Happy 2021, everybody!

Whew. This has been a rollercoaster, hasn’t it? I cross-stitched this Elmo meme back in February, back before the coronavirus had even made landfall here in the Netherlands:

LITTLE DID I KNOW.

Okay, okay. I know we’re not out of the woods. But the days are starting to get longer, there’s a vaccine on the horizon, and my animal-brain has latched on to the idea that a new year means a new start. Let me have this one for now, okay?

To quote my brother, in a fit of delirious patriotism after the 2020 election was finally called: my critical thinking starts on Monday.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it: 2020 was hard. I’m sure it was hard for me in a lot of the same ways it was hard for you: fear, loneliness, anger, grief, losing people you love. My circle of loved ones, like many of yours, is entering 2021 a heartbeat lighter. But because I know I’m far from alone, I’m also not going to recap the hardship for you. You know. You’ve been there.

In fact, I’m sure our lives looked more alike this year than they ever have. For example, here’s some bread I made this summer.

Did you also bake bread in 2020? Told you.

So, almost a year since my last blog post, I want to share a little bit about what I’ve been up to. A highlight reel, if you will. But be aware that this really is, a literal highlight reel. For every one photo of me smiling near a body of water, there are seventy of me lying down somewhere in my house. DO NOT BE DECEIVED.

Body of water?

Bed.

Body of water?

Couch.

First things first: as you can see, Ken was a bit of a constant in my life this year. First because, well, we’re married (for a year and a half now! Woohoo!), and second because we both started working from home full-time back in March.

This wonderful man is almost always within fifty feet of me. I have never, in my life, spent this much time near the same person. Thank God we got to pick each other! My brother, whose untimely December 2019 graduation meant that he’s still living with my parents a year later, had no such luck in choosing his roommates. (Love you, mom!)

My brother and I celebrating Christmas together virtually in Animal Crossing, which is basically the only way I’ve been able to see him this year.

Another constant in my life this year was my resolutions. 2020 was the third year in a row that I completed all three of my goals. Don’t be too impressed: doing so took so much energy that I haven’t had the fortitude to set new ones for 2021. This New Year’s really did feel like crawling towards the finish line.

But okay. Quick recap. Resolution one: “start my story.” This was my open-ended way of saying that I wanted to start writing the novel I’d been imagining for the past few months. If I had really given it my best effort but only written twenty pages, I would have considered this one a win already. But at year’s end, I’m actually 80 pages in now (about 30,000 words). And, more importantly, I’ve rediscovered my writing bug, which is a gift beyond measure as someone who had all but given up on that long-held passion.

I took this photo on the day that I hit 50 pages and finally shared online that I was writing a book (on my Instagram account).

Resolution two: read the whole Bible. This was a really wonderful, if occasionally challenging, experience, and I learned way more than I expected. Something I learned: the Book of Job, which I expected to dislike, is actually incredibly beautiful. Something I did not need to learn: as expected, I did not enjoy Leviticus.

(Jokes aside, I’m thinking of writing a blog post about how the experience surprised me and what I gained from it, so leave a comment if you’re interested in seeing that.)

My third resolution was to improve my fitness (a goal I’ve had, using different benchmarks, for the past three years). I love working out in the gym but really struggle to work out from home, so this was a tough one in 2020. That said, I’ve found new ways to move from home, and I hit the mini goals I’d set for my fitness improvements. In place of the gym, I reluctantly started running, which is something I absolutely do not enjoy. But, in Ken’s words, “I enjoy the feeling after I’ve done it.” And my workout buddy makes it a little more tolerable.

This photo is deceptively cute only because we took it before the run.

Finally, my word of the year in 2020 (a tradition I’ve held since 2016) was “Here.” I chose it because I wanted to take this year to slow down and settle into the moment. And, for once, the unique challenges of this year actually helped me in this. Slowing down reacquainted me with myself. I couldn’t travel; couldn’t outrun my mind at the gym; couldn’t see family and friends in the States; couldn’t fill my evenings and weekends with classes and social plans. I spent most of my time at home. With Ken, my thoughts, and my books. Talking to my brother over a video call; having a quiet breakfast on the balcony.

Though I may be the only person not to learn how to make sourdough starter in 2020, this year did teach me a few things. I learned that a quieter pace of life really suits me, in some ways. I further rediscovered my love of reading, which I’ve been diving back into since 2017, but which really took full force this winter. And I feel that my understanding of life, my values, and of what matters most, has become richer this year.

Some of those lessons were hard-won. Personally and collectively as a society, we have had to face some difficult, ugly truths this year. It has not been an easy year to have hope. It has not been an easy year to persevere. But I’m doing my best to keep my eye on the horizon; to believe in the mythical birds who rise from ashes; to remember that the soil that now supports new life was once fallow, too. After winter, comes the spring.

I wish you strength this year. I wish you peace and safety. And I hope that in the midst of this crisis, and all of life’s winters, you can lean on those that love you, and keep your eyes out for signs of spring.

Sara Laughed

I'm Sara, a writer, programmer, and American in the Netherlands. This blog is about my life, discoveries, and mistakes. Follow along, and thank you for stopping by!

  1. Emmalee says:

    I love how thoughtfully you looked back at this year! I’d also love to see a Bible post from you. Reading the whole thing in a year is definitely not easy!

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