As 2021 comes to a close, I’m spending a lot of time reflecting on what I’ve learned, what I’ve accomplished, what I haven’t, and how I want to set goals for 2022.
I didn’t always do this. I’m not a great planner, and sometimes it hurts to think about missed opportunities and bad moments from the previous year. But 2020 changed everything. I want to set goals. I want to make things happen and keep improving myself. I want to live every day with purpose, and live knowing that I’m doing my best. 2020 showed the world just how fragile life – and all of the things we’ve built around ourselves to be comfortable and happy – can actually be. So, here I am, looking back on this last year, and planning for the next one, knowing that all of my moments and all of my dreams are precious.
So, that was a big lesson from 2020. And I’m thinking tonight about what I’ve learned in 2021.
Be gentle and patient with yourself.
Life’s hard enough without having your own self as a critic and an enemy. Things won’t always turn out the way you want them to. You can try and still fail. You can fail to try, and then have to deal with the consequences. That’s not a moral failing, or a sign that you’re not a good person or capable. That’s human. We’re all human. We are worthy of our own kindness and grace.
Life may get in the way of your plans. Make them anyway.
I had some big creative plans for this year, and though I’ve made a little bit of headway on them, they clearly haven’t materialized yet as I wanted them to. For the first half of the year, there was a bigger issue – an issue that affected more than just me – that required my full attention. So, I gave it. And it mattered. It made a difference. I made a thing happen. It meant changing up what I thought I’d be doing with my time this year, and that’s okay. I’ve still taken steps forward. And I’ll continue to take steps forward, even if they’re tiny ones, until I see my goals become real.
Failure is a teacher.
To be fair, I think I’ve always known this. I think we all do, but it’s a lesson we have to learn over and over, because it sucks to fail. There are few things harder for a human, I think, than to do your best and still not succeed. But it happens. And it will happen again and again. There’s nothing for it but to learn from it and take those lessons forward to the next task. If you’ve failed, at least you’ve tried, and if you’ve tried once, you can try again.
Every single second is a chance to start over.
Don’t give up on a day because you had a bad morning (or lunch hour, or just a bad moment). I’ve had to really contend with this, in the last year. It’s so easy to lose motivation, ambition, willpower – even hope – when things go south. But every breath you take is a chance to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start again. Don’t wait. Don’t waste precious seconds of your life.
You’ll be scared. Do it anyway.
Hit send on that email. Type “Chapter One” on that blank page, and then keep typing. Send that text, make that phone call, book that ticket. If it’s important to you, do it, even if it scares you. You’re afraid because you care. And because you care, it’s worth doing. So do it.
It’s been a strange year for me. So many ups and downs, moments of absolute relief, and joy, moments of abject fear, of sadness and worry. But it’s been good. I’m glad to be here, to be alive and to be working and loving and trying and singing and dancing (badly) and eating and breathing. And so as I close out my 2021, I look forward, and know that every step I take matters.