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End of The Year Food For Thought life Self Love and Personal Growth

2021 lessons

In 2021, I celebrated my 2020 wins. I really graduated from college. I really gave birth. I really moved states, back into my childhood home. I really started a new phase of my life.

I spent 2021 raising a newborn for the first time. In 2021, I recovered from childbirth and surgery. I can admit now that I went in and out of postpartum depression. I watched my baby grow and celebrated her first birthday. I started working again for the first time in a year, going back to a company I was working for for years. I then quit said company months later. Then, I started a new full time position elsewhere and was recently told that I am getting promoted. I was hesitant about getting vaccinated, then got vaccinated, then helped out with covid vaccination clinics. I recently got my booster shot. I saw movies in the theater for the first time in a year. I saw family and friends for the first time in (a) year(s).

2021, like every year, had its own ups and downs. I managed to meet some of the goals I set and that is worth celebrating. Every year, I have takeaways. In the last days and beginning of the year, I always reflect. These are the lessons I learned or relearned in 2021.

Be flexible

It’s beneficial to have a plan but some things happen out of the blue, regardless of prior planning. It’s just as important to be able to adjust to what life brings as it is to stick to your plans. Also, some deadlines or goals are unrealistic from the start. Sometimes we need more time. Sometimes a goal that was once achievable suddenly won’t be because of new information or life events. Release tight control on how you want things to go. Sometimes those unplanned moments can lead to something bigger and better.

Be realistic

You can do almost anything you set your mind to. Go after what you want. But also, figure out if what you want is realistic for your life. Make sure your desires are workable and not a fantasy. If they are out of reach, make adjustments to make it realistic if it is actually what you are willing to work for. Please note: it is easier to stick to a goal when you are specific, hold yourself accountable daily, and qualify it. In a way, this goes hand in hand with being flexible. It wasn’t until halfway through the year that I realized some of my goals weren’t realistic. Some of this was due to my recovery from surgery, or because of covid and my desire to be extra careful for my daughter, or because of work, or because I simply didn’t want it anymore. Coming to terms with the fact that not all of our goals are realistic is a part of life. It can actually encourage our growth and steer us in the direction of something that is actually attainable.

To do lists are helpful

Writing things down not only can remind you a task needs completing. For me, it seals the desire to do it. It’s a tangible list of what my plans are. Whether it is for a day, a week, a month, to do lists help me manage my time and encourage me to complete what I have in mind. Crossing of an item, no matter how simple, releases some serotonin.

The US is systematically flawed

If you know you know. If you don’t, I won’t be the person to convince you otherwise.

Parenting is a whirlwind

Parenting is different than I thought it would be-not in a bad way. I’ve talked about motherhood in different posts. My biggest takeaway so far is that there is no right way to parent. And as parents, no matter how much we research, we make it all up as we go along. Parenting is a different type of unconditional love. Parenting provides a new perspective for everything.

Forgiveness doesn’t have to lead to anything more

Forgiving a person for harming you is not even necessary or realistic all of the time. I believe you can heal and move on without forgiveness. Maybe one day I’ll feel differently. That being said, you can also forgive someone for what they’ve done to you, without rebuilding or reconnecting with them. People can apologize and you can accept it, but it doesn’t change what has happened. Trust doesn’t automatically restore forgiveness. You can forgive and still be done with them. I did.

All relationships take mutual effort

Relationships are give and take. And when a problem arises, it is not up to only one person to fix it, no matter who is at fault. The effort may not always be equal because our lives demand different things. However, both people should be trying to some extent.

Every relationship is different

I mention this in a separate post too. It touches on the fact that we can know the same people, but have a different view or relationship with them than the with another person, and that is okay. It also means someone being kind to you doesn’t mean they aren’t horrible to someone else.

Meet people where they are

People are who they are. Sometimes they change. Sometimes they don’t. We can’t rely on who we want them to be. We can’t rely on who we think they will be. They are who they are. If we want more out of them, it is up to us to confront them. If they don’t change, it is up to us to accept them and the relationship for what it is, or to move on. We can only control ourselves.

Balance is hard

Being a full time parent and a full time employee has taught me that balance is hard and time moves fast. It’s difficult to find the balance between commuting and working, spending time with my kid and my family, making time for friends, making time for myself and my hobbies, eating, exercising, cleaning, and relaxing. Balance is important. It is also hard. I hope to get a better handle on it in 2022.

