’s safe to say that the kitchen became a much-needed escape for many of us. Beyond trying adventurous recipes, you also showed us that food is more than just food— it’s a cultural experience. Stories like, “Kawaii Carbs! Let’s Make Japanese Onigiri (Rice Balls),” transport us to traditions that fill us with pure bliss. Food is also a reminder of some of our best moments and can teach us a thing or two. For instance, Leah Hunt’s, “A Toast To The Golden Arches,” explores how the fusion between a high-end drink (champagne) with an affordable American staple (McDonald's) makes her feel magical.

11. We’re redefining beauty trends.

It is so refreshing to see how far we’ve come in terms of beauty and self-image. It seems many of us no longer feel pressured to achieve impossible body standards. Natural skin is in, and so is embracing your body as it is! You’ve guided us through everything we need to know in order to take care of ourselves by sharing your Holy Grail Skincare Routines, challenging harmful stigmas around skin through self-love, and self-care, and best of all, you've taught us how to do it all on a budget! We’ve loved reading stories that show us that you’re pushing to redefine beauty trends.

12. Our FYP became the MVP, and you’re never too old to learn a TikTok dance.

TikTok took over and the trends never stopped, like the whipped coffee we had to try, cutting holes in our bedsheets for a ghost photoshoot, painting with our bodies, and Dracotok, to name a few. TikTok dances and challenges kept us busy and our screen time increased, but we learned some pretty solid life advice we may never have seen elsewhere. We definitely started to understand the app's hype and discovered hours and hours worth of one-minute videos that helped motivate us, teach us something new, and entertain us. The power of TikTok was real as it revolutionized fashion events on live stream for the first time. A reunion story about a child’s lost toy warmed our hearts. It’s safe to say we’re addicted to TikTok now.

13. When in doubt, there’s likely a Netflix original we can count on.

When it comes to great TV, your stories got us covered. Your reviews helped us navigate everything from horror films, to the best Netflix shows available for streaming. But, the cinema goodness doesn’t stop there. Our Geeks contributors kept us in touch with important movements in the film industry. For example, Gladys Muturi shared her experience with watching Netflix’s Christmas original, “Jingle Jangle”, which features an African American cast. She shared, “this film shows the epitome of how a black movie musical should be.” Without stories such as this one, the progressive movements of our favorite pastimes would go unnoticed by many, so for that, we thank you!

14. Facetime went from helping us stay in touch with family to making our photography dreams come true.

One thing we never expected would enter the realm of 2020’s dystopian normalcy would be photography. However, when it did, you gave us hope that with a little creativity, photoshoots would still be possible. Claire Petersen taught us how to take four fun self-portraits during the lockdown. From lens manipulation to content ideas, down to some much-needed motivation, she brought all the details on how to step up our self-portrait game all with our phones! Gabriella brought us inside her FaceTime photo shoot saying, “We want to create a confident vibe, like ‘I’m here world”, I’m living my best life and I’m not unhappy during quarantine,” so she skillfully set up her tripod, installed her phone, FaceTimed her friend and let the creativity loose. Photographers like Sophia Carey shared tips for other photographers to learn to adapt to this strange year and also opened up about how it has affected her business. And other creators like Jakayla Toney leaned on her skills to help other creators shine.

15. There’s no need for a fancy gym membership to release endorphins.

Just like many of us worked from home, a lot of us started working out at home as well. And as much as we might miss our go-to cycling studios or yoga classes, we’re happy to realize that all we need to release endorphins is enough space for a yoga mat. You got creative and shared all the ways we can get that workout in, especially during a global pandemic. Maxine, being a professional dancer, knows it is important to move your body—and luckily we got all her tips to feel our best. Sierra also taught us a few ways to practice yoga for free and from the comfort of our homes. The more we navigated our Longevity community, the more inspired we felt to break a sweat.

16. Music moves mountains.

When things were looking dull, we could always count on your stories on Beat to make us feel better— just take a look at our monthly To the Beat roundups. Through Challenges like our Brain Power Playlist Challenge or our latest 2020 Rewind Playlist Challenge, we learned a lot about the music that moves you, inspires you to focus, get's you going, and ultimately, has been with you through this crazy year. Creators like Leigh with her New Groove series kept us up to date with the latest artists to watch. Others, like Peter Mason, made a case for why we should all wake up every day listening to Jake Gyllenhaal now. Whatever your musical preference, we’re grateful that you shared the songs and artists that move you.

17. Despite everything, wanderlust is not lost on all of us.

We can all agree that not being able to travel has been difficult, to say the least. Especially when many of us had added “travel more” as a New Year's resolution... last year. So being able to explore your favorite destinations and hometown guides through your stories was just what we needed. We saw it as an aspirational vacation, and it was a great one! Zach Doehler’s first solo trip, for example, left us daydreaming of beautiful landscapes and the possibilities of experiencing this ourselves once traveling is safe again. Tatiana Sitnik captured the beauty of nature while on a solo road trip, which changed our perspective on isolation. Just like these, many stories helped us escape reality even for a little bit, and took us to an alternate universe.

18. We can never say thank you enough.

Your stories of gratitude did not stop, and we’re so proud of this. Our community used the platform to say thanks in ways that inspired all of us. Thank you to essential workers, of course, but also to the people in our lives who we don’t thank enough on a daily basis. Friends who answer our texts no matter the time, or lifelong partners like Cheryl's husband who is also her BFF, are the people in our life that we never want to take for granted. Anna-Alexia shared a beautiful poem to honor her best friend, and Christian Johnson wrote an incredible story highlighting a talented friend who inspires him (and us) through the lens. Our friends, our partners, our family, our coworkers, all of these people deserve a thank you, so be sure you say it out loud once in a while.

19. People truly have the power to change the narrative.

This year proved that when we come together, we can spark change. As the US election neared, your stories calling to action came in full force too. Our Beyond the Vote Challenge showed us that if there was ever a time to vote, it was now. But more importantly, you stressed that this was just the first step and we must continue to fight for change. We were inspired by your stories to creating safe and inclusive spaces for BIPOC students, and ultimately, your stories showed us that we’re voting for ourselves, and our future.

20. There’s hope for a brighter future.

And on that note, despite this year being hard on all of us, it was also a year that helped us grow—individually and as a collective. 2020 was a memorable year—one where we learned to listen, embrace diversity, be grateful, never stop educating ourselves, and one where we pushed ourselves creatively like we had never done before. If there’s one thing we can be sure of, it’s that the lessons learned this year won’t be forgotten. These lessons have given us hope for a brighter 2021.

Thank you.

— The Vocal Curation Team

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