If 2020 was the year that broke me, 2021 is the year that built me.
This year exceeded any of my wildest expectations, but if we’re being honest, I didn’t expect much considering how my 2020 ended and 2021 started.
This year I pursued things that set my heart on fire, professionally, personally, and everything in-between. I did things that scared me, I met people who bettered me, and more than anything, I found gratitude for exactly where I’m at.
I used to wish I could go back and relive moments in my past. I also used to wish I could fast-forward to a time in my future when things would be figured out. Without exaggeration, I think this has been the best year of my life, but not because everything’s gone “right.” For the first time, maybe ever, I learned to lean into uncertainty . . . and man, it has paid off in spades.
At the beginning of the year, I took a break from social media for a few months and ended up on a reality tv show. I adopted a third dog and got my first (of now, several) tattoo. I learned how to sail, how to clean a p-trap, how to cut tile (and how to use so many other cool power tools), started to learn a new language (current streak on Duolingo is 266 days), got back to painting for the first time since I started law school, celebrated 520+ food bank donations from daily workouts with Vizer, celebrated milestones for friends and family, and learned to enjoy my own company.
I tried online dating and made more than 1k donations to Bumble’s effort to end hunger. I went on more than thirty IRL first dates (some from apps . . . but I think some of my favorite ones were from happenstance encounters through work and friends).
I’ve had the opportunity to work on some pretty cool projects, the most recent of which has been being a named attorney on several federal cases . . . which feels surreal, when only a few years ago I was told I wasn’t cut out to be an attorney because my health was too fragile . . . and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to finish my degree, let alone take the bar or ever practice.
I learned to celebrate the small wins just as much as the big ones. I learned to set healthy boundaries. I continued to work through lingering anxiety and trauma from the past. I learned to sit with uncomfortable moments, because like everything else, they’ll eventually pass.
I used to think life was measured solely by accomplishments (the job, the relationship, the whatever), but this year I’ve found the most impactful moments are often the ones that knock you on your ass and make you question what you’re even doing (the loss of said job, that “failed” engagement, and all of the mess in-between).
I’m so, so grateful my life looks nothing like I wanted it to a few years ago. I had to lose myself to find a version of myself I didn’t even know existed. I had to learn to let go of waiting for the outcome in order to blissfully fall in love with the process.
So, as in years prior, a few of my favorite lessons from 2021:
1 – Everything happens when it’s supposed to. Sometimes the timing of things don’t make sense in the moment, but looking back, everything happens when you’re ready for it. I used to be the queen of impatience, but learning to lean into that discomfort has allowed me to be more present, more spontaneous, more open to whatever comes my way, and in doing so, tremendously happier.
2 – Don’t wait for the perfect moment. Go to the restaurant without a special occasion to celebrate. Tell that person that you like them (or, better yet, that you don’t haha). Speak up at work. All you have is right now, and tomorrow isn’t promised, so what’re you waiting for?
3 – If you live for people’s acceptance, you’ll die from their rejection (Lecrae). I didn’t learn this until I realized there are some people in this world that you can give every ounce of yourself to and they’ll still tell you that you’re selfish. The reality is you’re going to disappoint some people during your lifetime, but you’re the only one who has to live with the choices you make on a daily basis . . . so act accordingly. Stop apologizing for taking up space. You’re worth more than you give yourself credit for, and just because someone doesn’t recognize that, doesn’t mean it’s not true.
4 – You don’t see the world how it is, you see it how you are. Along the same lines, people can only meet us as far as they’ve met themselves. This is something I wish I learned much, much earlier . . . but once you realize someone’s response to something you’ve said or done is more a reflection of their own inner workings than anything on your end, you’ll take shit a lot less personal and be able to move through conflict and stress with much more ease.
5- The days are long, the years are short. I don’t know about you, but this year has flown by. That being said, there were definitely weeks/months that felt like they painfully dragged on . . . remember when health officials said it’d just be two weeks to flatten the curve? Public health jokes aside, this year has taught me to find joy in the interim. It’s great to have goals and things to look forward to, but there’s also this unspoken bliss in romanticizing the mundane. That steamy pour of coffee. Buttoning that suit jacket before you head into the office. Impromptu dance parties when that emo rock song from high school comes on the radio. Sliding into fresh sheets at the end of the night. Every day may not be good, but there is good in every single day.
And maybe you’re not in a season where any of this good shit resonates, that’s cool, too. That was me not too long ago. Life felt hard and overwhelming and I didn’t know how it’d ever turn around. But then it did, bit by bit, as I learned to let go of what I thought things should look like and tried to see them for how they were. Things don’t have to be good or bad, they can just be.
But life is way too short to stay in that shitty relationship, or to continue clocking in at that unfulfilling job, or to keep up a friendship that causes you more anxiety than it brings you joy. My only resolution for 2022 is to look back on this post next NYE and to be proud of the person who showed up each and every day next year.
I want to look back and see the work I’m putting into myself, my relationships, my job, and the world around me. I want to make space for all of the emotions, come what may. I know it all won’t all be smooth sailing, but as FDR said, “a smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.”
Cheers to 2021; you’ve forever changed me for the better.