2020 is almost over – finally. This year has been tough on many of us. We want to share our thoughts with you, what shaped us the most, what new hobbies we picked up, what makes us hopeful and more. While 2020 has been one of the most challenging years for many of us we would also like to focus on the things that we have learned or the small things that made us happy or cheered us up.
The year started with catastrophic wildfires in Australia, burning 12.35 million acres, killing at least 25 people and billions of animals – yes…billions. Back then who could have known that this was only the start to a year that would shape our society in the ways it did?
We all know what happened next in this movie we call life. COVID-19 has not only been restricting and limiting our lives in many different ways but unfortunately has also taken the lives of 1.5 million people worldwide (and counting) that will be missed dearly. We have marched and still march for Black lives after the murder of George Floyd sparked uproar – as it should! – and as the Black community continues to suffer from systemic racism all over the world. There are many more things that happened in 2020, from more harm to our climate to threats to democracies, to women having to march for their rights in Poland, to crimes against the human rights of Uighurs and Palestinians, to wars, explosions and natural disasters. The list goes on – unfortunately.
Today we want to end our 2020 at ASHIFT by talking about how these things have shaped us, how the pandemic has affected our personal lives, what we have learned and what we are hopeful for in 2021 – but let’s not jinx it.
SOPHIE’S THOUGHTS ON 2020
2020 was a rollercoaster of emotions. This year has brought me to my knees more than once and yet has helped me connect to myself in many ways. I have come out the other side stronger but also much more aware of my flaws and personality traits that probably need some more working on in 2021.
We have already mentioned some of the issues facing the world and our society in the introduction and while I could probably write a whole essay about all of them I would like to use my part of this thoughts article to raise awareness to the at least 13.000 refugees that have lost their homes (if you can even call the refugee camp with its disastrous facilities a home) during a fire in Moria. There was the #wirhabenplatz campaign in Germany – 13.000 empty chairs were placed in front of the Bundestag to show solidarity and the willingness to take in more refugees. All we did was take 465 refugees in – that is not enough! It’s a disgrace that our politicians stand by and watch people suffer in Moria 2.0 under even worse conditions than before. It is disheartening to see that nothing is changing and that the EU seemingly treats refugees as second grade humans. It is time to stand together and become the change we want to see. Don’t stop speaking out about Moria, don’t stop demanding politicians to take in more people.
2020 also brought a feminism awakening to me. Not that I wasn’t aware of feminism before but I do think the topics didn’t affect me as much. Maybe it comes with getting older and an increased unwillingness to take everyones shit. Or reading the 238493rd post on social media about a woman being worse off than a male counterpart (or being harassed). Just a couple of weeks ago it was the international day against violence against women in Germany. Reading story after story about toxic and traumatising relationships on social media had me awake at night (can we please normalise trigger warnings on SM – thank you!). Just two weeks later FKA twigs came forward with her personal horror story featuring Shia Labeouf. You gotta be angry. If this doesn’t affect you then I don’t know what will. Let’s talk about those that have help women. We got to hang out with Social Period this year – an organization that helps fight period poverty in Berlin – climaxing in our fundraiser for menstruation products in cooperation with them. We were overwhelmed by all your donations and I can’t thank you all enough for joining in. The organizations we dropped the donations off at were so grateful they said it was their little Christmas! Another huge success was Marie Nasemann’s #ichwillimmernoch campaign for the quota for women in Germany – finally achieving binding guidelines for more women on executive boards for the second executive positions act in Germany.
We finally launched ASHIFT around April after a year of work in progress. We got to interview amazing brands for our online magazine and managed to reach more and more people each month. Finally, we ended the year with our very first ASHIFT shooting at the Objekte Unserer Tage showroom in Kreuzberg. Another big milestone for us. We have so many plans and dreams for ASHIFT in the next year and we can’t wait to continue our journey with you.
