2021 year in review

Photo by Alina Vilchenko from Pexels

I normally post my year recaps to my blog, but it felt right to put it here on Medium, somewhere I’m dedicated to publishing more frequently. My year in review blogs always have a different tone — I’ve given up trying to set a specific list of questions or topics to write about because I think it’s so important to simply write. This will feel certainly different than my other 3–5 minute reads on useful business topics — but I’m excited to share with you nonetheless.

This week I’m on vacation, and finding that my thoughts are clearest for writing as soon as I wake up and right before my brain finally turns off for the night. It’s a fun and exciting time, getting to see my brain’s potential grow, unburdened by the static of my anxiety or other people’s whims. I’m excited to write this today, I even skipped brushing my teeth so I could grab my coffee and get started. At some point this week I brain dumped an entire post about feedback in project management settings into the notes app on my phone around 10pm — and woke up to a fully structured blog ready to go — like I said, exciting times.

So we’re all on the same page, here’s what I look like today while I’m writing this — hello :)

Hi, I’m Liz :)

I was in therapy yesterday and asked my therapist what sort of questions people usually ask at the end of the year. She asked me how I felt 2021 had gone. And I think I’ll share some of my answers here.

2021 was a year that taught me to sit in the driver’s seat of choosing my own experiences. I’m a stealth people pleaser, I learned that…..yesterday. Apparently I’m the last to know lol. And I often manipulate my own emotions and whims around other people’s feelings. I have no idea how to truly process this information outside of trying to shift my internal universe to actually focus on myself. Will check in on that later.

In 2021 I spent so much time alone at the end of this year, it’s hard to believe I was surrounded by people almost consistently up until October. In January I had a roommate, I had just stopped seeing someone I was dating, I was seeing my friends somewhat regularly, and then in March I spent three weeks with my mom, grandma and sisters as I recovered from top surgery. I had no idea how much I would enjoy the quiet spaciousness of filling a home with just myself. It turns out I am very comfortable singing while making dinner, and talking to myself, and laughing at the TV boisterously. I’m meeting, in some ways, a part of me that until quite recently, hadn’t had the opportunity to show.

A side note — right now I’m especially into folk horror stories in the r/nosleep reddit community. I read 4–5 terrifying stories and then go to sleep for 10 hours with no problem. Is this a new superpower?

Sitting on my coffee table is a notebook chart full of pink squares and dates, my foster hospice (#fospice for the cool cats) cat’s medicine chart. He’s had cancer, that we know of, since last January. I filled out this latest chart in May, completing it until December seemed like a lifetime ago, and in a way a bit morbid. But here I am, December 31st, getting ready to create a new monthly chart because surprising absolutely everyone, Tuck is still kicking. We walk with death in this apartment, and so far Tuck has enjoyed the stroll immensely and has chosen to stay with us.

In many ways being a people pleaser impacted a lot of my experiences in 2021. I’m not bothering to dig through 2020 because that was a beast in and of itself. In 2021 my biggest mistake was caring too much about other people’s feelings. It got me hurt, it impacted my mental and physical health, and there are certainly some decisions I could’ve made earlier that would have prevented a lot of those misfires. All in all, we live and we learn.

Top surgery was a massive part of 2021 and at the same time, it wasn’t? My 10 month post-op anniversary is in January, and much like living alone, I can hardly remember a time when I was trying to bind my breasts down and out of sight. Any regrets? That I didn’t fully trust my dysphoria that I would be so much happier without those burdens weighing me down. It means something when you make a change and suddenly you can’t remember life the way it was before. It’s a heavenly realization.

I also think 2021 invited me to explore my own spirituality. I don’t pray, I was never very good at it, but I do write. I write my fears, affirmations, and questions. I had my first tarot reading in 2021 and felt so at peace with the words and wisdom that came to find me that I’m very much looking forward to my next one. I set boundaries like only having readings from queer and trans people because I am safest among my own community, and it felt so right.

My spirituality is evolving. I now listen to the moon and its phases, watch for changes in the stars and how it affects my own chart, and pay attention to how I grow and ache in different seasons. For example, I now know that cancer and scorpio season — the seasons of my parents — are when I need to be the most gentle with myself. They deserve a huge red flag, no major decisions, lots of rest, only doing things that bring me joy. On the flip side, fire sign seasons, sagittarius and aries are full of chaotic and ruthless joy. And libra season is when I make capital D Decisions — so I need to watch out for that as well.

