as i quickly ran out of twenty twenty, i proudly held my head high entering twenty twenty one. everyone knows it was my least favorite year. for more reasons than one. and while i talk about it often; i don’t always talk about everything that happened in the worst ten months of my life. i had seventy days before shit went south last year. seventy. that boils down to about ten weeks. one fifth of the year. twenty percent. it was basically enough time to commit to new resolutions for the year, neglect them, teach a few weeks of the sixth grade and then plummet down the avalanche that was the year of twenty twenty. and i think almost every person i know feels the same way about the year we just said goodbye to. that it was a shitty year. that it was a dumpster fire. that it was the worst year yet. and i fully agree. i do. it was a year of great loss. a year of great fight. it was a year of great fear and anxiety. a year of lots of waiting. and a year of bad news. a year of hardship. a year of hard shit. ship and shit. those are different. also a year of grief. a year of sadness. a year of crisis. it was also a year that brought about great strength and ability and resilience. it brought endurance and patience and pride. it brought my family together. it stitched my marriage in some worn spots. it taught me more about myself than i had ever learned in thirty two years. it changed me. and that’s a lot. for three hundred and sixty five days. that’s a lot. and trust me, i am not a changing kinda person. change is quiet literally my least favorite thing. that book ‘who moved my cheese’; the one they teach in my alma mater’s business school; it’s about change. and i have had like four people buy me that book in my adult life. no joke. like a subtle get a hint, alix. but yet here i am, still not a fan. no matter how many copies of that book are shoved in a torn box in the back of my storage unit. but regardless. this year changed me. it had an immense amount of power over me. it brought a lot of opportunities in which i could’ve thrown the towel in. and if you know me well, you know that i do shit like that all the time. particularly when things are hard. ugh. i am so quick to be like ‘oh hell no, bye’. but for whatever reason, every time something was dropped onto my plate in twenty twenty, i just scooped it up and put it into the backpack i always wear. by august, i was practically bent in half under the weight of it. carrying coronavirus recovery and trauma in the large pocket while simultaneously finding room for breast cancer in my already overflowing backpack. chemotherapy treatments and surgery and medications and side effects and leaving my job were also stuffed inside and the zipper was barely working anymore. the weight of it all- immense. but still, i trudged forward. and i will fully admit to the temper tantrums i threw and the sheer volume of tears i shed from august to december; enough to fill lake eerie i imagine. and there was patience for that. and space for that. but there’s a lot i didn’t share. for fear of ruining someone’s good day. for fear of unraveling someone else’s trauma. for fear of putting myself in front of someone’s clear path. what if my full backpack crushed someone? what if my full backpack couldn’t be supported by someone else’s back? what if i was the only person capable of carrying my trauma and illness? how unfair to unload it onto someone else; anyone else. so there were days when i carried it solo. and those days were nightmarish. those days were more than hard. those days were insufferable. and when i would finally set the weight of the world down or take a break or vent about it, everyone would ask ‘why didn’t you say something? i had no idea you were hurting or struggling or whatever’. and i would begin to feel bad. guilt would surge. how dare i neglect to put my burdens on other people? haha, you know what i mean. but it’s true. i don’t want to burden anyone with my trauma or my sadness or my grief. i don’t want anyone to feel like they have to take it on or fix it. but more importantly, i don’t want to give it to someone and have them dump it right back at my feet and say ‘no thanks’. because at the end of the day; at the end of every single freaking day; i owe it to myself to protect what’s mine. to protect what hurt me. to protect what heals me. to protect what broke me and what fixed me. to protect what beat me down to nothing and what forced me to rise each morning. to protect what pushed me into full, heavy sobs in the middle of the night. and what brought joy in hard times. i owe it to myself to protect the backpack. even though it’s been heavy at times and even though i have wished it away more than once. i owe it to myself to protect what is mine and to protect what the year gave me. even if it was absolute garbage.
because even though the year was hard and even though the year was ugly and even though the year was literal trash for me, it also brought me to this year that i just walked into. and i owe it to myself to put twenty twenty’s bag down and walk away. because those hardships are in the past and they brought immense growth and resilience and strength and even though that backpack weighed thousands of pounds and broke my back for the two hundred and some odd days that i trekked with it, it built me. the weight showed me my own strength. the bulk of it showed me my resilience. the desire to put it down and walk away when it was hard to carry on showed me tenacity. and now, i get to pick up my new sparkly twenty twenty one backpack and even though it’s a little heavy. with the weight of surgery and a raging pandemic and the fear of the unknowns tucked into it- i have a little more pep in my step and a little more strength in my spine. i can carry this one with a little less of a hunch. and it’s because i allowed myself the space to be pissed as hell about the old backpack. it’s because i carried it for months and months. and i did so with some complaining and some crying and some temper tantrum moments. but i also didn’t give up. i owed it to myself to finish that leg of the race. with the ugly backpack. with the hard stuff layered deep in the pockets.
so, i guess what i am saying is that we owe it to ourselves. to have hard moments. to have beautiful ones too. we owe it to ourselves to pick up the backpack. whether it’s loaded to the gills. or just barely filled. we owe it to ourselves to rest when the pack feels heavy and we also owe it to ourselves to rally and go a few feet further. we owe it to ourselves to have the moments. the good ones, the really fucking awful ones, the cancer ones, the ones that scare you, the ones that scare others, the ones that feel neverending and the ones that are fleeting. we owe it to ourselves to do the hard parts of the week or the month or the year. to trek on. to fight the good fight. to fight the hard fight. to fight the fight we didn’t ask for. we owe it to ourselves to give ourselves credit when and where credit is due. twenty twenty was no one’s year. you can probably say that. i mean, i know some people are trying to find the shiniest shards of how broken of a year it was. and that’s cool. do you boo. but for me, i find solace in recognizing what a shitty year it was. and how much heartache it brought and how cracked wide open it left me. but on the other side, the twenty one side; i can also recognize how i got here. and i also owe it to myself to gather all the strength that came from this year; gather all the strings and staples and stitches that i can hold; and use this year as the year of rebirth.
i wanted my word of the year to be fearless. but i spent the last ten months being fearless. even though my word for twenty twenty was enough. which is kind of ironic because i found myself saying ‘enough’ in my teacher voice a lot this year. like legit shouting it to the universe. but twenty twenty one is a year of rebirth. and i owe it to myself to become reborn. i need the rebirth. after all, i just worked my ass off to get here. i carried so much, so far. so here we go.
it’s time to allow ourselves to seek payment for our work. we owe it to ourselves. you owe it to yourself.
welcome to twenty one. the year of rebirth. that’s my word of the year. i was fearless last year. i was broken last year. i was scared and sick and beaten and bent. and now, it’s time to rise. it’s time to soar. it’s time for rebirth. and i owe it to myself.