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2020, a year in review: Dr Genevieve Yates

05 January 2021 - Dr Genevieve Yates

Most years are relatively predictable.  While each is marked with its own smattering of celebrity deaths, natural disasters and political shenanigans, in hindsight, most are pretty unremarkable from a broader societal perspective.  Births, deaths, marriages and other milestones colour our personal lives, but again, most calendar years are relatively indistinct once their assets of recency have sufficiently depreciated.

Not 2020!

I’d wager there will precious few for whom this year won’t be memorable.  It was the year when physical contact with non-family members, deliberate or otherwise, went from being commonplace to being the worst of faux pas, when almost constant use of hand sanitiser was no longer only the purview of those with obsessive-compulsive disorder, and when daggy tracksuit pants and slippers became acceptable business attire for high-powered executives.

The pace of change has been both breathtaking and stimulating.  We’ve seen people and organisations who have had a passionate love affair with the status quo move to new ways of thinking.  As Lenin wrote: ‘There are decades when nothing happens, and there are weeks when decades happen.’

Last week I was shopping in regional Victoria with my partner, and was struck by the realisation that if I had seen this scene 12 months ago, there is no way I would have believed it to be true.  Not a chance.  And not just because everyone walking around Kmart in masks would have seemed tremendously odd. 

What's the personal impact been for me?

My life has had a hard reset.  I’ve unexpectedly said goodbye to clinical medicine after 20 years and moved into a full-time management role.  I’ve unexpectedly had a cancer scare and associated surgery.  I’ve unexpectedly fallen into love and a serious relationship after years of being happily single, and I’ve moved 1695 kilometres to be with him. 

After 80 – 100 work flights per annum, I have not stepped onto a plane since March and spent 7 months more-or-less housebound.  I have evaluated and reflected on my ambitions, values and purpose, increased my exercise, slept more soundly, and eaten better.

And yet,

despite better self-care, months of tracksuit wearing and a huge boost to my social connectedness, I’m starting December 2020 with signs of burnout.  With seismic change often comes high risks and hard work, and my job has been overwhelmingly stressful.  I know that I’m far from alone. So many of us are exhausted.

It’s time to proactively direct my remaining energy into creating space to be able to manage my lack of space.

"To discern what is truly essential we need space to think, time to look and listen, permission to play, wisdom to sleep, and the discipline to apply highly selective criteria to the choices we make. Rather than trivial diversions, they are critical to distinguishing what is actually a trivial diversion from what is truly essential." Greg McKeown, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.

If I can achieve this over the coming weeks, I can finish 2020 thriving: proud that I’ve not let a good crisis go to waste.


Dr Genevieve Yates
Dr Genevieve Yates

Genevieve is an educator, a GP and a writer in regional Victoria.

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