Like everyone, I’ve been thinking a lot about the year ahead as we kickoff a brand new year, 2022. I am not a die hard resolutions writer and this year, I feel absolutely no pull to write resolutions. With motherhood and this season of life of having a young family, I’ve learned that I have to let so much go – lunch doesn’t need to be cleaned up right away if Rowan is tugging on my pant leg because engaging with him is a million times more important than a clean kitchen and the working time I’ll loose later during Rowan’s nap when I circle back to clean the lunch mess – and it isn’t a very realistic time for me personally to be writing resolutions.
However, I am a person who always looks back to the past as a reference point, as an anchor for myself, as a house for my memories, and as a place to learn from. At the end of 2019, I wrote a post titled “Lessons I Learned in 2019” that I recently reread. I didn’t write such a post at the end of 2020. This is most likely due to the fact that Rowan turned 3 months old the last week of 2020 and, at the close of his official newborn days, I was very much still treading water and trying to establish who I was in my newfound life as a mother. However, I feel that 2021 was probably my largest year of growth in my life, no doubt due to the reality that it was my first full year as a mom.
In so many ways, I think I’m really different than I was 2, 3, 4, 5 years ago.
So, in lieu of writing resolutions for 2022, I’m sharing a handful of lessons I learned in 2021 that I hope will carry me into 2022 with a renewed sense of confidence, peace, joy, and grace at this moment in time and with the year ahead. Think what you may about resolutions, lessons learned, or goals sought after but keep in mind that this life isn’t a dress rehearsal. I like to remind myself to never waste a moment to make the most of it all.
Lessons I Learned in 2021
Lucky to be Children
I can’t stop thinking about this one because life moves so fast and time really is a thief. I recently revisited an old blog post by Jen titled “Lucky to be Children” and it has really held a lingering spot in my brain. Maybe this isn’t the case but, at the same time that I think I grew tremendously in 2021, I also think I was never so lucky to be a child and specifically to be my parents child than I was this past year.
Just the other night, I sat with my mother and my son and, in the midst of extreme exhaustion, lots of pain from a freshly broken bone (ouch! I’d forgotten what broken bones feel like), and feelings of being overwhelmed knowing Rowan needed so much more of me than I could physically give with my injury, I snuggled Rowan while telling him that just like I’m his mom, his grandmother is my mom. He needs me, his mother, and I need my mom, his grandmother. I’m so lucky to be a child too.
As Jen said, we are lucky to be children even when we are busy adults and capable parents in our own right.
I was hit with some heartache in 2021 and, after it all, one of my lasting impressions of my experience is that I’m so lucky to be my parents’ child. My parents both helped me in more ways than I can express during this time. I think my parents raised us to be independent, capable, curious, and ready but they also raised us to never hesitate to turn toward them and embrace our relationships, learning from each other.
My parents have helped me every day of my 31 years, some days directly, physically, and tangibly and other days in abstract ways. At no matter what age I am, I know I’ll be lucky to be a child for I will always be my parents’ child. I hope Rowan grows up to feel lucky to be my child too.
Motherhood is the Best, Most Rewarding, Most Challenging Endeavor I’ve Ever Experienced
Mothers out there I’m sure are reading this and nodding their heads. There isn’t much to say beyond the above because it is so so true. Nothing in my life has physically, emotionally, or mentally challenged me like motherhood has but nothing has ever been sweeter, has filled me up more, or has made me feel more whole. At times when I’ve wondered who I am now that I’m a mother (in the beginning really, not now), I’ve also never been more sure of Rowan and I as a duo and our relationship together. Motherhood is everything and more.
I love my Rowan so much and love my life as a mom. In times of struggle as a mother in 2022, I hope I remember what I learned in 2021 that no matter the motherhood challenge, the reward is far greater. Challenges with parenting come and go but our kids are forever, the best, the most rewarding, and the most important. Nothing else compares.
Let there be Dust Bunnies
Oh my gosh, Jillian, let go and let there be dust bunnies. Leading up to when I had Rowan in the fall of 2020, my mom told me that some of the best advice her mother gave her before having me was to not worry about dust bunnies. In the early days of parenting, when I could control so little, I could not understand this. I could control the dust bunnies so instead of letting myself rest when I needed it, I cleaned the house.
As 2021 started and I settled into more of the realities of motherhood and managing a house (with two shedding labradors), I let there be dust bunnies. Perhaps sometimes I let there be too many dust bunnies but a messy house is a loved and lived in house. So, I learned in 2021 that a few dust bunnies never hurt anyone and that releasing some control over the tidiness of my house actually helped me maintain my mental sanity.
A Lesson in Goodbyes
In 2021, I said goodbye to a house that I think I’ll be saying goodbye to my whole life. Does that make sense? Houses play such an impactful role in our lives and can shape us in so many ways. While for so many reasons it was time to say goodbye, I don’t think I ever would have been ready. Not in 2021. Not in 2091.