On a personal level after not being able to see my partner for nearly 4 months – after an emotional draining year of long distance – he was finally able to move back to Berlin at the start of July. Finally, we could start building a home (we are both Leos and you know what they say Leos’ home is their safe haven) and find a routine together. I am so grateful for not being separated from him anymore and my thoughts go out to any couple that is working through long distance and those that are still separated due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. I know it seems hopeless at times but hang in there and support each other as much as you can, cry together, laugh together, plan regular date nights and most of all don’t give up on each other. If it’s right you are going to work through this together (I put emphasis on the word work as a functioning relationship is always work).
At the end of October (after many sleepless nights and tears from my side because of the very intense process), we were able to adopt our little boy Finn from Cyprus. Obviously, adopting a rescue dog is always harder than just shopping for a dog but we always wanted to adopt rather than shop. On the 20th of November his cargo flight arrived in Cologne and we were finally able to pick our scared little boy up. Since then both our lives have changed completely. A puppy is hard work but every cuddle is reward enough to do it all over again. I don’t think you will find a prouder dog mum than me. I can’t wait to see Finn grow up and explore his little world in 2021.
JULIA’S THOUGHT ON 2020
I can somehow not believe 2020 is almost over, simultaneously feeling very happy we almost did it! I still have very mixed feelings about 2020, and I cannot fully comprehend what the hell just happened! For that, I need more time and a journal with 12824789 pages for me to fill.
In my personal life, I underwent quite a few changes. In February I moved back from Amsterdam to live with my family due to the lockdown. Then we sold our home of 17 years this summer and shortly after I moved to Berlin for my internship. Currently, I am figuring out how to move back to Amsterdam for university. Besides these geographical changes, I also made various personal changes. Multiple lockdowns and limit social contact leave you with a lot of time to think – and overthink. This year I realised the power of seeing things from a different perspective. I am a real promotor of seeing things from a different angle, to learn from it and grow. To me, It is also one of the reasons for doing ASHIFT. However, it is always easier said than done, especially when this means questioning your own patterns and habits.
In particular, the continuous situation of Black communities caused a valuable way of changing my perspective. Being born in India and growing up in Germany with white parents in a dominant white environment, I really had to confront myself this year, to understand the different dimensions of racism in our society, even in my environment and experiences I had in the past. Nevertheless, racism is still a complex topic for me. I hope that we keep educating ourselves about the issue of racism like many people promised this year. And that we keep holding each other accountable, to be kind, to address racism in everyday life situations, look out for each other, and to take actions to empower change.
This year has hit everyone, some more and some less, making unfair social structures more visible than ever. For me, what has also been very present was to see how the COVID-19 crisis impacted the fashion industry, once again revealing its unhealthy structures. Due to the first lockdown in March, many retailers were forced to close their stores, which eventually ended in an inventory crisis for brands, but ultimately affecting the people in the supply chain. At this time, global brands refused to pay for an estimated 40 billion dollar worth of goods that garment workers had spent hours sewing. This led to 70 million garment workers being laid off globally without being paid, sending them to one of the greatest economic crises ever seen. Fortunately, organisations such as Clean Clothes Campaign and #PayUp are working tirelessly to demand the payments that garment workers own. Still, the situation for garment workers has merely improved, since they still suffer from food insecurity and going into debt to maintain their livelihood. It is more important than ever to stand up against the inhuman conditions people suffer from in the fashion industry.
I mean, how can it be possible that it takes a major fashion brand CEO 4 days to earn what a female garment worker in Bangladesh owns in her entire lifetime?
Constantly being confronted with news about these topics, about Moria and Moria 2.0 and many others each day left me often with an uncomfortable feeling of hopelessness. Another learning this year for me was to take actions when you feel like this: Sign petitions, protest, donate or make fundraisers as we did with Social Period, and especially surround yourself with people that care too.
This finally brings me to one of my highlights this year. On my journey of becoming more sustainable, this year has shaped me a lot. Not only did I manage to shop less, shop more sustainably, but also I did not fly once this year. I know it is also due to all the lockdowns and not being able to go abroad – but hey I take what I can get!
