What I learned in 2021

Well it has been a hot minute since I’ve been on here. Life has been a bit of a whirlwind. So much so that for the first time in months (years?) I am actually perfectly content vegging out on the couch all day long. Usually I get really antsy an hour or two in, but so far I’m 8 episodes into Emily In Paris, munching on snacks left over from a prolonged guest stay, and am still EXTREMELY content. Leftover sparkling wine from last night’s exhausted New Year’s Eve couch sitting is definitely contributing to my contentment. Soon I shall break into my leftover advent wine calendar, because it turns out I definitely cannot drink two glasses of wine a night and still keep my health, sleep, and sanity. My late 30s have not been kind. But they have given me lots of leftover half-bottles of wine.

Keeping with the theme of a new year, thought it might be nice to do a little retrospective on my 2021. It is Jan. 1, after all. What better day or time to retrospect and introspect? And because I am obsessed with all things academic, I thought I’d make the theme LEARNING. Because I am a PARTY at ALL TIMES. Here are the top 10 things I learned in 2021.

  1. In 2021 I learned how to connect with and live out acknowledgement of the wisdom of my body. The body doesn’t lie, and I’ve been ignoring its messages in certain areas of my life for years. It’s exciting, calming, and a bit terrifying to commit to listening to my body and taking what it says very, very seriously. Figuring out exactly what it’s saying is not always easy of course, but ignoring the messages is no longer an option.
  2. In 2021 I learned how to be alone in a marriage: the art of being an individual and making some decisions based purely on what I need, want, desire, and feel. I got a hotel for a little writing staycation to get ahead in my final papers (something I will be doing every semester FOR SURE), I made food I wanted, I wrote the papers I wanted, I pursued (and didn’t pursue) relationships that fed me, rather than looking only at what the other person wanted. And the big one: I started thinking about my future in the context of what I want, not just what my husband wants to do. For our entire marriage I have molded my career to what best supported him and I as a couple as he pursued his dream; now I am focusing on what I want out of my career and my life rather than just being pulled along by his ambitions. It’s scary and wonderful. Highly recommend.
  3. In 2021 I learned how to make fitness fit into my life rather than fit my life around fitness. Life has been a bit inconsistent with COVID, a move, school, guests, etc., and I’ve learned how to embrace (and enjoy) rolling with whatever activity I can fit into my life at the moment. It’s so freeing to be working towards rejecting the shaming I apply to myself for not getting to the gym 4 days a week, for not going on a long run every single Sunday, for not getting in 10,000 steps every day, etc. I guess this could tie into #1, but it’s been nice to just embrace activity (and rest) as they are available rather than be stuck chasing a specific fitness regimen that may not serve me.
  4. In 2021 I learned how to be a student in a Philosophy PhD program. (!!!!) I am so excited I could barf. This is the beginning of a HUGE dream of mine, and I couldn’t be more excited and proud of myself for doing this and for surviving the first semester. I turned in two excellently-reviewed papers (I am keeping some professor emails for my “Reminders I don’t suck” folder) and am feeling like I am really getting into my intellectual groove. It feels so, so good. I even know my paper topic for one of my classes this spring! I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s my passion, my love. I am doing exactly what I need to be doing.
  5. In 2021 I learned how to be a better friend and how to identify real, true, deep friends. It makes me so happy. I haven’t been great at picking friends, and haven’t had the best luck creating the friendships that feed my soul (both in being that kind of friend and finding that kind of friend), so this is just the best thing ever. Friends really make life worth living.
  6. In 2021 I learned how to be ok with reading an abysmal number of books. Like, barely any compared to my typical. Of course, I’ve been reading thick books, difficult books, REALLY difficult (or just really slow-going) books, tons of articles, and I have spending far more time thinking and writing than reading… but STILL. In some ways I really like that I’ve switched my focus from quantity-of-books-read to quality-of-reading (though I do still value and admire quantity!!), but there is a little bit of a sense of accomplishment lost when I can’t claim that 3-digit number. It’s good to embrace what I can do with the life I have lived this year, and to celebrate those who cracked the number I would have loved to hit.
  7. In 2021 I learned that Hawai’i kind of sucks. I finally accepted that it’s f*cking HARD living here. And I don’t have to live here if I don’t want to. And also, I can keep living here if I want to! I still swing back and forth between love and hate, so it will be interesting to see how things turn out in another year and a half, when I no longer have to be here for my degree.
  8. In 2021 I lost 4 pullups. Ok, I didn’t LEARN anything from this. Maybe I learned how to do only 6 pullups?! I can only do 6 pullups in a row now, down from my peak of 10. And believe you me, they are an UGLY 6. Seriously, I have the flailing, kicking, sad little video to prove it. Ah, well. Such is the reality of a constantly-evolving fitness regimen. Always some old achievement to aim for yet again?!
  9. In 2021 I learned how to stand up for myself. Honestly, I am SHOCKED at some of the things I said to some folks, in my own defense. I’m not shocked at the content (I wasn’t cruel); I’m shocked that I finally, for the first time in my life, felt free to be so honest, direct, and confrontational. I’m f*cking tired of absorbing the insecurity-driven criticisms and derogations of others. Fix yourself. Focus on yourself. I will always talk to people who are willing to focus on their own sh*t, because that is truly all we can reliably do in this life. People aiming for deeper self-awareness and trauma-healing are my favorite. You can hurt me and we can repair as long as we both are putting effort into, and making progress towards, self-awareness and self-improvement.
  10. In 2021 I learned how to see so much of others’ hurtful behavior as the result of trauma. SPEAKING OF 9. I cannot recommend The Body Keeps Score highly enough. Seriously. Read it, then read Widen the Window. It changed how I see me, and it changed how I see so many around me. Beautiful and tragic.

Ok, ten lessons feel sufficient. I’m sure I learned a lot more (anyone want to hear my thoughts on Kant’s second Critique and how it helps solve a very serious complication in Agnes Callard’s theory of aspiration!?!?! Or about how to keep an indoor palm fern alive when you have a black thumb?!?!), but I’m sure 10 is about max for any readers and their waning attention span. I wish you all a wonderful, enlivening, enriching, expansive 2022.

A sun setting clears the sky for a sun rising.

1 Comment

  1. High five for low number of books. I was surprised at just how few books I’d read in 2021, and I wouldn’t have known otherwise without the Goodreads thingie. But it’s a good tool for self-discovery, many or not. At least I know how much I’m prioritising reading, and I’m able to readjust if necessary. Anyway, thanks for this post!


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