“I can’t wait to see 2021 gone. Next year – “
“Don’t you say it!” I screamed. “Do not say anything about 2022! I don’t want to hear that it’s going to be better. I don’t want to hear to watch out because it’s twenty-twenty, too.” I made contemptuous air quotes to emphasize that I did not appreciate the pun at all. “I don’t want to hear want to hear one word about the new year! We’re just going to sit here quietly, and hope it doesn’t notice us.”
My coworker chuckled with the kind of laughter that wavered between genuine amusement and hysterical terror. Her smile became strained as she realized what a number of other people had already agreed:
2021 was much harder than 2020.
Pandemic aside – and I cannot believe that I’m brushing a frigging pandemic aside, but I am – 2021 was an intense tornado of events and emotions for not only myself, but for quite a few members of my framily*. I mentioned in the beginning of 2020 that I felt the weight of all the work I had to do. 2021 was the year I did it. That’s not to say that I didn’t work hard in 2020 because I did – if I hadn’t busted my ass for the latter half of 2020 I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish what I did this year – but that was more part of my health journey, which is a post in itself. I touch on my health in this YIR of course, but this is more about the many things that happened around it because 2021 felt like it was three years.
I returned to school full-time which was terrifying. Up until this point, I had been taking one course at a time – sometimes none – because my health was so precarious. Also, the prior courses had been prerequisites, and though I still pushed myself to get A’s, I didn’t feel the need to distinguish myself. The courses this semester were in “my” field, so I didn’t want to just do well, I wanted to excel.
I updated my physical therapy to build muscle. Here again, this wasn’t something that I was doing new, but something that I was finally building on. I’d been doing physical therapy since July, but I started adding more resistance with tighter bands and weights in January.
About half of my hair, which was nearly as long as my waist, broke.
I made a few more adjustments to my physical therapy in February, but for the most part, this month was spent doing homework, and constantly looking in the mirror to figure out if I should just cut my remaining hair immediately, or wait until it grew a little more.
I got vaccinated against COVID. There were a lot of emotions attached to this, and sadly some of the darker things I’d been feeling, things that I thought I was finished feeling now that I was protected against dying from the virus, have become valid again. I never fully worked through them, and now I’m glad that I didn’t waste the time trying.
I cut my hair. The reason I had considered waiting was because I grow my hair out to donate it. I like to donate 12 inches because most kids request longer wigs, and chopping that much now meant that my hair would be shorter than I’d ever had it. I finally just did it. The chop might have been less traumatic if I’d tried to have it cut into some kind of style, but I was already feeling ugly and frankly did not give a f*** at that point.
There were some familial changes that I don’t want to examine in public, but they were pretty cataclysmic.
I started an autoimmune flare that would last about six weeks. Not only was it the longest flare I’ve ever experienced, it was the most painful because my kidneys became inflamed twice during it.
I finished my first full-time semester of school. It was the first time in twenty years.
My GPA became 4.00. Long story short, I’d been carrying 5 F’s in my GPA because I didn’t formally withdraw from classes over twenty years ago, when I was an 18 year old who was recovering from brain damage. I’ve achieved A’s in all my classes since then, but it was not reflected in my GPA. The school finally approved expunging the F’s from my transcript.
The company I work for moved the office for the first time. Renovations in the new office wouldn’t be finished until September, but the executives were dead-set against renting a few additional months at our current office, so they rented a temporary space in the new building.
My company hired another person to do the brunt of the work in my former position, and I began training in earnest to help/cover for my coworker in Finance.
I managed to sell off about 500 trade gallon-sized plants of my nursery stock. I’ve had to accept that even a small nursery is too much for me, so I had my first open sale since COVID, and thank God for my mother’s help because we sold that many in about five hours.
I had another plant sale that moved about another hundred plants. (My plants really are bomb, and I do it without chemicals because I’m really a witch.)
The first Summer semester began. A fun note here is that I did not realize these were six-week accelerated courses.
I completed my 100th documented physical therapy session. I shared this on Twitter, and everyone was very sweet about it, but I had to delete the tweet. Ironically, it was because I was receiving compliments about my weight, and they were putting me in an unhealthy mental state. I’ll just leave it at that.
I got two bathing suits. Yes, this is big news for me.
My coworker went on vacation and I covered for her. I had been seriously sweating this for over a year, so much so that I put off re-piercing my bellybutton because I didn’t want to worry about soaking it while covering for her.