One of my proudest accomplishments of this year was launching ASHIFT with Sophie. We put so much effort into creating ASHIFT and creating content that is not only inspiring to us but hopefully for others. It also helped me to become more active, thus feeling less hopeless. Having a group of women at ASHIFT that think in a similar way, and to have valuable conversations with them, challenged and encouraged me to learn new things and to grow. Which is basically what we want for ASHIFT and the people who engage with ASHFIT. So, seeing this blossom more this year was a truly amazing experience.
This gives me hope for the next year – knowing that there are a lot more people out there that care for our planet, the people and a sustainable world. Only together can we create a better future and define a ‘new normal’ like talked about a lot at the beginning of this year. So for next year, I hope that we will keep coming together and work for a joined goal of a more sustainable world.
MONA’S THOUGHTS ON 2020
Where do I even begin? If I had to think of one word to describe 2020 it would be weird. And when I say weird I’m not talking about the ‘omg I’m so quirky and different’ kind of weird. I’m talking about the type of weird that makes you wonder at 3:28am in bed if life is just a simulation.
I remember sitting in my university’s cafeteria at the beginning of February discussing the COVID-19 outbreak with two friends. We discussed the first case of the coronavirus in Germany and how the media here was depicting it as this horrifying thing that was ‘made in China’ just to have a clever headline – pretty racist but we will get to that topic in just a minute. I wish I had known back then that this was gonna be one of the last times I was going to sit in that cafeteria eating cheap unseasoned food with my new friends. Mid March the numbers started rising – we all remember the toilet paper fiasco – so I left Berlin and went home just to be safe. Even though I was back in my hometown I haven’t hugged many of my close family members in almost a year now. I guess we all have to make sacrifices to save the people we love and to me that even includes all strangers I might never get to meet. All the more is it disappointing to see others not care or even deny the whole pandemic while trying to storm the Reichstag parliament building with their far-right flags.
With classes moving online it was hard to adjust, especially since professors increased the workload and almost none of my classes were live. Therefore, there was no chance of having actual discussions or asking questions. But I tried to adapt as best as I could. However, by the end of the spring semester I was drowning in an ocean of deadlines that partially even got postponed into the next semester and incredibly high expectations that I felt I needed to set for myself despite any outer circumstances. Thankfully, this fall semester is already different. Classes are all live now which is helping a lot. I can finally ask questions, have discussions with my fellow classmates and during group work it’s nice to get off track every once in a while and talk about personal things or how we all hated the semester before this one.
On May 25th Derek Chauvin, Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng killed George Floyd. Because of this and the continuous systemic racism especially against BIPOC in our society people all over the world went to the streets to protest. It triggered difficult but needed conversations with friends and highlighted issues for Black people and POC even here in Germany, as well as issues of systemic racism in our police and disappointing reactions by our government officials. Looking back on this summer I have realized a lot about the people around me and myself when it comes to racism, microaggressions and privilege. Months later I still think of these issues almost every day and I wonder if my white friends do too. Sometimes it feels like movements lose their spark once everyone has claimed to be an ally and people stop to care. I can only hope that the promises people have made to each other and themselves will be kept. If you are looking for information on some of the things that have happened this year or want to know how to help you can check out this carrd with an overview of many different issues in the world that I couldn’t highlight in this text.
Despite personal setbacks and societal issues this year has also taught me many positive things. Not only do I now know how to make a banging pizza and fluffy bread from scratch, I also learned a lot about myself. On top of that, I started my job at ASHIFt right before the first lockdown. Working here has taught me even more about conscious living and sustainability. Trust me, researching the fast fashion industry and the impact clothes have on not only the environment but especially animals and the people who make them will change you! I now know so much more about how harmful fast fashion is, how I can help with small steps in my everyday life and what I expect and demand from brands I want to support.
To finish my part I just want to say that I hope you know that making it through 2020 is more than enough. It’s ok to not have picked up a new hobby or to have started your own business during a pandemic. We don’t solely exist to function and to be productive. You are human and you are allowed to take breaks for yourself.