I loved this house and this house loved me back. She gave me some of my most golden moments. I might have smiled more of my biggest, brightest, truest smiles here than anywhere else. This house met all my friends during preschool, grade school, high school, college, and after. She made everyone feel welcome from the minute they pulled into the driveway. I have cherished memories here with those I’ve loved and lost including my grandparents. And a very special someone who was like a second mother to me, Elizabeth. I lived summers at this house with my best lifelong friends. I fell in love with my husband at this house.
Our son came into our orbit at this house.
I learned that the best kind of fun is simply done by playing in the sun, sand, and surf at this house. I brought my son to this house twice. He won’t ever remember but I always will and I’ll tell him about the Blue House in his bedtime stories, as he grows up and wonders about his parents and how we met, and as he inquires about the older generations that shaped our family.
I’m a true Taurus in many ways and my uncomfort surrounding change is at the top of my list of Taurus characteristics. I’m also deeply sentimental. So this combination can prove particularly challenging when it comes to saying goodbye. I’m simply no good at it. I carry goodbyes with me and, while they don’t outweigh all the joys that came before them, they are there. The day I said goodbye to this house, another special someone who is also like a second mother to me (my mom has incredible friends who have played wonderful roles in my life) reminded me of the memories we have from the house and reassured me that we’ll always have them “tucked away to pull out when we want to smile”.
My heart broke and was healed with those words. That afternoon, one of her sons/one of my best friends called me. When I answered the phone, Teddy simply said “Jillllllll” and that was enough. He knew, I knew, and I felt his love. I’ve thought about that call so much over the months that have passed since. It will be one I’ll always remember that he took the time to make. We have a true lifelong friendship, much of which was solidified by and at this house.
The Blue House was more than just a house.
It was a part of our family and a part of me. A part of me gone but not soon forgotten. Rowan was 6 months old the last time I took him here. I wish he could enjoy a lifetime here but 6 months is better than nothing for everyday is a gift. I understand the goodbye and have learned lessons from the goodbye. But that doesn’t mean I like it (I said I’m a Taurus!). I love you Blue House. Thank you for loving me and raising me up under your roof on so many special days and nights surrounded by love, family, and friends!
Thank you to my grandparents for giving multiple generations a once in a lifetime gift with this house and the community it built. My grandparents and the Blue House outdid themselves in more ways than one. Our beloved Blue House taught me a lot and her final lesson was a lesson in goodbyes that I know will help me down the road.
Friendships are a Cornerstone of Life, Not a Convenience
think know that in 2021, I often defaulted my friendships to moments of need and convenience. By this I mean, I would forget to check in with a friend and rather send a text with a photo of a rash on Rowan and ask “thoughts on what I should do about this?” or ask for advice on a new type of bottle to try when I had exhausted my knowledge. On more than one occasion, I’d answer a call from a friend and start with “I’m so sorry I’ve been a challenge to get ahold of lately!” In short, it is easy to blame motherhood and my whole body and mind consumption with Rowan’s first year of life and literally learning 100 new things each and every day.
I like to think that I’ll never stop growing and learning as a parent (the worrying will, I know, never stop) but that I will become a seasoned parent one day and some of my daily wonderings, concerns, consumptions, and questions won’t be so all-consuming.
At the same time that I too often treated friendships as a convenience in 2021, I have a number of friendships that I think and hope I showed up for this year. I can wholeheartedly say that I have friendships that showed up for me this year! They buoyed me through Rowan’s first 15 months of life, my adjustment to full-time motherhood and adjustment to everything else taking a backseat, some personal ups and downs I experienced, and just an all around still strange in many ways year. You friends are pots of gold in my life!
I’ve also reflected a bit on the realities of the difference between my local Charleston friendships and my long-distance friendships.
My Charleston friendships are newer and younger but I love so many of them just as much as my longer more entrenched-in-my-life long-distance friendships. I thoroughly enjoyed making new friends this year and enjoyed some budding friendships of people I’m becoming acquaintances with or turning from acquaintance to friend. It can be tricky to balance investing in new local friendships with maintaining old, sometimes life-long, long-distance friendships that require a phone call or text messages. This balance will probably always ebb and flow but it is something I’m keeping in mind and something I was perhaps less considerate of in 2021 as I have been in previous years.
In 2022, I’d like to learn from the friend I was in 2021 and be a more present friend in 2022. I think there will be times this year when I can do this and other times when it perhaps can’t be my #1 priority. The beauty of friendship is that true friends never waver and they are there for you in every season of life, busy or not, self-consumed or not. Friendships are a two-way street though so I do hope I can learn from how I feel about my friendships at the closing of 2021 while looking ahead to 2022. I also very much want to keep building new friendships in Charleston because, really, the people here are so fantastic!