Summer classes session one ended making it the first time I had completed two semesters of school in a row.
Summer classes session two began.
The mental crash that started in June picked up speed.
I was in limbo at work. After my coworker came back from vacation, no one could decide how much of whose work I should do. I really didn’t know what to do with myself.
COVID numbers began to rise. I’d spent months buried in schoolwork and learning someone else’s job, just waiting to get through to spend a day at the shore, and when I looked up, the Delta variant and the likelihood that immunocompromised people needed a third vaccine meant it wasn’t safe for me. I had a difficult time with this.
My healthcare provider said some pretty fucked up shit that I’m still processing.
Summer classes session two ended.
The Fall semester began. My advisor assured me that taking three English course wouldn’t be more than I could handle.
My coworker gave her two week notice, it was a given that I would stop doing anything related to my former position, and pick up her work. I had been taught just the basics of her job to keep the office running while she was on vacation, and I now had less than two weeks to learn what she did as full-time employee, who had been there for years, and had a degree in Accounting. I was assured that I wasn’t expected to do that much.
My company’s office moved for the second time. Not only was the furniture not installed yet, but the move happened during the last three days my coworker had with the company. You know the expression “you don’t know what you don’t know”? Well, I didn’t know anything, and I didn’t know which box it was packed in either.
I randomly mentioned making ghosts out of chicken wire in a Twitter response, and it exploded. That goofy tweet is probably the only thing I’ll ever write that will achieve some measure of success, and I alternately laugh and cry when I think about the reality of that. There was enough interest that I created a TikTok account to show how I make them.
I got my COVID booster.
(I’m lumping these three months together because they were so hectic that I never had time to look up to see what week it was. October 1st was my coworker’s last day and the date that I had three papers due, and the next thing I knew it was Christmas Eve.)
The assurance of my advisor that three writing courses wasn’t more than I could handle was wrong.
The assurance of my employer that my coworker’s job wasn’t more than I could handle was wrong.
I learned that somehow people who have actually conversed with me, still vastly overestimate my intelligence.
I somehow became responsible for the finances of a million dollar company when I don’t have my associates degree in anything much less Finance, have never done any accounting, and barely knew the financial software. That said I learned Quickbooks desktop, then I learned Quickbooks online. I learned how to process contractor payments, pay taxes, calculate IRA contributions, do international wire transfers, S corporation shareholder distributions (kind of), business expense, employee reimbursements, and a whole bunch of other stuff that I’m guessing I did correctly since the Feds haven’t smashed through the doors. Yet.
I completed a semester with three writing courses. Never again. At least not until I’m able to compose a two page essay without agonizing for hours over word I type.
I wrote a poem that my professor loved. She asked if she could forward it to the head of the Literature department because he is part of some publishing group in Boston, and she believes he would be interested in my work. So there’s a teeny-tiny possibility that I could get published, through my poetry of all things. I haven’t heard anything more though, so I’m still banking on that Tweet being the highlight of my literary career.
For the first time ever, I made it through my first full year of school. Though it was Spring into Fall, I completed two regular full-time school semesters in a row. I’m sure that’s nothing for most people, but last year at this time I was terrified and looking for an excuse to not return to school again, and here I am on the other side. I still choke up when I actually think about that because I can’t believe I did it.
My hair has grown back about eight inches.
And that was 2021.
As much as I don’t like to admit it, there have been times in my life that I’ve given up. There were moments in 2021 when I felt like doing it again, and I’m so thankful for the loved ones I have who told me to keep going, and for God pushing me through when I didn’t have the strength to do it myself. I love you all so much.
I don’t really have many expectations for 2022. I meant it when I said that I’m not attaching anything to the coming year. For starters, I don’t think I could accomplish more than I did in 2021, and I’m still too tired from it all to try. But I know that I want to finish my first “normal” school year with a Fall and then a Spring. I want to write more poetry**. I want my hair to keep growing. I want to pitch somewhere to write an article how to help hair regrow quickly – I actually wrote those kinds of articles once. I want to sell the rest of my plants. I want to make my abdominal and glute muscles stronger to take more pressure off of my back. I want to go to the shore.
I think that’s a good start.
*Framily – The family you choose, and the ones who chose you
**This link might be dead because I’d unpublished the poetry I shared on here before, but if anyone wants to read them, I’ll retry to resurrect the posts.