Let’s just admit it: we’re happy 2021 is nearing its end.
Like 2020, it was a dumpster fire sailing down a river of flammable garbage. Sure, it had a few moments of peace and kindness and lovely people, but it’s not one of our best years. And if the last few years have taught me anything, it’s that even the worst years have some kind of lesson to impart. It’s best to take whatever insight it offers and leave the rest to burn.
This won’t be one of those odes to New Years Resolutions. I don’t “do” yearly resolutions anymore because that kind of goal setting often leads to impossible expectations and disappointment. On a personal level, resolutions launch me into an internal ping-pong battle of perfectionism vs procrastination. Not fun, to say the least.
Instead of impossible ventures that inevitably fail, I’ve decided to center my year around a theme and focus my energies on things of intrinsic value that will fuel personal growth. This year, the theme is letting go of and leaving behind joyless things in 2021.
I’ve compiled a list of things to leave behind in 2021 in order to make room for what matters most in 2022. Are there any valuable lessons you’ve learned in 2021? What will you take with you into the new year? What will you leave behind to burn?
Things To Leave Behind In 2021
Worrying about the opinions of others
We should consider the opinions of those we love—ones who have earned the right to be heard by being there for us through thick/thin. But hearing out opinions ≠ obligation to live according to those opinions.
Last year, I found myself opposite of so many friends because we didn’t share the same perspectives. I was perfectly okay with them holding different views, opinions, and beliefs from my own—a part of embracing diversity and inclusion is acknowledging others won’t see or experience the world exactly as you do—but it was clear this wasn’t fine to them.
And I worried to the point where I was afraid to share my thoughts. It was unbearable to be in the same chat room with people who thought it was okay to put down others for thinking, feeling, or seeing the world differently. But in hindsight, none of those people were worth the silence or pieces of my sanity. None of them were worth making myself so small.
Impossible reading goals and tbr plans
There comes a point when you’re surrounded by shelves of books you own but have never read. This will also outweigh the number of books you have read, which makes it all the more overwhelming. The reality is, you can’t read them all and in trying to do so, that’s when the tbr pile becomes a tbr tower to outer space.
It’s kind of a relatable joke in the reading community at this point, but at the same time, it’s also something that affects my mental health. Being surrounded by so many books I’m never going to read no longer brings me joy; it makes me claustrophobic and anxious. Accepting every invitation to every reading challenge under the sun no longer sparks excitement; it makes me feel stressed to the point of burnout. And so, the only reading goal I have is to read more adult SFF (that’s also the only challenge I’m committing to at the moment!). I’ve been purging my TBR pile every 6 months and gifting books I’m no longer interested in. It’s been a freeing experience, and it’s one I’m carrying with me into 2022.
Dependency on news and social media
There’s no pretty way to say this: FOMO and the need to be present online 24/7 is an indication of how toxic our relationship with social media can be. Studies have repeatedly shown that watching the news and socializing online all the time is not good for one’s mental health.
And when the pandemic hit, everyone was sucked into this online vacuum where the bad seemed to outweigh the good. We were stuck in this bubble of constant news about the virus, divisive politics, doomy-gloomy predictions, and an intense focus on every catastrophe that’s happened in the last three years.
From earthquakes to food shortages, it seemed like the world was ending right before our very eyes. And we were glued to our phones, clinging to every scrap of news. Most of it was stuff that was always happening, but we never paid attention to. Some of it was totally valid. Other bits were completely blown out of proportion and spread by people who, well, weren’t really informed. But in the echo chamber of the internet—when no one had anywhere else to go or no one else to connect to—it seemed impossible to escape.
But when we step back and unplug, we start to see just how much power we’ve given the news and social media over our mental health. We start to notice the ways in which we’ve made these spaces our only sources of information, communication, community, and even comfort. I realized how utterly dependent I was on social media and the news to tell me everything—how to feel, what to think, world events, the “truth”—and to be honest, that made me uncomfortable. It still makes me uncomfortable. So, little by little, I’m kicking that dependency to the curb.
Giving energy to things we don't actually care about
Many of us spend entirely too much time saying yes to things we don’t actually need or want to do. Sometimes it’s for a friend or a loved one, and that’s perfectly okay. But other times, it’s because of peer pressure, external expectations, or even our own misconceptions about what we think we have to do.
