What I’ve Learned in 2021 + full 2021 Highlights

Whoop whoop! We’ve somehow come to the end of the wild ride that was 2021. I spent some time earlier today (the 30th) reflecting on 2021 by looking back at my Next Right Thing Guided Journal. Highly recommend doing this! Grab some journaling prompts that are floating around the Internet these days, and reflect on what happened in 2021. 

Some prompts that could be of use – 

What were some major markers, good or bad, of 2021?

How have I changed in the last year?

What were some priorities that shifted or became more affirmed?

What were some recurring themes in 2021?

What proud accomplishments did you have?

What was missing from 2021?

Related Post: What I’ve Learned From Journaling

Lessons Learned in 2021

Accepting reality leads to contentment

Ya girl has got to learn to accept reality for what it is. As a self-professed dreamer, it’s easy to get into my head and think about what I want them to be. But when reality comes and shatters my perception, I end up angry and frustrated at the world. But I’m at the point in my college experience where there’s a lot more time past than there is time left. Which means I’ve got to accept what’s right in front of me. Even if it wasn’t what I wanted. 

These past few years have been filled with some hard moments, but woven through them, I’ve learned that when I accept reality for what it actually is, I’m more content. I’m aiming for more contentment in 2022.

Confession is huge

“Sometimes confession is telling the truth about actual life and it becomes an entrance to a different kind of healing, the slow work of God.”

Adam Russell

I don’t mean the Catholic-Church-confession, although if that’s your kind, that’s welcome here. What I mean to say refers to Adam Russell’s quote above. When you start telling the truth about your real life, where you actually are, you begin to allow others to step in and reframe reality for you. I’m super introspective (could you tell by my huge bent on journaling?) and that means I spent a bit more time in my head rather than talking things out like I should. And it’s hard to confess the reality of things when you feel the weight of expectation, of having a good experience/looking like you’re having a good experience. 

Note to self: it’s a lot more freeing to confess the places where it’s hard and where you’re not having a good time. That’s where the healing is.

Related Post: What I’ve Learned in Fall 2021

You have to manage your attention as a resource

A bit ago, I wrote a blog post called What You Consume, We Crave, and honestly, I needed that reminder again this year. It’s easy to get looped into the stressful news cycle or binging a new Netflix show, or refreshing Instagram stories (which has been my life during this weird week). It’s not so easy to pick up a book or go for a walk outside or even chat with a family member. I took a social media break this year to remind myself that I am a human outside of the social apps and I have a life to live. And that life REQUIRES attention. It requires my attentive presence to the people I love and the things I love. One of my most valuable resources is attention. Let’s use it wisely!

Watching HIMYM was a (and will forever) be a good idea

A not-so-big-thing but still notable to me was finishing HIMYM for the second time this year. Absolutely a killer show! Love the storyline, it’s funny, it’s sweet, just a dream! (If anyone has any similar recs, let me know!) Some might find it weird that this is on the 2021 lessons list, but I wrote about HIMYM on the blog and I had an incredible time rewatching it.

Just a reminder to go back to the simple joys of your life. 

The afternoon latte, the slow walk home, the hug from a loved one—too many think happiness is found in the big move and the promotion and the accolades instead of realizing happiness is making space to cherish the everyday simple joys. Just a reminder, gentle reader ❤️

Related Post: What I’ve Learned in 2020 + 2020 Highlights

You may have the time but not the capacity 

Don’t know why but I feel like this has been a major college lesson that I really didn’t get until my fourth year first semester of college. *facepalm* Repeat after me: Just because your calendar is empty doesn’t mean you are available. Just because your calendar is empty doesn’t mean you are available. If I learned this lesson sooner (and actually implemented it), I would have had way less stress in college and way more margin. It’s easy to think time is the only thing stopping you from signing up for that club or learning a new language or taking a class. 

