In retrospect

New Years has always been my favorite secular holiday—with or without a traumatic, pandemic-ridden 12 months preceding it.

Part of it is likely my love of superstition and the other my appreciation of a universal fresh start.

For 2021 I abided by my usual repertoire of traditions: eating sauerkraut, baking a good luck pretzel and even threw in 12 grapes all while watching an anticlimactic ball drop. I don’t get hammered on cheap beer and I don’t exactly set goals or resolutions. New Year’s Day is my mindful time of reflection and solidifying intentions. 

This time last year I was so hopeful. One of my intentions was to embrace stillness—little did I know that would be federally mandated in the coming months. I told myself I would take responsibility for my health and follow through with making doctors appointments—not knowing that I would have a legitimate, worldwide reason to avoid stepping foot in a medical facility of any kind.

2020 was intended to be my personal Year of Clarity and I’d say it certainly earned that title, just in the most unlikely circumstances. I realized I have a choice in who I permit into my personal life. I solidified my political views and challenged biases I hadn’t known existed. I questioned what I want of myself and my future; which values matter most. 

I learned that I needed a break from my work to remind myself why I enjoy it; that I needed distance from loved ones to remind myself why I want to hold them so close.

I have to admit that the idea of having time alone didn’t initially seem so bad. For someone who already dislikes groups of more than 10 people and prefers the companionship of Steinbeck novels, I felt like Thoreau himself was smiling down on me and that my creative muse would meet me on my hours-long walks around the lake inspiring my magnum opus. 

I was prepared to thrive, all until I realized that in those tranquil moments “alone” I was actually in the company of my own anxieties. In the endless hours I had of introspection this year, I confronted my fears, doubts, questions and pain face-to-face for there was nowhere left to go nor anywhere for them to hide.

My emotions aggressively flipped from restlessness to contentment, inspiration to numbness, motivation to lethargy in any given 24-hour cycle. In that time I also concluded that Henry probably lied to us about his loneliness and mental health.

It’s been said that humans hate boredom, that we do everything we possibly can to avoid silence and opt to create distractions. We inherently busy ourselves to death, and I think that came to fruition in the form of the national bread flour and yeast shortage we experienced mid-April, and the countless abandoned sourdough starters that have since died off. Far too often we crave temporary pastimes over sustainable habits.

So when I was thinking about what 2021 would mean to me, I couldn’t help but label it my Year of Healing. It would be inefficient to ignore the past year and not continue to grow from it. I can’t leave these open emotional wounds to fester infection instead of caring deeply for them.

I’ve thought about which habits I’d like to continue, which I should break. Which intrusive thoughts of mine are truths and which are lies. Who I trust and who I’ll continue to keep at a six-foot distance even after this blows over.

Maybe it’s because 21 is my lucky number or maybe it’s because of wishful thinking and my insistence of optimism, but I feel good about the year ahead. I’d like to think that at the very least, it couldn’t possibly be any worse, and if it is (God forbid), we’d be prepared.


Feature photo by Jorge Garhe on unsplash.