Is there a way to start a year recap without sounding cheesy or overly optimistic (or these days, apocalyptic)? I don’t think so. So I’m going to dive right in.
It looks like 2021 was a better year for many than 2020. I say “looks like” from conversations I’ve had, and social media is looking less doomsday-esque than last year. I’ve been enjoying the memes, particularly the CDC ones over the past week. I also enjoy that I can laugh to myself at the supermarket while browsing said memes, and no one will think I’m weird because face masks.
You know what I just realized? I started 2021 in a blizzard, and am ending it at the beach.
It’s interesting to think that, a year ago, I had spent Christmas and New Year’s Eve all by myself. Now I’m meeting people, and even if I wasn’t, I live near the beach. I can see the beach right now. The beach is essentially my front yard. I’m sure you’re getting sick and tired of hearing me talk about my proximity toward the beach. This is my blog, and I’ll write about the beach a hundred times if I want to.
But after so many challenges of these past two years . . . granted, they weren’t even the most difficult years of my life! But there have been some brutal (though much-needed) lessons about friendships, relationships, loneliness, work-life balance, and the true cost of following your dreams. And gratitude. Probably the best lesson I’ve learned all year.
Speaking of gratitude, let’s get on with it. Here are the 10 things that, despite all the challenges, I’m grateful for in 2021, in (mostly) chronological order.
1. Experiencing a winter wonderland in Madrid.
Do you know how fun it was to wake up and see all of the snow outside? For a short while, Madrid looked like a city in a snow globe. I can’t tell you the feeling of walking through the Christmas-decorated posh streets of my neighborhood, in the middle of the road and no sign of any car coming.
2. Training a group of teachers.
I was so nervous about this, especially when I still feel like a new teacher (even though I’ve taught for over five years now). But this was a really good experience for me. I got to meet teachers from all over the world. Even though I was the one leading the training, we all learned from each other.
3. Giving two webinars about teaching to over 150 teachers.
If I was nervous about training a small group of teachers, imagine how I felt when over 100 people were watching me. However, I was honored to be asked to give these webinars. I got some nice comments from the attendees after, and this, along with training people, really boosted my confidence.
4. Meeting my new roommates in the kitchen.
I’m not going to go into my housing situation too much, but for the most part, it was not a good experience until I met two new roommates. The three of us just happened to be in the kitchen at the same time, and realized that we had a lot in common. And then, we started our kitchen chit-chats in the evenings, on the weekends, whenever we passed each other. These new roommates became the best friends I’ve made since the lockdown. We’re all now on different continents, but we still keep in touch, and I know we’ll meet again in some part of the world.
I was quite terrified about moving here. It’s an island far from peninsular Spain, it’s even more isolated, and what if I was still unhappy? But now, I can go swimming whenever I want, I’m wearing summer clothes in December, and while making friends still isn’t as easy as it was before corona, I have met wonderful people since I moved here.
6. Spending the summer traveling and hiking around the island.
I taught most of the summer, but when I wasn’t teaching, I was exploring the island. I’ve visited picturesque costal towns, swam in waters that rival the Caribbean, gone wine tasting, hiking in a crater, and stargazing. Basically, all of the things I was unable to do before moving here.
7. Making new friends at Thanksgiving.
What started off as me sending a message in a WhatsApp group saying, “Hey, does anyone have Thanksgiving plans?” turned into me meeting new teachers on the island and us cooking good food and eating together, and finding out how much we had in common. Send out a message and ask. Offer to celebrate an event. You never know what will happen.
8. Eating a Christmas lunch and dinner with friends.
The new friends I’ve met on the island were kind enough to host me and a few other expats for a Christmas lunch and dinner. We had homemade waffles for lunch, and a huge Christmas dinner. I don’t remember the last time I was so full. I made new friends there as well. This Christmas will go down as being as special as spending Christmas in Prague two years ago.
9. My writing has been off the charts.
I’m in the middle of my biggest writing project yet, and even though I have a long way to go, knowing that I can do something difficult feels empowering. I’ve also been writing more song lyrics lately. And this is my third blog post this month! Basically, I’m feeling inspired.
10. Red (Taylor ‘s Version) came out.
Message in a Bottle, The Very First Night, Girl At Home (remix!), and All Too Well, 10 minute version? FIRE.
And because I’ve been writing so many new lyrics lately, I’ll end with a rhyme.
Here’s to 2022 – let’s make our biggest dreams come true.