Here we are once again at the edge of a new year. The years come and go fast. I am taking the time to reflect on what I did, how I grew, and what I learned. These are my 21 lessons from 2021.
1. Embrace the unknown
If there's one thing I've learned this year, it's to get comfortable being uncomfortable. It's easy to cling to what you have and want to hold on to it forever. But no matter how secure you make things feel, change will come. Embrace the unknown. It’s not going away.
2. "Look up"
There was a moment this summer, it was 6:30 am, and I was driving to the park to meet a friend for a morning skate. Joy Oladokun's song "Look up" came on. The sky was a burst of color, oranges, pinks, and purples bleeding into each other. The lyrics sang, "Look up. Do you see the sunlight?" And there it was dancing in front of me. In that moment, I realized I'm often so focused on where I'm going that I miss what is right in front of me.
3. Speak to yourself the way you would speak to someone you love
It's easy to say, "be kind to yourself." But this perspective really shifted things for me. If I love myself, why wouldn't I speak to myself with kindness? Affirmations may sound or feel silly if you haven't done them before, but they go a long way.
4. Practice Gratitude
I could have told you this in 2020 or 2019, but it’s different when you make it a daily practice. Daily gratitude changes perspective and shifts focus to what you have instead of what you want.
5. You do not need to be productive to have value
As someone who has a million goals, ideas, and ways in which I am trying to learn and grow, this is a hard one for me. I am learning that I need rest. I am learning how to rest. I am learning that you don't need to always produce; you have value by simply existing.
6. Get comfortable with rejection
Ask the stranger out. Allow yourself to be venerable. Let yourself get rejected. Guess what? It’s not the end of the world. Try again next time.
7. "It’s never quite next year"
This is a lyric from "Next Year" by Donovan Woods. It's easy to say you'll do it tomorrow or you'll do it next year. But really, "when is it next year?" Do it today.
8. Work on improving by 1%
Halfway through 2021, I decided I wanted to develop better habits. I found it gruelingly difficult to keep up with everything. I decided I would start by making it easy to complete them. Meditate for one minute a day - it's pretty hard to tell yourself you can't find one minute! Read one page, journal for a few minutes, write down 3 things you're grateful for, spend 5 minutes creating something. This felt silly at first. Progress was slow. Two months into this challenge, I read Atomic Habits by James Clear, which validated the value of building these habits. Now I read, write, practice gratitude, meditate, stretch, and create every day.
Write down habits you want to develop, create systems and environments that support them. Read Atomic Habits to learn more. And don't underestimate the power of improving by 1%.
9. Develop an "I get to" mindset
This one is great. If you can wake up with an "I get to" mindset, you'll enjoy that same day a whole lot more than you would have with an "I have to" attitude.
10. Find your people
There’s nothing like finding your community. Find the people who support you, understand you, and make you feel like yourself.
11. Write every day
Writing clears your mind and gives perspective. It helps you sort through problems, process things, and it shows you to yourself.
12. We are creatures of routine
Too much spontaneity is chaotic. Too much routine is boring. It’s a tricky balance.
13. Wear what you want to wear
Ditch the bra, get white eyeliner, do what you want to do despite what is “normal” or “right."
14. Nobody cares about your social media appearance as much as you do
You are the person who thinks the most about your social media appearance. Nobody else cares. And if they do, they are probably insecure.
15. Perfect is the enemy of progress
Don’t be afraid to create. Let yourself be bad. Let yourself learn.
16. Take a break from social media
Take a breath. Take a day off of social media. Figure out what it is you’re reaching for, why it is you are scrolling, and what you're avoiding.
17. Don’t say no to yourself before the world says no to you
As an overthinker, this has been a tricky one for me. There's no reason not to try. This year I dared to ask things I never would have have the courage to ask before. Don’t say no to yourself before the world says no to you. The world might surprise you.
18. If you believe you can do it and set a plan, you’re halfway there
Half the battle to most things is believing you can do it, deciding to do it, and setting up a plan.
19. Enjoy the journey
I'm slowly learning to be in the moment. I love setting goals and seeing growth. But once I reach one goal, I set another. I'm learning that life is not just about accomplishing things but enjoying the process and the little moments along the way.
20. You can climb mountains, but it happens one step at a time
As my 2021 wrapped up, I hiked a fairly sizable mountain. I loved that every moment I looked back, I could see how much I'd accomplished. Looking up, the rest of the hike seemed hard. I wondered if it was out of reach. But I made it to the top. Great things take time. Our culture places so much emphasis on going viral and immediate rewards. But there is a lot to be said about steady growth. Take it one step at a time.
21. Life is too short not to
Ask the stranger out. Move to the city. Pick up the hobby you always wanted to try. Make the time for that spontaneous trip. Getaway. Grab a friend. Find a lake. Float around. Make shitty paintings. Fill your belly with wine. Cook from scratch. Roast s’mores over a campfire. Sing at the top of your lungs. Life’s too short not to.
I have decided that 2022 is going to be a great year. To another 12 months of learning, growing, and living. I can't wait. To laugh. To cry. To love. To lose. To feel. To fall. To scrape the dirt off my knees. To try again. To explore. To dance in the rain. To hike in the snow. To let the sun kiss my face. To write into the early hours of the morning. To drink my coffee. To embrace the moment. To be alive.
Happy new year!