21 Things I Learned in 2021
…and a few personal reflections on the year
I was super anxious to start this year.
My journal entry for January 3 reads like a heightened case of the Sunday Scaries. Perhaps on an intuitive level, I knew how much change was ahead. Like many Americans, on January 6, my journal bled with anger and fear.
I chose the term ‘personal power’ as my word for 2021. After spending several years feeling pummeled by the Universe, I yearned for any sort of empowerment. After a near-fatal traumatic brain injury in 2018, losing my stepdad to ALS in early 2020, and the uncertainty of COVID, I saw 2021 as a chance to rebuild.
I got a divorce
At the turn of the year, my spouse and I decided to divorce after nearly five years married and nine total years together. It was not the outcome that we wanted, but we realized that the most loving way to honor the other was to let them go.
I reflexively hopped onto dating apps when I moved into my new place, but I quickly realized this was an error. I needed to be honest with myself—unless I wanted to spend a lifetime repeating negative relationship patterns, I’d need to slow down and become more conscious of my behaviors. I deleted the apps and spent most of 2021 not dating, and working on myself.
This was one of the best decisions of the year.
I took time to engineer my new life, to find footing in my identity without another’s influence, and to establish emotional independence. I knew I had to learn how to be okay on my own, or risk impaired judgment. That process hurt like a bitch at times but it was worth it. I feel much more grounded now.
I healed a ton from my TBI
I focused hard on improving my health this year. I surpassed the doctors’ expectations of my recovery. I’m at about 90% of pre-brain injury life. I’m so grateful to have my life back.
Here’s a tweet thread on this (click to expand & read it in its entirety):
Yes, I worked on sleep, diet, and exercise. But I think my secret edge was focusing on mental health and personal growth. As my psychological stress decreased, my physical health and energy improved.
SIDE NOTE: I did experience a brief health backslide after I got stuck in the unprecedented ice storm and blackout in Austin, TX in February. The ice storm descended the day I was due to fly back home to San Diego and I found out my flight was canceled only after I’d already arrived at the airport.
I was grounded in Texas for six additional days during that storm and my hosts and I were without power for more than 36 hours. I was utterly unprepared for what extended hypothermia would do to my body. In a year with such a focus on both climate change and infrastructure, it felt surreal to experience it acutely.
I “right-sized” From Molly With Love and started new projects
I own an all-natural skincare brand with a feminist & inclusive message called From Molly With Love. We sell online and in hundreds of retail stores across the country.
We were growing fast and scaling until my brain injury and then COVID hit. In the midst of such rapid transition and uncertainty, it became clear that I needed to curb the rapid growth and ‘right size’ it into a lifestyle business.
This year I finally arrived at a groovy place where FMWL is still generating healthy sales but only requires part-time work. Now that my health is also improving, I have the capacity to add new projects.
One of those new projects is a book!
I started outlining the book in April and worked with the good folks at KN Literary Arts to take it from a jumbled mess in my brain to a fully-fledged idea and 80-page book proposal.
As I healed from PTSD and TBI, I noticed that I wasn’t alone. America has PTSD and needs a healing. My book is about out how our individual trauma becomes collective trauma—and how we can heal both in our modern dystopian era amid climate change and rising autocracy. Because healing is a fundamentally feminine quality, the book has a feminist lens. I use stories from my own personal experiences, as well as archetypes, myths, and anecdotes from history to weave together the concepts.
I am currently querying literary agents with the goal of securing a publishing deal. I have received some rejections but also positive & encouraging feedback. To me, that signals it’s only a matter of time and persistence. In the meantime, I’ve written almost half the book in the background.
This year, I also served as a California Democratic Party delegate and on the board of the YIMBY Democrats of San Diego County. 2021 was a great year to be a YIMBY as we elected several pro-housing candidates, influenced policies, and lobbied for the passage of California SB 9, which Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law on September 16. I also graduated as part of the Emerge California class of 2021. Emerge California is the premier training program for Democratic women who want to run for office. To be clear, though, I have no immediate plans to run for office. I also got more into investing and read 40 books.
I am grateful that my dog Seamus is still hanging in there. He had a really rough autumn and I thought he was saying goodbye to us, but the doctor gave him some new meds and he started to bounce back a little. At closing in on 16 years old, I am grateful for every moment I have with him.
Below, I’ve listed some random things I learned in 2021. I pulled these from my journal and various writings/reflections. I’m sharing them here in case one of them helps someone else.
21 things I learned in 2021:
When you’ve stayed in the same spot for too long, you eventually have to throw a grenade and jump.
Listen when conflict arises and respect the information you receive.
Sometimes medicine tastes bad.
Life whispers to us all the time—it’s up to us to listen.
We become what we practice.
When considering something, ask yourself: For whom? For what purpose? In whose actual interest?
Substance > flash
Grief is the price we pay for love. And love is what makes us feel truly alive.
You could let stress overwhelm you—or you could learn to use it as a strength-training opportunity.
Know that every person is a teacher and every experience a teaching.
In relationship dynamics, notice sooner when things have changed. (source: @charbridge)
Sometimes we don’t want to hear the truth because it will destroy our illusions.
Question the story: Social programming and past patterns are LOUD, so examine your thoughts before you just accept them. Sometimes we make up fear-based stories in our heads about events but we don’t have to believe these stories by default.
Become un-hijackable. Be flexible enough to choose how you want to use the moment.Become un-hijackable: create a space between a stimulus and your reaction to it. When someone insults us, for example, it’s easy to instinctively react in defense. But when we speak or act without thinking, we relinquish our power and agency.
Yung Pueblo @YungPuebloPause and process is better than impulsive reaction and regret
Comparison is not your friend. Stay in your lane. Water your own garden, knowing your time to bloom will come soon.
The snail is slow but they are wise and arrive right on time. There is no point rushing to the bus stop. If you’re early, you’re just wasting your time.
Make friends with the itchy, antsy parts of yourself—they will lead you to fascinating places.