Not everything is an excuse

Balancing is hard. Time moves quickly when there is a lot going on. Someone saying they don’t have time is not always an “excuse.” Just because you “have time” or “make the time” doesn’t mean someone else has to as well. I’ve always hated the word excuse anyways, because the word excuse is subjective in nature. A reason to me can be an excuse to you and vice versa. The difference between a reason and an excuse, in a broad sense, is someone validating whether it is a good or bad reason. When it solely involves ourselves, we are the only ones who can truly decide, if our justification is a reason or an excuse.

Overworking (grinding) is not always good

Please rest. Please plan to take a break and to sleep and reset if you can. It’s important. There are health benefits.

People project a lot

I’m pretty sure I mentioned this in last year’s end of the year post too, but people project more than I thought. A singular sentence can be thrown out there and people will come up with different conclusions because they are projecting their life experience on it. Please note: some of those experiences are rooted in objective truths- because of things like racism and misogyny and how that impacts every system put into place. Sometimes though, their projection has no merit in the reality because everyone lives different lives. I don’t have to put up with something just because you do and vice versa. You don’t have to approve of some else’s life choices for them to live the life they do. Not referring to politics or laws, not everyone will feel the same way about topics that you do, and it is unfair to project your values and thoughts on to them.

Mindset affects reality

I kind of hate this saying, but it’s true. Your thoughts can shape your reality. Life is hard and it can be hard to control your thoughts. Intrusive thoughts exist. However being negative all the time, even if the situation is negative, will make things worse. This isn’t to say you should always see the brighter side of things either. But again, balance and moderation is important.

Be intentional with your time

Even if what you’re trying to do is waste time, that is still intentional. Life speeds by and you never know what’s going to happen and when. It was a 2021 goal of mine and it led to me being more present.

There is nuance to everything

Most subjects are multidimensional. There are layers to things and in order to have a full understanding, you have to acknowledge and understand each layer. The easiest way for me to explain this would be to compare it to intersectionality. As women, life is different than men’s. But as a black woman, it’s really different than a man’s experience. Different factors influence people’s choices and realities. That’s why some situations may not always be as it is seen on the surface.

2022 is here!

2021 went by so fast; it didn’t even feel like holiday season. 2022 has started and it has already been interesting to say the least. Here’s to hoping that this year will be an improvement from the last. Here’s to the future!

Categories
life Self Love and Personal Growth

Obligatory End of the Year Post

Time is an illusion, but the start of a new year can be symbolic if you choose to let it be. What better day to draft my last post of the year than on December 21st, the start of the Winter Solstice. This time period can be thought of as the end of a cycle and the beginning of a new one. If you enjoy this sort of symbolism, it is a good time to reflect on the past year and set groundwork for the next one.

Ah, 2020. Where to even begin. It feels like the first year where everyone around the world was simultaneously forced to slow down, look around, and reset. Some countries fought this harder than others. 2020 in the United States was a mess for various reasons including Covid, Trump, and the presidential election. Many admirable people, both in and out of the limelight, that will have a lasting impact, have died. Everyday life for people changed in one way or another. This paradoxical year has both flown by and been the longest year, at least of my life. so far.

In 2020, we started a new decade. I achieved some of the goals, big and small, that I set for myself the previous year. I got promoted at my job. I finished my last college course and received my college diploma. I got pregnant and moved back to my hometown. I am lucky to have turned 23 and still be surviving a pandemic.

Reflecting on the year, a lot happened but it also feels like not much did at all. Some of the lessons from 2020 I have taken away are reminders from 2019. Some have been expanded upon. Here’s a few of them.

Be Thankful

If you don’t already, you should take more time to be thankful for what you have. I said the same thing in 2019. It’s something to be more conscious of. The parts of life that stress us tend to need our attention. Because of this, it is normal and easy to get caught up in the stressors of life. It is important, though, to actively recognize what we have going for us, especially this year, amidst so much tragedy. This does not mean our lives are perfect. This does not mean there are not problems that need fixing or uncontrollable situations that have or will knock us down. This is not promoting toxic positivity. It is just a reminder that chances are you or I have something someone else wishes for. It is a reminder not to take things for granted.

