By Focusing on What I Can Control, I’m Finding the Good in 2020

By Focusing on What I Can Control, I’m Finding the Good in 2020
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This year, I want to say thank you. Thank you, 2020!

I know that many will think, “Why ‘thank you’? Are you crazy?” But no — I just want to be happy.

Many people were, or still are, hating on 2020. They wanted it to end so badly, as if a new year would change something.

Change has nothing to do with a year, a month, or a certain date. Many circumstances bring about change. I’ve learned that if I can’t control something, I have to change my mindset and how I see the situation, and then try to change what I can control.

When you live with a rare condition like epidermolysis bullosa (EB), you learn to adapt to new situations quickly. If your condition forces you to change plans, you have to be OK with that and find another way to do what you want to do. Complaining helps sometimes, as it’s good to get the negative energy out, but it never solves the problem.

It seems like the people who complain about COVID-19 the most are those who are only affected slightly — those who have kept their jobs, whose health isn’t at risk, who haven’t had to wait on or go without treatment for their disease, who haven’t contracted or lost relatives to the novel coronavirus.

This makes me angry and sad. But I can’t control how other people behave, so I have to focus on what I can control.

I can control how I see the world.

For me, 2020 was amazing, despite all the change, uncertainty, fear, anxiety, and restrictions. It brought me many amazing things.

I got to travel

Before the COVID-19 craziness started and the world paused, I attended the EB World Congress in London. The big event brought together multiple global organizations to raise awareness and promote research and funding for EB. I had the opportunity to give a speech, reunite with lovely people, and meet many others. I even got to visit Brussels, Belgium and Cologne, Germany afterward.

When the first lockdown happened in Austria, where I live, I saw it as a chance to take a long, much-needed break, and absorb all the changes that had happened in my life over the last few months. During the lockdown, I spent a lot of time with my roommates, read books, painted, baked bread, and planted flowers.

I enjoyed my own company

I spent a lot of time by myself, too, and realized that I thoroughly enjoy it. I grew a lot and became stronger. I realized I live my life for me — not to please others. Learning about myself feels amazing.

I adopted a dog

At the beginning of the summer, I decided to fulfill one of my biggest dreams and adopted a dog named Nala. Since the end of August, my life has changed completely. It’s been hard but totally worth it. I wouldn’t want it any other way. I love this crazy, energetic little girl.

Nala, my dog, and me. (Courtesy of Lena Riedl)

I loved who I am

Last autumn, another childhood dream came true: I was selected as the cover model for Wienerin, one of the most popular magazines in Austria. I had professional photo shoots that showed off my scars. I could finally see for myself and prove to the world that beauty does not mean having a “perfect” body, but accepting and loving who you are.

Cover of Wienerin magazine, December 2019. (Courtesy of Irina Gavrich, Eva Dinnewitzer, and Natalie Paloma)

Although the pandemic made it harder, I met many interesting and amazing people who have changed my life, and I am very thankful for them. Life is amazing, even during years that go completely differently than we expected.

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Note: Epidermolysis Bullosa Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Epidermolysis Bullosa Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to epidermolysis bullosa.

Lena is an Austrian born with the rare, genetic skin condition epidermolysis bullosa. She works with DEBRA Austria, an organization that supports “butterfly children,” and with another NGO which functions as an umbrella organization for rare diseases in Austria. She loves to be with family and friends, travel, sing, do sports, eat brunch, read, and spend time in solitude — especially if near the sea.
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Lena is an Austrian born with the rare, genetic skin condition epidermolysis bullosa. She works with DEBRA Austria, an organization that supports “butterfly children,” and with another NGO which functions as an umbrella organization for rare diseases in Austria. She loves to be with family and friends, travel, sing, do sports, eat brunch, read, and spend time in solitude — especially if near the sea.
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