I considered 2021 my “giveaway” year, twelve months of existing on surface level without the pressure of life goals I’d have neither time nor energy to accomplish. Suriviving 2020 was no mean feat. A hell of a lot of people didn’t make it out. And 2021, on its surface, offered zero promise – not that life every does but I think you know what I mean.
The challenges of the first Covid year used every skill in my survival tool kit, and then some. What was with that stretch of gourmet cookery, anyway? The determination to eat as well as possible in a world where all groceries were delivered and I couldn’t hand-pick ingredients – not to mention living in a dated apartment and working with an ancient cooking surface, no proper oven, no dishwasher, or counter space – was a compulsion I wouldn’t have predicted. Especially after a year of extreme self-discipline resulting in a great deal of weight loss, largely through consuming essentially the same damn foods every day. Maybe it was because of that, the realization having no guarantee of tomorrow means you should eat extremely well, to the best of your ability. Whatever its impetus, the cooking mania came and went with the year, culminating with a homemade fruitcake I “fed” with brandy for months. An appropriate, booze-soaked conclusion to a shit year.
And all that weight lost? Haha. Yeah. I’m back on the same damn foods every day train, up 1.5 sizes from my lowest weight. Good thing I’ve lost most of my interest in cooking. Ouch, I know. In my former job I interviewed hundreds of people a month, my one reliable interaction with people while quarantined. The complaint about weight gain was almost universal. A few overachievers went the opposite way, taking up running and other nonsense. Most of us completely lost track of our waistlines, living in stretchy pants, which camouflage the stark reality. Stress can do that to people. Here’s the first hint about 2022: it will be all about me and my health, physical and mental.
All things considered, I’ve done better than anticipated in 2021 – better than a goal of zero but my philosophy has always been “expect nothing, so you’re not disappointed.” People laugh but it’s actually the healthiest outlook, much better than all that “best life” nonsense. When good things do happen, it feels like a blessing. A goddamn shock. Expectations are a foolish waste of time. I could probably count on one hand outcomes that lived up to my imaginings. A couple surpassed projections but mostly they’ve skimmed in as expected or failed staggeringly. But always, always the failures have been instructive – an ultimate reason to keep going, if no solace at the time.
My 2021 started with a move, sheer force of will enabling me to move out of the place I was living during lockdown – the charming apartment in the alarmingly run-down building. Remember that place? The irony of moving back to the same complex I’d found dull and characterless before did not pass unnoted. I imagine some things may have turned out differently had I not moved in the first place, not left the modern apartment for the charm of the old, thinking that was the cure for my restlessness. My reasons for moving each time were legitimate and the downsides negate none of the good. Was it a pain in the ass? Yeah, kind of. But isn’t a lot of life just that – plus, you can never know what would have happened on the path not taken. It’s a mistake forgetting that.
The memory of that time, my lockdown life, is two parts misery, two parts sick personal joke. Some of it I’ll take to my grave, in good company with relics of every other phase of my life. Lots of people suffered from lack of human interaction over the past year and a half. Frankly, on that score I throve. Working from home was my blessing, the opportunity for loads of overtime to distract from a deadly virus resulting in a raise and promotion, followed by promotion into a new department. I love what I’m doing now. I anticipate it will take me places I didn’t believe were possible, because I couldn’t see past the anxiety that blocked me. I will never say the pandemic was worth the positives I’m managing to bring out. We’ve all paid a heavy price, in one way or another. Nothing’s worth repeating that.
My expectations for what was possible in 2021 have officially been surpassed. It both shocks the hell out of me and doesn’t. The potential was there, it just took a catharsis to achieve. My ultimate hopes go beyond a new job and a nice, modern apartment, much as it’s boosted my outlook. I’ve used the term “day job” referring to all my post-divorce employment and that’s because nothing outside writing and books can ever be anything but the means to an end – the end being paying my bills and allowing relative comfort. These are not small things. And when you’re able to attain a position that both stimulates you mentally and takes care of you, it’s a blessing indeed. I use my librarian research skills in fraud analysis and writing in presenting findings to underwriting. This doesn’t mean I cannot pursue a creative outlet at the same time. Having achieved professional satisfaction as a direct result of hard work and believing in my skills leaves open the question is there more I could be doing.
I’ve at least gotten to maybe. In my world, that’s like Oprah handing out cars. Astonishing positivity from a Stoic.
So. Here it is, nearly November, and I have no idea where the time went. Unlike the end of 2020, I can wrap my head around the concept of a next year, one in which there won’t be a change of address for the first time in a very long stretch. In 2023, yes. This is not a forever apartment, not a desired destination that sparks joy. Spring of 2023 will see a move, somewhere. A lot needs to be determined before then. I have belongings and a body to pare back down, logistics to consider, lists of wants and needs to consider.
Not rushing 2021 out the door just yet but I am giving it a few hints it’s time to put on its coat. I can see 2022 packing to move in and I’m an expert at that. In order to shift in the new, you need to toss the old. No, I didn’t mean myself. But thanks for thinking of it.
It’s not too soon to start looking forward. And it can never be too early to consider what you want from your life. There’s no other thing that matters as much.