12 Lessons Learned in 2021
Before counting down the final seconds of 2021 with Ryan Seacrest, I took time to reflect on the year that was.
In 2021, I became a first time doggy-dad, hugged Haley when she got accepted into her dream high school, was strapped in a bed in the back of an ambulance as it screamed down I-95 at 1 a.m., took a walk around my neighborhood every day, officially retired from teaching, helped Chase draft his first fantasy football team, designed jayarmstrongwrites.com, fell down a lot, got up every time, applauded when Dylan’s school awarded him the Leadership Award, and achieved my childhood dream and published my first book.
2021 taught many lessons. Some as shrill as a two dollar noise maker. Others as sweet and bubbly as fine champagne. Yet at year’s end (and at 41- years-old) I realize my education is only beginning. I have so much to learn. To grow we must stay open and receptive to what ever joys and heartbreaks that enter our lives.
Here are 12 lessons I learned this year:
January: I laughed so hard my tooth fell out
Lesson learned: Humor is necessary for survival.
February: Who are you?
Lesson Learned: Self-discovery never ends. Our real job is to make an honest attempt of figuring out who we are.
March: How do you deal with worry?
Lesson Learned: Focus on short-term realities instead of long-term delusions.
Lesson Learned: In uncertain times, the best thing to do is keep stirring.
May: So, we got a dog!
Lesson Learned: Thinking of someone or somedog rather than your self is often the sweet relief you need.
Lesson Learned: I want what you want. I want others to lean in and linger. To nod at my sentences. To hear the urgency of my voice.
July: Playing small ball
Lesson Learned: When chasing your dreams, sometimes you need to stop romanticizing about hitting a home run. Sometimes you just need patient and play small ball.
August: What is normal?
Lesson Learned: The desire to be normal, to be accepted, is a comforting theory. A theory we cling to when we’re lost and confused and feeling misunderstood. However, the human experience is too extraordinary the be classified as normal. In fact, our desire to be normal limits our potential. It limits our ability to accept who we are and who we might become. If I’ve learned anything over the last eight years, it’s that I shouldn’t strive to be normal. I should simply strive to be myself.
September: The one thing I like most about humans
Lesson Learned: The thing I like most about humanity is our resiliency. I love against-all-odds stories. Stories that show how unbreakable the human spirit really is.
No matter the threat, no matter the suffering, our willingness to knuckle-up and just-keep-going has sustained us for 5 million years and counting. I have witnessed, I’m sure you have, our ability to rebuild our cities, our businesses, and ourselves when suffering catastrophe.
Circumstances change. Hardships come and go. To be human is to suffer. But below our soft flesh lies a hard, muscular stubbornness. An uncompromising resilience to face anything that comes our way. We can’t see what’s coming. We don’t know what hardships await. All we have is the resiliency that has always been encoded deep in our DNA.
October: Facing Fear: My first vlog
Lesson Learned: Fear steals our ability to grow. Fear of the unknown. Fear of failure. Fear of criticism. Fear of being misunderstood. The actions we take, or fail to take, are driven by fear. So, in life, we must decide: Do we take action and face our fears or sit idle, hold back, and think about how different our life would be if we just had the courage to take action and face our fears?
Lesson Learned: I rarely hear thankfulness and bravery in the same sentence. But I’ve come to understand thankfulness takes bravery.
December: Publication Day
Lesson Learned: Publication and praise are not the point. Proving you can complete a journey is the point. I didn’t climb Mt. Everest or run the Boston Marathon but I did write a book. A literary Iditarod of perseverance and determination and human stubbornness. I went the distance. And yet, at journey’s end, when the dust settles, when the applause peters out, there was nowhere to go but inward.
What did 2021 teach you? What learned lessons will carry into 2022?
Happy New Year!!! I hope 2022 is a fine year of comfort, reflection, achievement, growth and tooth-loosening laughter.
In 2022, I’m going to conclude each weekly post with something awesome (a poem, a quote, a photo, a book suggestion, etc.) that tosses some positive vibes out in to the world. If you have something you would like to share with others, please send your suggestions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!
Photo of the Week (courtesy of Mary Schantz):
Mary says, “This photo I took in Surf City (New Jersey) makes me think it just might be what heaven looks like. Sunrise/moon setting (tiny), the beginning and end of a day merging forever. The footprints on the path being all of the newly recruited angels. Hope this visual gives those of you comfort if you’re trying to find some.”
Still need a 5-star holiday gift? Bedtime Stories for the Living makes a great gift for all the dreamers on your list!!!
If you read BSFL I would love an Amazon review! Due to some Jeff Bezos concocted algorithm, more book reviews lead to greater exposure. And greater exposure equates to higher book sales and as I wrote in BSFL, “college for three ain’t free.”
Are you a reader? Looking for your next good book to read or listen to? Check out my new page “Jay’s Book Shelf” for some book recommendations.
Check out my recent interview with Christopher Lewis of the “Dads with Daughters” Podcast. We talk fatherhood, my brain, and my book.
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Jay Armstrong is a writer, speaker, and a former award-winning high school English teacher. Despite being diagnosed with a rare neurological disease, that impairs his movement, balance, eyesight, and speech–Jay presses on. He hopes to help you find joy, peace, and meaning in life. For Jay, a good day consists of 5 things:
4. Hearing his three children laugh
5. Hugging his wife
(Bonus points for a dinner with his parents or a beer with his friends)
Jay hasn’t had a bad day in quite a long time.
You can also visit Jay at jayarmstrongwrites.com