We collect skills and degrees we’ll never use. We take on projects, challenges, and/or jobs we don’t want to be a part of. We’ll write and read books just because of the hype. We’ll jump through hoops only to discover the endgame is nothing like we expected, for better or worse. We’re driven by internal and external pressure to always do, do, do. Be productive. Be useful. Be anything but stagnant. Time and again, we settle for constant chaos and go out of our way to do the very things we don’t even have the energy for. In short, we’ve become “yes” people. We’ve become the type-A go-getting doers who never stop to take a breath
In the end, I learned there’s a need for knowing when to say “no” and let someone else do it. Walk away. Sit down and breathe. Reflect on what is genuinely necessary to our lives and on what is truly fulfilling to us. We should always take our own time and energy into consideration, even when it comes to those we love. It’s never been more important to remember that it’s okay not to jump at every opportunity presented.
Fear of saying something disagreeable
The reality is…you can’t go through life without pissing someone off. There will always be at least one other human being who doesn’t like what you say or is offended by your opinions.
It’s taken me forever to accept this and to feel comfortable enough with myself to not instantly apologize every time I speak for fear someone is low-key peeved. Of course, we should be mindful of how others might receive our words. But we’re not responsible for their feelings, and we weren’t born just to validate everyone else. We have to remember that there’s nothing wrong with saying disagreeable things. History is made by disagreeable words and people—they’re also infinitely more interesting than the agreeable kind
People who no longer bring any joy
I’m incredibly lucky to have a handful of supportive, kind, thoughtful, and creative friends who not only know me, but love and accept my dark side. I plan to snuggle and appreciate them well into 2022
In past years—including 2021, unfortunately—I’ve been guilty of maintaining toxic friendships. Relationships with anyone—friends, family, marriage—are difficult. There are always the feelings and needs of many to consider. It’s not just about you or them; it’s a balance of both.
But where relationships are strongest, they can also be the weakest. Sometimes people simply change. Sometimes we change. Our needs and wants change. The kind of people we want in our lives can change. And there’s nothing anyone can do about that and the inevitable drifting apart. Other times, relationships stop being productive when people stop investing in them. Jealousy, undisclosed anger, grudges and greed, opposed views, toxic habits, differing methods of working through problems, clashing personalities—any one of these can ruin a relationship. If you don’t water a garden, sooner or later all the plants will die. Relationships are the same. If you don’t work through issues and misunderstandings, things will eventually fall apart.
Life has taught me that our time on this planet is too short to be surrounded by those who no longer bring you any joy.
If they aren’t present for your good days and bad days, if they aren’t putting in the effort to be a part of your life, if they aren’t willing to be honest with you about their feelings, if they always place the blame on you, if they pretend there isn’t any kind of issue at all (esp if there clearly is), if they treat you like a dumpster for their feelings, if you have more bad moments with them than good, if you can’t be yourself with them…
…then it’s time to move on.
It’s not your responsibility to function for them or hold up their end of the relationship.
It’s important to be flexible with yourself and understanding of what you can realistically do. Self-compassion is 1000% encouraged! But it’s also important to know when to kick yourself in the ass because you’re just avoiding it. It’s time to put the jokes and excuses aside and do all the things we’ve been trying to get done since 1926. In most cases, it really is as easy as shutting up and doing it. And here’s the thing: it’s better to take baby steps and get it done, little by little, than to keep pushing it off into never.
When you think about it, it’s really a question of how long you plan on suffering…
Talking about writing, but not actually writing
Earlier in 2021, I noticed a bizarre trend with my own Writing. That is to say, I barely wrote anything except a few macabre poems. I did, however, spend a great amount of time lecturing about the craft, mentoring other writers, speaking as a panelist at conventions, tweeting writing advice, and editing stories for clients.
And I loved it, of course! I enjoy being a part of the Writing Community and sharing my insight as an editor. But all the talking about writing and being immersed in the writing community gave me little time to write. And when I did have time, I found I didn’t want to write. I was tired, burned out, and trapped in “editor” mode when it came to my own work.
And so, going into 2022, I want to shift gears. Be less of a writing mentor and more of a writer again. I want to get lost in my own works, and I want to give my stories the same delicate yet intense devotion that I’ve dedicated to the writing community. We all should give this precious time to ourselves; our creative souls need it.
2021 was a dumpster fire from hell, but 2022 doesn’t have to be. We are the navigators of our ships. We are the map-makers and destiny-weavers and captains of our lives. All it takes is a little shift or two in our perspectives. Yes, 2022 could be filled with garbage, but it could also be filled with lovely humans, moments of kindness, creative indulgences, and peace of mind. We just have to cut the dead weight and adjust our sails. Turn our gazes to what matters most.
So, what say you? What do you want to leave behind in 2021?
The post Things I’m Leaving Behind In 2021 appeared first on Bookish Valhalla.