A Look Back on 2021
[Listen to an audio version of this blog here.]
At the end of 2020, everyone seemed to breathe a sigh of relief, like "thank God we survived that year," while ignoring the very obvious fact that New Year's Day looks and feels a lot like New Year's Eve if you're not prone to sentimentality. 2021 was, in many ways, a continuation of 2020 as far as pandemics go. But aren't we all tired of talking about it? Aren't we all exhausted of the crazy bitches on planes who refuse to wear masks and the uncle who's a staunch anti-vaxxer and the many many many people dying and must I go on?
I started 2021 with a strained hamstring, a motorcycle crash, and the dissolution of a relationship. I figured the year couldn't get much worse, so I agreed to spend a month in Colorado with a friend. But first, I booked a flight home, then another flight to a good friends wedding. I eventually healed my hamstring, and invested in a strength and conditioning coach for the dual purpose of not getting hurt and getting stronger. Now I not only have more visible abs, but my strength has improved so much that things I struggled to do in May are easy for me now. That's what growth feels like, and that's probably how we should all feel at the end of the year. If we're not growing, we're not living.
2021 was the year I got a new job, ran 100 miles, attended 80 baby showers, moved into my own (tiny) apartment, battled a flea infestation, and traveled to enough new places to keep me on my heels or my toes, whichever end of the foot you prefer. 2021 was good to me despite a rocky start, but only because I knew that it had to get better. Nothing lasts forever: pain, hardship, joy, abundance. Our attitudes guide how we see the world to a startling degree. If you think your life sucks and that the world is tearing apart at the seams, you're probably right. But you're probably also an unhappy, dank sack of half moldy potatoes.
This year sharpened me, too. I learned to be bold, blunt, and honest. Honesty saves time and feelings, but sometimes, honesty is really hard. I honed in on my personal and professional goals, made time to continue doing the things I love, and paid my good fortune forward in small ways.
I stopped paying attention to the news but read more books and listened to more podcasts. I generally filled my brain with useful gunk, but I also spent far too much time watching Tik Toks and staring into the never-ending abyss that is my cell phone. I discovered new music, made new friends, and gossiped less. I became so comfortable with being alone that I started guarding my solitude fiercely. I decided that no one could upset my peace unless I let them, and for the most part, that sentiment has held true.
I traveled to Mexico with an amazing group of humans who started out strangers and became friends. I ran over 2,200 miles, most of them filled with friendship and smiles and the rest filled with podcasts and audiobooks. I tried to catch more sunsets, wrote new poems, refinanced my car, and invested spare money. I set strategic, reachable, ambitious goals for my personal, professional, and athletic endeavors. 2021 taught me that the only real failure is in not starting, so this year, I decided to start (and maybe fail) ruthlessly and unapologetically.
I keep seeing and hearing the sentiment that 2021 was hard for a lot of people, but hardship doesn't divide itself neatly into days, months, or years. Hardship will always be here, and it's up to us to find the silver linings, no matter how faint.