Since 2017, I have backpacked and lived in countries like Thailand, Vietnam and India for extended periods of time. At the start of 2020, I was back on the road in New York, where I’d previously worked for seven years as a preschool teacher and nanny. I decided 2020 would be the year to bring many of my goals and dreams to fruition. Three elements steered my vision board creation: travel, sharing information and healing.
I printed and cut images that encouraged and evoked emotion within me. I wrote affirmations and quotes from my favorite writers (like Audre Lorde) on pink and purple sticky notes and created various areas of focus like soul work and spirituality. I even chose a word I wanted to embody for 2020: expansion.
“It is particularly crucial now, with so much uncertainty, that we lean into the vision of what is possible in our futures.”
But by mid-March, New York was gearing up for lockdown to slow the spread of COVID-19. And by late April, I noticed a sinking feeling in my stomach when I looked at my vision board hanging over my desk. I was worried about traveling again, but more about my writing career, since publications were cutting their freelance budgets.
I can’t count the times I looked at my vision board and let out deep belly laughs because 2020 seemed like a joke. And there were also tears. Tears of sadness, anger and disappointment. Tears that spoke words that my lips couldn’t. I was grieving what was and what I thought would be.
Navigating grief about my 2020 vision
Melissa Ifill, a licensed clinical social worker and therapist in Brooklyn, affirmed me when I interviewed her about grief, vision boards and interrupted dreams. “Grief is about loss,” said Ifill, “and it's about loss of things. It's about loss of people. It's about loss of ideas.” But she added that grief is important, and that we should understand that we may need to grieve the loss of our vision for 2020 so that we can make way for a new one.
In my case, I allowed myself to feel my feelings, especially the ones I tried to avoid. Part of me thought I was weak for feeling frustrated and sad over goals and dreams while the world was burning. But I realized the three elements that drive my vision and purpose don’t all stop because of a pandemic. The road I’ll take to my destination will be different, but the destination is still the same.
I can’t count the times I looked at my vision board and let out deep belly laughs because 2020 seemed like a joke. And there were also tears.
How to move ahead and navigate change
“Vision boards provide a roadmap and are powerful tools towards manifesting your personal dreams and goals,” notes Camille Banks-Lee, a psychotherapist in New Rochelle, New York. “It is particularly crucial now, with so much uncertainty, that we lean into the vision of what is possible in our futures.”
If you’re looking at your formerly glowing vision board like it’s a complete disaster, or if you want to make a new board but are confused about how to do it when so much is still unknown, consider these three tips.
Reassess your goals. Whether you’re updating your current vision board or creating a new one, ask yourself, “What can I do to move toward this dream right now?” For instance, I may not be able to country-hop right now, but there are things I can do today to help make my future travel experiences in South America easier, like signing up for a virtual language exchange.
Create a plan that makes sense now. To help yourself achieve wins, consider breaking them down into smaller steps, Ifill suggested. For instance, if your short-term financial vision is to become debt-free in a year, what steps can you take today, even with everything going on, to set you on that path? For example, instead of putting only the words “debt free” on your board, consider adding the exact dollar amount of debt you intend to pay by the end of the year. Then come up with a plan of action: You can create a budget, cancel unnecessary services and stay on top of payments to reach the goal you placed on your vision board.
Make sure your board reflects what you really want. Sometimes we have things on our vision boards that are nice, but they really aren't things that we truly want, said Ifill. In my case, I had a list of well-known publications I wanted a byline in because they sounded nice. I realized I wanted those bylines only because they were what I thought I should be aiming for. So I created a new list of publications that are smaller in size and notoriety but that are more aligned with my values as a Black woman writer.
“Our priorities have changed during this time,” says Ifill, adding that we may not value the things we used to value in the same ways. Because of these inner changes, make room for understanding yourself differently during this time. And if you’re having trouble coping with this year’s events, consider talking with your health care provider or a mental health professional.
When you’ve updated your board, consider keeping it in a place that you will see often. “I keep mine in my home office, but I have clients that have them in their kitchen or in their bathroom because they spend a lot of time there,” notes Banks-Lee.
And be kind to yourself, especially during this period of uncertainty.