A lot of astrologers will ask prompts about what words or affirmations we are taking into 2022. I know for me, I’m being challenged to invest and make time to play. What does play and pleasure look like in my life? I’m also being invited to hustle in 2022. So much of 2021 was about healing my literal body, and taking care of my mental health, and creating a life I wanted to be in in order to thrive. In 2022 I’m not guaranteeing I’ll be doing any less of that, but I’m certainly ready to take on new and creative challenges based on this glorious recuperation period I’ve been granted. How will I make time to play, as an almost 24 year-old in 2022? I’m thinking I’m going to start with painting. I need to get a watercolors set, but so far I’ve been painting adult coloring book pages and listening to documentaries about whales. That seems like a good place to start during the darkest days of the year before spring arrives.

I know that play will also bring travel, because it’s what I’m most resistant to right now. My mind and body immediately begin to fret, “how, when, who?” and I’m laughing because most of the time, none of those questions are fully answered until you’re at your destination. I’ve set a soft goal to travel to five national or state parks in 2022 — I’ll let you know how that goes. Right now I’m thinking of visiting the Badlands in South Dakota, and from there — who knows? I remind myself that most twenty-somethings aren’t taking care of a cat with cancer, or fully independent of their family. I’m unique, but this also doesn’t mean I don’t get to have fun or pleasure in my life. And because I’m neurodivergent, things that make me happy aren’t always immediately apparent — so I’m going to be working on listening to what makes me happy.

Currently, my writing is what’s getting me out of bed this week. I’m excited about new ideas, things to write and say. I have the drafts of a poetry book and fiction novel that may get some more words added to their count in 2022. I also think I’m going to write more fun stuff like fan fiction, because I wrote my first few in 2021 and it was SO MUCH FUN. Yes, I think I’ll do more of that as well.

One of my goals in 2021 was to begin un-structuring my time. This was only successful because of my business coach, therapist, anxiety meds, deleting things from my google calendar, letting go of my volunteer commitments and a lot of PTO. All my professional development books emphasize how important it is to take your brain out of the office, to go on a walk, an adventure and to fully check out of work. As a freelancer, this was news to me and quite challenging since I was already working around a day job. But I truthfully have enough motivation to get quite a lot done, it just might not happen in the most perfect schedule my brain dreams up each night before I go to bed. And that’s okay. I’m working towards a life where I can snooze my alarm for an hour and get up, write 3 pages (about 1400 words right here) and then go start my client work, do some business coaching stuff, answer a few emails and then maybe work on a few projects for myself or work.

I’m curious and excited for 2022 because I’ve already been asked so many times, “what’s the worst that could happen?” and this is by no means inviting bad energy, it’s more so challenging the swirl of doom in my head. Until recently I was certain that changes in my routine, my foundation would be the end of me. And then I was truly broke for the first time this year. I was terrified of losing my income, and then for a moment, I did. Things worked out — but I felt it, and felt it again, and again until I was challenged to work with it and figure my shit out. I’m not trying to mince words here, but the moral of what I’m sharing is that something I assumed to be the worst thing ever DID happen, when it absolutely shouldn’t have, according to preconceived notions in my mind, which means it turned out to not be as bad as I expected, and if I survived what felt like the end of my world in a very cushy situation, then it’s time to step up my game.

2022 is going to be about more than choosing myself. I’m not sure exactly what, but I still have some rituals and routines I’d like to establish today for my EOY transition into the new year. I think it’s going to involve a candle lit bath, writing down my wins of the year etc etc. I know for certain I’m going into 2022 with the mind set that my expectations are going to evolve, because I’ve had to shift and grow so uncomfortably this year, it makes absolutely no sense to be rigid in my goals for this next year. I’m not wishing that this new year will “come at me” but I am wishing for protection for myself, my friends, and my family. That we can be together, and safe. That we can enjoy each other’s company and try new things together without fear. And maybe most importantly, that we can all let go of that which is no longer serving us, or bringing us joy, in pursuit of things that inspire us to play and laugh and think deeply about who we want to be.

Cheers to 2022 and all that it will reveal in us ❤

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Hey, I’m Liz Brinks (they/them) I’m a queer gender-non-conforming writer, business coach & cat-parent (@itsjuustliz everywhere) based out of Wisconsin!

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Liz Brinks

Liz Brinks

Hey, I’m Liz Brinks (they/them) I’m a queer gender-non-conforming writer, business coach & cat-parent (@itsjuustliz everywhere) based out of Wisconsin!

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