Toxic Positivity is Bad

Pretending like things are okay when they aren’t will leave you worse off than accepting you are upset. It is okay not to be positive all of the time. It is okay to say something is shitty if it is. Life is all about balance. Sometimes we just need to cry it out and dwell in our sadness. Sometimes we need to stew in our anger before we forgive, if we even decide to forgive. We feel what we feel and that’s human. (How we react may not be justifiable though.) Don’t force yourself to put on a show nor let anyone make you feel as though you’re complaining when you’re expressing how you feel.

Two Things Can Coexist

We are so used to viewing things in labels and boxes. Often times, concepts are explained or understood as this or that. An example that I grew up with is the idea that evolution and God are conflicting theories. Now some things innately have a line drawn in the sand. How can you be pro-life but believe in the death penalty? Those two ideas are conflicting since the death penalty takes away life.

However, I would argue that lots of concepts are not so easily conflicting. Covid spreading in the US can be the result of both government incompetence and human selfishness. If you believe in God, God could have been the designer of evolution. You can hate capitalism and still contribute to it. You can agree the political system needs to change and still vote. Etcetera, etcetera. Life is simple and complex, depending on how you look at it. Not everything is simple enough to be knocked into boxes when concepts can be a spectrum and/or situational and/or dependent on your own ethics and values. This is proved by the spectrum of sexuality, the ethics behind the trolley problem, and the age old question “Is it wrong to break into someone’s house for food? What if it’s to feed your starving family?”

Perspective Matters- One Size Does Not Fit All

I like to think there is the absolute truth and then there are the perspectives of the people involved. Sometimes, those perspectives line up with the truth. One person or both people can be completely off. Both can align with the truth to an extent. One (or both if they agree) can be completely right. We have a tendency to twist the words and situations of other people and project our own insecurities, experiences, and assumptions onto them. Sometimes we are right. Sometimes we aren’t. Some of the time, our judgements do not matter.

Since two things can coexist, one size does not fit all. Perspective and intentions matter. “Money does not buy happiness” can mean that money won’t solve all your problems and instantly make you happy. At the same time, having money will mean no more of your concerns will come from a lack of money. Your current problems would be solved and you’d be happy. Your viewpoint and objectivity will determine which way you view the statement.

Say What You Need to Say

I am a big believer that it is important to get what you need to say off your chest. I feel like every year at least one post mentions communication. As I get older, I have come to see the importance of clear communication. I have learned to sit on my feelings and thoughts about a situation and communicate them if they continue to affect me. Whether it is a good or bad thing is subjective, but I always feel better after I say what it is I need to, whether positive or negative, whether it is received and received well or not. Whatever happens after that happens and it is important to be willing to accept and deal with the consequences of your words. If you’re not willing to, you shouldn’t say it.

Speaking up reinforces the idea that your feelings matter. It can clear up any confusion. It shows you parts of who the other party involved is. Just remember, other people’s feelings matter too. If they express discomfort with your words or tone, consider shifting your approach if you want to salvage the relationship.

People Come and Go

I used to be a pact person. I attached myself to people and, in doing so, subconsciously refused to be comfortable with and learn more about myself. In college, I went on a journey of self discovery and slowly grew out of the need to unhealthily attach myself to others. The mindset did have residual affects though.

It seems like a lesson I would’ve learned by now, but not everyone you encounter will or is meant to stay in your life forever. Social media makes it hard to forget that people come and go and that’s natural. Friendships begin, end, or become distant with time. Acquaintances and past coworkers move on with their lives, as do you, when the common denominator changes. In some ways, that is a blessing.

That’s not to say some relationships won’t be long or even lifelong. I’m still friends with people I met eleven years ago, in middle and high school. My dad is still friends with people he met in middle school. My mom still talks with her college friends often. I believe I have met and will continue to meet people for a reason, but not all of them are and will be meant to stay.

Boundaries are Necessary

Establishing healthy boundaries with people is a necessity. Knowing what lines you don’t want crossed and what lines not to cross can prevent a lot of arguments. It helps everyone involved feel comfortable and respected and be on the same page. Learn what your boundaries are. and then stick with them. Some of them form with time. Some are specific to certain people or situations. A boundary could be not lending any more money to a person who keeps asking. It could be not being available all the time. It could be not allowing someone to talk to or treat you a certain way. It could be ignoring work calls when you’re off the clock. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for making those boundaries. Don’t let anyone guilt you into allowing them to cross those boundaries. Don’t let them make you feel bad for enforcing those boundaries.

