It’s Been a Year: Lessons from 2021

As 2020 came to a close on this day last year, I exhaled a prayer of thanks. After all, it was an awful year. As ever, December is a month of anticipation, reflection, and hope for me. Looking back to look forward if you will.

As 2021 began, I didn’t know how everything would unfold. What I knew was that it was not 2020, which was a most welcome change. Still, 2021 presented challenges. After a glimmer of hope as things seemed to improve from spring into the summer, a downturn presented itself. An unwelcome guest after a hellacious year, we had no choice but to watch things become difficult again with rising political unrest, racial tensions, and the ongoing Covid crisis.

Though there was difficulty and sadness this year, our family experienced a lot of joy and wonder as well. My husband and I found out that 2022 would bring us our first grandchild. It thrilled our younger children to learn they’d become an auntie and uncle. We traveled 13,000 miles across the country and back together with our pandemic purchase, a 32-foot RV. No words can really describe how incredible the trip was.

In both the sorrowful and joyful, I’ve learned a lot about myself and life. Here are the highlights:

1. Difficulty reveals people’s true nature

Throughout 2021, I have seen the best and worst in people. Those I know and those I don’t. I’ve seen selfless sacrifice by friends in the medical and educational fields as they navigated a harrowing year in their professions. I’ve seen my three children demonstrate resiliency amid challenging circumstances. I’ve seen the value of friends and family who don’t just claim to care for one another but show it through loving acts of service and kind words.

Conversely, I’ve seen the ugliness of racism and political division. The most deplorable sentiments played out on social media, in the news, and sometimes in front of my very eyes and ears. Perhaps most sadly, I’ve seen people prioritize political allegiance and personal freedom over public health and the common good. It’s been a lot to process.

2. Waiting is usually to our benefit

This summer was an unprecedented marvel for our family. After many years of dreaming, we purchased an RV. Finally, we could take a road trip of epic proportion. It was the first summer in 18 years of teaching my husband and I did not work during the summer.

On the road, I learned to choose being present over being productive. Yet another lesson about waiting born after years of waiting to have the experiences we had. Being in the moment can’t wait. It’s urgent and precious.

Looking back, realizing our dream to travel the country happened at exactly the time we needed it. After an exhausting, demoralizing school year trying to teach and parent two students, the trip proved itself a welcome relief.

We got the maximum benefit from discovering new things and seeing new places. The sharp contrast between pandemic life and the wide open spaces healed and encouraged us. The wait was worth it in ways we never could have imagined.

3. Ready or not, life carries on

I wasn’t ready to return to the classroom in September, but I did. I wanted the sweetness and freedom of life on the road to continue. Though this was not possible, I rediscovered how wonderful it is to have students in front of me in the classroom. They are funny, kind, lovely people. Seriously, probably the best cohort of students I’ve ever had in terms of disposition.

Ready or not, we will become grandparents this spring. I don’t feel wise enough or old enough. My own life isn’t sorted out properly yet. But soon, this dear one will come and be my own sweet grandson. He won’t care about any of that. All he’ll know is how deeply he’s loved and that his Gigi will spoil him the same way my parents loved and spoiled his mother. Are we ever really ready anyway?

4. Overanalyzing = lack of progress

I already knew this. I have written about this. Of course, some life lessons aren’t a one-and-done affair. They’re a process. My propensity for “analysis paralysis” frustrates me. Even though I am a take-charge kind of person who’s quick to proffer my suggestions about other people’s circumstances, I’m not so great about it in my own life.

I have spent a lot of this year dilly dallying around regarding my creative life. Two dead-end manuscripts. Too much noise in my head from being a teacher and a mom to be creative. Self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy. You name it; I fashioned an obstacle or excuse out of it.

To combat this, I’ve taken steps. Gotten firm with myself. First, I organized a winter workshop for some fellow Christian creatives. We’ll meet online for seven weeks starting next month. Sharpening each other as iron sharpens iron, I hope to get momentum back for writing.

Finally, I’m going to return to what I know works–an editorial calendar. My advice to others about this practice somehow got lost in the shuffle of 2021. I’ll schedule myself better in the coming year so overanalysis doesn’t have room to infringe on progress.

Of course, this is true for anything. Cleaning and decluttering the home, getting in shape, developing deeper relationships–you name it. Overanalyzing it will stop you (and me) from moving forward.

As you enter 2022, I pray you’re filled with hope. Though we can’t be certain what lies ahead, we can choose to be hopeful and joyful. Happy New Year!

With Love and Gratitude,

Tracy is a New Jersey writer who loves Earl Grey tea, spending time outside, and painting. She lives with her husband and children in a home where birdsong and rainstorms provide the soundtrack for her creative life.

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