Miserable & Magical: Perfectly imperfect for 2021

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Confession time: Over the past year I sometimes haven’t had any idea what I was going to write about until my deadline was staring me in the face.

All I think about is COVID-19 and our messed up government (and, yes, the new Taylor Swift albums), but every time I sit down to write this column I wonder, can I really write about these same subjects again? Is there any new angle left to explore?

But then I’d ask myself, in a year like the one we just had, would it even make sense to write about anything else?

This week’s column is a different story, though. Some sort of flip has switched and the idea bank is plentiful. But this, of course, has left me to narrow down my options and agonize over which topic would be best. I can’t catch a break.

Should I write about how Christmas almost got canceled because not everyone in my family understands the importance of social distancing and masking? Or how after finally figuring out the safest way to see *some* of my family (others lost the privilege of being graced with my presence) I blew a tire on the highway on my way home and was stranded in the dark for an hour?

Or should I write about Netflix’s new show “Bridgerton” and its portrayal of lack of consent that no one seems to care about? (OK, I have a lot of feelings about that show, one of which is that I should just turn this column into my very own Lady Whistledown gossip rag.)

Alas, dear reader, I shall not write about any of those things. Instead, I present to you the most original of all New Year’s columns: my resolutions. 

OK, so they’re not actually resolutions per se. But I want to share some things I learned in the year that shall not be named, and talk about what I’ll be carrying with me into 2021 and what I’ll be leaving behind.

The biggest thing I learned last year was not to put my energy into things, people, and situations that aren’t worth it. I spent way too much time fighting with people on social media about issues they’re never going to care about. I don’t think I regret having those debates because it allowed me to see a lot of people for who they truly are, but I’m not interested in doing that again.

If someone doesn’t think everyone deserves human rights, my arguing with them on Facebook isn’t going to change anything. I no longer see the point in exhausting and upsetting myself over people who have no intention of even listening to what I have to say. I’m not trying to absolve myself of the responsibility to hold fellow white people accountable, but I’ve learned that a phone call or face-to-face chat can (sometimes) be more effective.

I’ve also decided to stop wasting my energy on people who don’t make me feel good about myself, mainly on social media. I’ve always heard the advice to unfollow toxic people, but I never did it until recently – and oh my God does it feel good. It feels like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Why would I ever again willingly subject myself to looking at images of people who make me feel like I’m not good enough?

A lot of my insecurities in that area come from feeling like I haven’t accomplished enough in my life, and that is something I am 100 percent letting go of. Last year, when I was mostly unemployed, has changed the way I think about success and how we allow our careers to define us. I’m done with that. 

For so long I’ve wanted an impressive job that would make other people look at me in awe. Subconsciously, that feeling was more important to me than fulfillment. Now I’m thankful to have learned while still in my 20s that my career shouldn’t be the most important thing in my life and it shouldn’t be my identity. I want a good job, of course, but I don’t want it to be all-consuming. 

 A lot of the things I’ve learned have shown me one thing about myself that I’m working to change: I take myself, and life, too seriously. I have, let’s say, 60-ish, maybe 70 more years on this planet. I can do whatever I want with that time. I don’t want to spend it worrying about what people think about me or giving all my time and energy to things that drain me.

So in 2021, I want to finally believe that I’m capable enough and worthy enough to do all the things I want to do while knowing that perfection is never going to happen. I’m done letting fear hold me back.

Kate Gardner is a Portland-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in The Washington Post, Teen Vogue, SELF, and Bustle. You can follow her on Twitter @katevgardner.

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