But in reality, you have a natural capacity. A point at which your tank is full. Just because you have the time doesn’t mean you have the emotional or mental energy. And that’s okay. The sooner you realize that, the sooner you’ll start making decisions that honor your capacity and give your time and energy to what you value most.

Not moving on, but moving with

I’m stealing this lesson from one of my favorite podcasts (I highly recommend this podcast to everyone who asks me for a pod rec, and so I’m giving it to you!). In an episode I listened to in February (and have relistened to since), I learned about this concept of moving with. And it reframed my perspective on this loss I felt (and blogged about during my 3rd year). As a person with loss or any form of trauma, you are never completely “getting over” it. Your ache is SO real and it may shift from the forefront of your mental and energy energy, but “getting over” it is so not possible. 

So in a lovely way, my favorite podcast gave me an expression to hold on to—to move with this (in my case) intangible grief. I don’t have to wait for the day when I never feel the ache again, but I can decide to live with it in mind and heart. I can choose to move forward even with pain.

Doing the right thing doesn’t mean that the “right” outcome will occur

Newsflash to my past self: This one’s a biggie. Doing the right thing doesn’t mean the “right” outcome will occur. Sometimes some of us get caught up in this idea that action A will automatically lead to action B. For example, telling the truth will lead to a reward and an honoring of my integrity. Or standing up for what I believe will lead me to recognition. And that’s not necessarily true. 

But the sooner we realize that we can do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do regardless of the outcome, we will find satisfaction in that alone. For me, I think this applies spiritually. I think if I spend enough time in prayer, I’ll have a really emotional experience. When in reality, growing in Christlikeness is a slow, faithful process and the fruit is a long time coming. But this lesson helps me adjust my expectations.

Related Post: What I’ve Learned From 2019 & 2019 Highlights

Joy is a choice. Love is a choice. Peace is a choice.

This may be the actual revolutionary lesson of 2021. Hands down! I used to think that I would naturally become joyful or naturally be more loving and more at peace as soon as I became a Christian (and then when that didn’t happen, I went into a rabbithole of theology). Reading Discipline by Elisabeth Elliot and A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson plus Phylicia Masonheimer’s IG Every Woman a Theologian made me realize I have to choose these things. 

We can choose to be self-sacrificial and be servants in love. We can choose to be grateful and go about our tasks with a countenance of delight. We can choose to be orderly and cultivate a spirit of peace in our lives. I don’t have to wait for this magical feeling to descend. Instead I can pray and then take reasonable action, and watch the fruit of my spirit flow into my life. This is a major lesson I’ll be taking into 2022!

If you’ve stuck around after all of that, you are a real one!

Here are some 2021 highlights!

  • Declared my minor
  • Visited Vermont in June
  • Had a marketing internship for the summer
  • Finished reading the whole Bible this summer!!!
  • Bought my own laptop (biggest financial purchase yet)
  • Turned the big ol’ 21
  • Moved to a new place for my fourth year
  • Went on 3 back to back trips – NYC, Quicksburg, VA & Outer Banks, NC
  • Took on a ~thesis~
  • Finished 3 years of leadership with a ministry
  • Wrote 55 posts for this sweet space of a blog!

Gentle readers, dear friends, 2021 has been a wild ride even here on the blog. And I’m grateful! For your support! For your reading these small words of mine. I hope they do more than add to the noise of the interwebs. I hope you feel at peace here and learn a little something. I hope you know this is a spot that’s just as much for me as it is for you!

May your 2021 reflection be full of honesty and sweetness. May your 2022 be full of joy, peace, and of course, the greatest of these, is love. 

Signing off, 


I’m a tad emotional, friends. Let me know what you’ve learned this year and what this blog has meant for you. I’m grateful for your every comment! Your words matter ❤️

3 thoughts on “What I’ve Learned in 2021 + full 2021 Highlights

  1. Hi Gigi. I admire that you are so reflective and have arrived at many valuable life lessons at your age. I’m planning for 2022 to be more intentional with a focus on love, play, and inclusion. Happy New Year! 🎉

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