A Letter to 2021

Dear 2021,

What a year you were. We started off with so much hope, so much optimism. 2020 was such a difficult year for so many people and in so many ways, it was hard not to imagine that 2021 could only be better. How naive we were.

Not even a week into the year, we watched as a violent insurrection attempted to overthrow the government and overturn the results of the presidential election. And on the last day of the year, the beloved Betty White passed away. How unbelievably fitting were those two snapshots as bookends for this year. 

This year was one of the most difficult years of my life, as I’m sure so many other people around the world can relate. I felt hopeless and disconnected, mourning all the time and experiences that were lost. I became unemployed at the end of 2020, and while I tried to look for the bright side of pursuing something I truly loved on my own terms, hopeful at the possibilities, I still lie awake most nights wracked by the anxiety of whether or not I’ll ever be able to make those dreams a reality.

2021 was the year I was most removed from my family, which broke my heart more than once. I am fortunate to be near my parents, but for most of my family it has been over a year since I saw them face to face. That made it that much harder when we heard that my grandfather passed away, and furthermore when another family member was diagnosed with cancer. We were unable to grieve and support each other in the ways we had before. It was all through texts, recorded videos, and Zoom calls. It was questions and prayers over distance. But yet we persevered. We found new ways to care , and showed up for each other as best we could. We grieved. We questioned. And we remembered to treasure what’s most important. 

This year has been a time of returning to quiet places and old loves. Books and stories have provided solace when distance is a necessity, and technology has granted community in ways I didn’t imagine. I had time to write, to dream, to create. Some of what I’ve created I got to share, and some has yet to be finished. I launched a website. I learned about social media. I found creativity and community as I ran nearly two dozen D&D sessions throughout the year, and was fortunate enough to be a player in ten more. I have seen myself and friends drift apart, and I cannot begrudge anyone that, yet I can mourn them all the same. And I can try to do better for myself, though sometimes the painful distance is necessary. Growth happens, and as Bilbo once said, “So comes snow after fire, and even dragons have their ending!” I am thankful for those who have stayed, and I am just as thankful for the time I had with those whose journeys have taken them away.

In all my life, from dreaming of the future in high school, to making plans for it during college, I have never felt the weight of both optimism and hopelessness about my future. 2021 beat those hopeful moments to the ground, with each step feeling like it takes more and more effort. From the death of my grandfather, to sick family members, I have felt my emotional capacity sapped. As I grew hopeful about creating more content online and pursuing projects to allow myself to become creativity and professionally independent, things like having my car crashed into and totaled pushed me back further. I know I am very fortunate, but it doesn’t make these moments any less difficult or draining.

2021, you tested me. You gave me difficulties, and you gave me opportunities. You taught me lessons, others I learned myself. I did a lot this year that I am proud of, taking steps outside my comfort zone I never thought I would. I also fell short, not making the most of my time or some of the opportunities that presented themselves. All of it was worth it, and I will do everything I can to use what I learned, what I took, and what I left behind in 2021 to make 2022 that much better. 

There is much ahead that I am hopeful about, and so much more that scares me. I want to remember everything that 2021 could have been, and use that as a stepping stone for 2022. Not to grieve what could have been, nor to punish myself for falling “short.” Just to try to be a little better. 

So farewell 2021. Good riddance, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget you. I’m glad our paths will never cross again, except in my memory. 

Sincerely, Caleb

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