Life lessons have been the flavour of 2020.
Many of the life lessons we have learnt have had a practical or industrious tang. Some of us have refined our tactics for negotiating plane ticket refunds with foreign companies or have mastered the tango of running a meeting while keeping the kids from wailing in the background.
For others, the COVID-19-inspired life lessons have been more spiritual. We all have a friend who has spoken to a new-found desire to reconnect with nature or rebuild relationships with old friends.
For Laurelle Vingoe - the University's Annual Giving Manager - this year has led to both sorts of epiphanies. Like diamonds, these life lessons have been forged under pressure.
English by birth, Laurelle moved to Australia five years ago to help the University build a culture and community of philanthropy. In her role, Laurelle designs initiatives to encourage giving from the ANU community, alumni, donors and friends.
Life Lesson #1: there are ways to be an extrovert in a socially distanced world
One of Laurelle's biggest takeaways from 2020 was that she is definitely a people person.
"I need human contact to feel energised and connected. I always knew I was an extrovert, but this has hammered this home."
Laurelle found ways to maintain human connections and create authentic spaces for exchange which aligned with restrictions. She was an early adopter of the Houseparty app, which she used to keep up with friends from as far as the US and as close as close as Braddon.
Laurelle brought this spirit to the workplace. Her team has a weekly GIF competition and hosts Friday afternoon drinks online. Although it has been challenging, these strategies have helped Laurelle and her team get through the year.
“These small things help to bring the fun and connection through our screen boundaries.”
Life Lesson #2: take time and space to find perspective and appreciate the simple things
Perspective has been hard to get during 2020. Couped up in our homes, it has sometimes felt difficult to separate home and work.
On top of the COVID-19 situation in Canberra, Laurelle has had the additional stress of being separated from her family and partner in the UK. Laurelle had a flight booked to the UK for 27 March, but it was cancelled last minute.
Laurelle’s way of managing these stressors was to take some time away from work. Laurelle took a few days off work around her birthday for a solo stay at Hotel Kurrajong. She also took some leave for a week-long holiday in Collaroy on the Northern Beaches
“My time away gave me the chance to appreciate the simple things. I remember one day I went for a walk around the headland, listening to music. The way the sunshine hit the surroundings…it was so so beautiful…Can you tell I’m a bit of a hippie?
“This trip reminded me of life’s beauty. It’s the little things that matter.”
Life Lesson #3: many people out there are generous and kind
One of the key initiatives Laurelle’s team has been driving this year has been an appeal for donations to the Student Urgent Relief Fund. This Fund has been disbursed to students requiring financial assistance during 2020.
Laurelle speaks with awe about the community response she saw during the early days of lockdown.
“People wanted to help. Many of our alumni wanted to help people who couldn’t help themselves. We saw incredible generosity from our community. It was inspiring.”