Anxiety Can Be Manageable

My anxiety became a little more constant at the end of the year with my unexpected pregnancy and all of its symptoms, Covid, the shutdown and decline of the hospitality industry (my major), and the bubble that comes with social distancing. With anxiety it can be second nature to have a spiral of thoughts that lead to a wave of fear and worry. I talked to a mental health coach, courtesy of my job benefits, and learned the root of where my anxiety comes from: the unknown of the future and not being or feeling in control.

She taught me to actively be aware of and change my thoughts when I felt overwhelmed. We discussed ways to cut off the spiraling thoughts and shift directions by literally doing something else instead. She helped me see that, like with concepts, with myself and my life, it doesn’t have to be this or that, all or nothing. You can start working on parts of a goal without finishing the whole thing in one sitting. Having a few setbacks doesn’t mean everything is going to shit. Your projects don’t have to be 100% perfect to be shared, especially on the first go around.

Most importantly, she helped me realize I need to be more aware of and live in the present. Worrying about the future, though seemingly natural to me, does nothing. Doing so is based off of assumptions, not absolute truth or reality. It wastes time and energy and forces you to live through a situation twice if it happens to come to fruition. Accepting and releasing fear, accepting whatever comes, knowing I’m equipped enough to handle it, and believing everything will work out in my favor are all things I’ve been and will continue to work on.

We’re All Different

Not everyone will treat situations the same as you. Not everyone will treat you the way you would treat them. Releasing the expectation that people will handle things the same way you do makes life easier and will help prevent the feeling of betrayal.

Also, the fact that we’re all different plays into the subjectivity of situations. Some people are content to be in the situations they are in. Just because you say you wouldn’t be or want to be in that situation doesn’t mean a) you won’t ever be there and b) that person is unhappy in that situation. We all need to work on not projecting, assuming we’re always right, and being judgey of others.

Final Thoughts

A few more things to leave you with before I end the last post of 2020.

1. Clean up your social media, especially by unfollowing celebrities. It can help your mindset. Also set app limits.

2. Set goals for the new year. It’ll help you get an idea of how you want the year to go.

3. Celebrate your wins. It’s not bragging as long as you watch your tone. You really accomplished that, possibly in a pandemic. It’s worth celebrating.

4. People’s opinions really don’t matter. It can feel like they do but they only hold as much power as you give them. At the end of the day, it’s your life. If you’re cool with it and it’s not offensive or hurting anyone, including yourself, do and say what you want.

5. People can make it seem like you are different than you are to others. This is on a case by case basis and you have to be able to accurately hold yourself accountable to discern appropriately. Still, sometimes people will paint you in a different light than you actually are in. Sometimes, it’s to make themselves feel better about how they acted or treated you. Sometimes, there’s confusion on intentions and wires get crossed. Sometimes, they’re just assholes who want to feel like the victim because they can’t take responsibility for their actions.

6. What you accept is not always what you think you deserve. It can simply be what you want or are willing to handle. It can be a reflection of your subconscious thoughts and fears. After self-reflection, I realized I accepted less than I deserved because it was what I wanted at the time, even though I claimed, to others and myself, to want something more or something different. I knew I deserved and could have better. People would tell me that to reinforce it. But I didn’t actually want better or more. It served its purpose until it didn’t. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, that depends on your perspective. To me, it just is.

7. Allow yourself to be unproductive without feeling guilty. Productivity is a product of capitalism. You don’t always have to be doing something related to work, money, or your goals. Chill out and relax whenever you can and want to.

8. If you have any regrets, let them go and forgive yourself. You wouldn’t be who you are or where you are without all of your experiences. You might say that’s the point of your regret, but regret won’t change anything. Accept what’s happened, show yourself grace, and make movements forward.

A lot can change in a year. A lot has changed for me this year. Securing my college degree was the end of a cycle. Giving birth by the start of the new year will be another one. What are the chances life would align symbolically for me like that?

I recommend you reflect back on the year and take note of how you and your life has changed. I would avoid going into the new year with unrealistic or pessimistic expectations of how it’ll go. Don’t assume it’ll be as taxing as 2020 (don’t speak that into existence), but don’t think everything will return to the way it was (because it won’t). Set your desires for the year, and then just live day by day. You never know what’ll happen.