Lessons Learned: 2021 Edition
Updated: Jan 4, 2022
I’ve been pretty quiet on my blog lately. Actually, I’ve been pretty quiet in my life overall. But, I will happily say that I have never been so excited to say goodbye to a year. See ya, 2021. I don’t want to go back.
Simultaneously, as I reflect on the past year, there are so many lessons that I have learned. If you are so inclined, read along to discover what has impacted me the most. May it save you heartache, grief, and sleepless nights. Or, at the very least, may it make you feel less lonely in the hurdles that you may be overcoming in your journey.
Happy New Year, and Cheers to always continuing to learn!
1.) I get shit wrong. A lot.
Long story short, I made a career move that was a disaster. Those that know the whole story understand. I’ll spare the gory details and just say that I will never, ever put family before a career move again. No matter how desperate I may feel to ‘get a job.’
2.) My family is everything.
The year started with job searches and trying to find my true happiness. It quickly turned into 24-hour care for my dad when he had open-heart surgery. That roller coaster on its own showed me how much I love him. Yet, it also showed me how resilient he is and what a fighter he can be. My family also showed up. My kids, husband, sister, and extended family that I haven’t spoken to in a very long time jumped into action. From traveling across the country during COVID to daily or weekly phone calls just to say “I love you.” A lot of good came from one broken and repaired heart.
3.) I learned to set boundaries.
Gosh, that sounds a little harsh and probably harsher than it is, but it’s true. I learned that not thinking through my actions resulted in many problems that could have been avoided. I still love with my whole heart, but I also know when to protect it.
4.) Trust your gut.
If that voice inside your head says that something doesn’t feel right, believe it to be true. That’s where said boundaries come into play. I didn’t listen to my gut several times and trusted the words and actions of others, only to fall flat on my face and take my kids and husband down with me. Damn, that was hard. Yet only falling down means that you can get back up. It hurts, and you are sometimes battered and bruised, but you can still get your ass up. And you really learn to trust your gut moving forward.
5.) My kids are fantastic.
I’m not sure how or why, but they know when to speak up. We packed up and moved across the country through a lot of coaching and rallying. Did they want to do it? Nope. Did they do it? Yep. Did they give it their best shot? Yep. Did it work? Nope. And when they really felt it, they told us. Their words were not ignored. We talked to them and decided that we needed to go home.
6.) You can go home again.
Fate, God, prayer, divine intervention, or positive thinking, whatever the driving force was, brought us back home. Well, most of us. My husband is still on the west coast, but he’ll be home permanently before we know it. Also, having a realtor that is also an amazing person helps. She’s tougher than she knows and rallied for us when she didn’t have to. People can be tremendous.
7.) Marriage and parenthood are hard.
Especially when it’s done long-distance. Yep, the hubs is living on the other side of the country, but it is a blessing to have FaceTime for long-distance Thanksgiving dinners and late-night homework help. It reminds us that no matter where in the world you are, you can have a marriage and be a parent. It’s what you choose to commit to.
8.) Career is NOT a life.
Let me shout this one to the people way in the back. Think you need to send that email right now? Must you leave a school play, game practice, or homework duty for work? Think you don’t need to show up for that date night or family dinner? NOPE. Guess what? If the mass exodus of thousands of workers in 2021 has taught us anything, it’s that we are all replaceable. Even those in professions that think that they are the only ones who can do what they do. You are replaceable and disposable. What matters is what you allow to be necessary, and what you know can really wait until your workday begins again. If my father’s heart surgeon can wait till 8 am the next day to respond, so can you. Think about that. They set boundaries. So can you. There are exceptions to every extreme, but your career is NOT your life. Work hard, follow through with what you commit to, but also be honest enough with yourself to know what is really important. I have never heard someone say in remembrance of a person that ”They were really great at showing up for meetings.” But they will remember if you showed up as a friend or a parent.
9.) People are assholes.
Yep, true story. From the grumpy guy in line at the grocery to people close to you in your life, like family and friends, people are assholes. Most of the time, you really shouldn’t give it much thought, but sometimes certain situations just take up rent-free space in your head. I have some first-hand advice on this.
First, try to be like Elsa and Let It Go with all your might.
If you find the situation still sticks with you, ask yourself why. For example, the grumpy guy in the grocery store line may have just lost his significant other to an illness or got fired, or life has just worn him down, and he has chosen to be an angry person. In any of those situations, give him some grace. He’s hurting in some way.
It’s more complicated if the asshole in your life is close to you. But, again, this is where boundaries are essential. Try and ask yourself what triggers the asshole’s action? Is it what they say? Is it a repetitive action that hurts you? Identify what it is and make sure that you prepare yourself for when it may occur. You can only control your actions, and when you anticipate how you will handle someone else’s hostile actions, you’ll find you get a lot less angry.
Allow me to share my experiences with two scenarios:
The first one was with a co-worker I did not know very well. Due to my poor choices, I had to share very personal information with her to explain why I needed to move back to Ohio. Her response was both callous and unsettling. She is an asshole. I can’t control that. She has a lot to learn in life, and she someday may or may not get that how she treated me was not ok, but that’s not a worry that is for me. For now, I will reject my anger and try to give her grace. I mean, she’s still an asshole, but I learned a lot from interacting with a very immature human. I learned what not to do and who I certainly do not want to be.
The second scenario is where I was an asshole. Yep, I own it. I hurt a dear friend. I have written about this before, but it came to light again this year. Long story short, I tried to apologize again, do something nice, and well, they flat out rejected me. More than rejected, I was told off. It hurts. Still hurts. I’m pretty sure that I have lost that friendship. I owned my actions, apologized, and tried to make amends. Sometimes an asshole is met with defense, and it freaking hurts. So through a lot of thinking, praying, and sitting in my mistakes, I cherish the past moments of the friendship that we had, try not to hold on to the negative, and remind myself not to be an asshole. I will also remember to give someone a second chance, if they ever decide to apologize to me for something. Again, with boundaries of course! I don’t want to live my life in anger.
10.) Each year is a gift that grows.
No one is guaranteed another day, let alone another year. Nevertheless, I dream of what my life will be like in the future. I put positive thoughts in my head every damn day. I instill the lessons that I have learned in my kids with the hopes that they will either avoid my mistakes or, if I’m being realistic, they will recall my words when they are fumbling over their own hurdles.
For me, 2021 was nothing short of a disaster, yet it was indeed a gift. I grew in more ways than I ever thought I could. I learned how to move across the country and back with three kids and two cats. I learned how to be my own
handyman. I learned that there is always a bright spot in every freaking day, even on the roughest days. It’s there. You just have to remember to look for it. So, 2021 is a year that I will never forget, and honestly, I don’t ever want to.
I remain focused on growing, achieving, and loving in my life. It is a gift. My life is a gift. I don’t take those words lightly because I didn’t know if I deserved another day in my darkest hours. Yet, somehow I made it through. I have a lot more bridges to cross. I have realized that some may not be crossed for many years, and that’s ok. I’m excited for the ones that are before me now.
Happy New Year. Let’s cross some amazing bridges together.
Until next time.