For most, 2020 was a year of major upheaval and destruction. Every single person on the planet was affected one way or another. Some of us experienced COVID-19 first hand, watched loved ones battle through it, or felt the impact it had on our global economy.  No matter how you put it, the pandemic and year 2020 has forever changed us.

In all honesty though, 2020 was actually one of the best years of my life, not kidding

2020 started on a very high note for me. I went into the year coining it “the year of ascension”. I was moving past the trauma of 2017-2019, an emotionally abusive relationship was dead, finding clarity in what it was I wanted out of this thing called life, and I was on track to really make a name for myself as both a competitive powerlifter and fitness coach. 2020 was going to be “my year”. 

In March I was very fortunate to take a trip to England for 10 days. Exploring the cities of Cambridge, Dover, Brighton, and of course, London, I enjoyed all the amazing food, beer, and culture during that trip; half of which, I was solo for (something I recommend EVERY woman does at least once in her life). The entire trip was one of the best experiences of my life; however, the last day was one I will never forget. It holds an eeriness to it, an array of feelings and emotions unlike most experiences you would coin as “one of the best ever”.

“They are shutting down travel, you have to get back now”. As my mom did what most moms do, she called me in a frenzied panic to warn me of this news. I admittedly was very ignorant to what was going on. Wait, there is a virus going around? The borders are closing? I’m walking the streets of London and there is not one mask in sight, toilet paper is stocked on the shelves, and absolutely no sign of tense, dense energy. “Mom I’ll be fine”. The next day I made my way back stateside and I will never forget that feeling stepping off the plane. You could feel the heaviness in the air. Something was going on, but little did I or anyone know how significant that something would be. 

The first month of lockdown was honestly not too bad for me. As a full-time Physical Education teacher I got to stay home and teach my classes, trained out of a friend’s garage gym, and really used the time to capitalize on the rapidly changing landscape of the fitness industry into an area I was already in which is online training and coaching.  I have to give myself credit, I maintained a fairly high level of optimism and positivity.  

By May I became like most, anticipating the day things would open up and just really over it all. As someone who loves to explore, be in the “gym” atmosphere; I was starting to really feel the effects of everything. So once things did open up, I will admit I was the first to go out, guns blazing with very little hesitation or concern.  As life was starting to seemingly “turn back to normal” (what an illusion that was), I became acutely aware I wasn’t ok.  Isolation was wearing on me and I was craving human connection. As someone who thrives on structure and routine, the lack thereof was a breeding ground for some of my shadows to come to the surface. In the process I noticed I was reverting back to some unhealthy behaviors in terms of my eating, drinking, and to whom I was associating with. I used food to control my world in a time where the world was undergoing a massive amount of uncontrollable shit.  I didn’t really care about things that were important to me and I used the excuse of “I’m living my best life” to validate my choices. In reality,  history was beginning to repeat itself.  21 year old post-figure competition show Brittany used food, alcohol, and procrastination to numb and resist the uncomfortable shit that was coming to the surface and I was doing it again. Then it happened.

The beginning of July I noticed I had a constant headache for a week straight. Odd for someone who really never gets headaches, but just attributing it to stress. During this time, I also had a case of pink eye that was not treated by the normal drops one would get at urgent care.  Again, another odd ailment, but “it is 2020, anything is possible” I told myself.  Then what I can only describe as one of the worst cases of body aches, night chills, and cold sweats hit me and it hit hard. I will never forget that Sunday night I laid in bed and thought “this is it”. Something in my gut told me, go get a test. You have this thing, you’ve got the ‘Rona.

“Positive. Mandatory 21 day quarantine then come back in for the antibody test”. As the nurse read my results over the phone I remember sitting at my kitchen island and my stomach dropped. Now let me backup. I was never one to be afraid of this thing. To be honest, I traveled to Europe right before all this hit. I traveled to Florida to visit a friend in the beginning of June. I was out and about the second things opened up. So part of me was like “well serves you right” and part of me was like “you gotta be shitting me”.

Those 21 days I spent not only in quarantine but I removed myself from social media for a little break. So here I was. Sitting with A LOT of uncomfortable truths. A lot of reflections. A lot of time alone and feeling feelings, something I taught myself to avoid and suppress.  I couldn’t use my normal coping strategies to bury these uncomfortable painful feelings.   Using the gym and my physical training was no longer an option to escape.  Using the support and validation from others, especially men wasn’t possible.  I had to face my shit head on and in those dark times I had to start with the question “who am I”.

My identity has always been always associated with a title. A title that was usually something physical. College athlete. Figure competitor. Powerlifter. Girl with the quads. Almost every point in my life I had this title tied to my physical body, but now it wasn’t there. This realization was one of the biggest turning points for me this year. If I put a label on who I am, well who am I when said label goes away? And if I put a label on me am I truly ME? If my only identity and habits revolve around my physical body, what happens when that is gone?  These were all questions I had to sit with. And by sit with I mean becoming brutally honest with myself.

In those 21 days I engulfed myself in a variety of articles, books, and podcasts related to personal growth and development. I came across the works of Eckhart Tolle, Abraham Hicks, Alan Watts, and Carl Jung as I set forth to answer “Who am I”. In those 21 days I admitted to myself a lot of things including my shadows, my life, and my desires. Things I had been suppressing for a long time by constantly pursuing labels, training my physical body to the extreme, and doing all the things I thought was expected out of me.  It took isolation, darkness, and uncomfortable times to get to those answers. It took darkness to reveal the light. 

The real light came in August when a girlfriend and I took a random trip out to California to visit a friend we had met in 2019. This trip, truly the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, would forever change my life for more reason than one. After this weekend I realized who I am was truly more than quads, strength, and all things physical.  Who I was was someone who loved adventure, exploration, and most of all, soul-shattering connection. I I was starting to see a trend here. Any time I got outside of my normal routine. Any time I looked outside of the fitness/strength/powerlifting bubble, it was as if I was entering this whole new world. A world of more than physical and labels.

Not only did that trip change my life, but it changed me much like COVID has. COVID and the pandemic have forced me to confront a lot about myself and what it is I want. It was the wake up call, much like the one I got in my early 20’s post figure competition. It was saying “Brittany, live your truth, but also deal with your shit”. Deal with your inner wounds instead of putting the barbell bandage over them.  Start slowing down and tapping into what your soul truly wants or continue to feel an emptiness inside.

I share this story in hopes that maybe one person will find some solace in the final days of 2020. Maybe this pause is asking you to look deeper. Maybe it’s helping you to a better, brighter path. But whatever it is, confronting that darkness head on is the only way to truly find the light.