It’s been a life-changing year for everyone. Not a single person in this world has been unaffected by COVID-19. But looking back on 2020 from my singular speck of a perspective in this vast and powerful universe, I am eternally grateful for the gains and opportunities I’ve received.

Firstly, so far, I have my health. I have not been infected and while many friends and colleagues who caught the virus have come out the other side of COVID-19’s first wave with little deep suffering or long-term difficulty, I am grateful for a strong body with the ability to fight back. It’s dawned quite clearly on me that Doctors very seldom know how to fix you. They are simply trying to reinforce and support your body’s ability to fight an infection yourself. In essence this is how a vaccine works. It’s a truly remarkable thing a body. And I’m so grateful for mine.

Secondly, I started a new job three weeks before lockdown. After this year I’m of the view that my cosmic superpower is timing. I somehow manage to leave or arrive at a critical intersection of change. And I arrived at Nando’s three weeks before lockdown was implemented in South Africa.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, Nando’s paid every one of its employees their full salaries throughout the period. No Nandoca lost their job to COVID-19 and the single Nandoca who has lost his life to this disease thus far will be immortalised and his family supported in the best way we know how when you’ve lost a breadwinner, a husband, a father and a son. We do a lot of things because they are the right thing to do. We live the mantra, ‘it’s the people that make the chicken’ and we can’t run our business without them, and we know that. I am beyond blessed that I work for a company that puts people before profit…and still manages to pay its bills and support its staff in the ways they wish to be supported.

Which leads me to the third thing, my CMSA designation. I was skeptical at first when my boss suggested I submit my portfolio of evidence to apply to write the Chartered Marketer Board Exam through the Marketing Association of South Africa. I’ve got a Master’s degree in Management and Strategic Marketing so what’s another qualification? But MASA is doing something critical for Marketers. It is pursuing the professionalisation of Marketing recognised internationally in the same way as Lawyers and Accountants are recognised through board examination and continuing professional development through an annual point- scoring system. That is something I’m fully behind and proud to be a part of.

I received 97% for my portfolio of evidence, one of the highest scores on record in the history of MASA, and I scored 83% in my board exam, the only candidate to receive a top distinction in this year’s intake of seven applicants invited to write the exam. I used my time well but I also work for and with the right people. So this is a privilege rather than a singular self-accomplishment.

Lastly, I fell in love with Yoga. It’s taken me a good 15 years to find a physical form of exercise that requires absolutely no motivation or dedication. It just happened, like falling in love. Yoga has developed my patience and core strength, it’s challenged me without making me feel like I’m not good enough and it’s introduced me to a new and rewarding way to spend time by myself and with others. I no longer pursue ‘ weekend plans’. My Yoga teacher is asking if I want to do her 200 hour Yoga teacher’s training program next year. It’s a lot of time dedication on weekends and Friday nights over four months and a lot of logged Yoga hours so I’m thinking about it. But a smart friend on Instagram said to me, “Justine it’s yoga on weekends, that’s what you do anyway!” Still thinking about it…because the patience and peace to make decisions is also a Yoga lesson I’ve learnt during lockdown so I’m taking my time…but she’s got a point.