Lessons of 2021

The best part about life is that you are constantly learning. I take great pride in learning. Sometimes I feel as if the older I grow, the more I learn. Often, the lessons can be inspiring; at other times, they can make you sad or melancholy. But ultimately, these lessons help me continue to grow into the person I want to be…or not be.

Lesson 1: When you go through something tough, you find out who your “people” are. This year, I had surgery to replace my hip. While some people may consider this an easy surgery to recover from, unfortunately, it was not the case for me. It was tough, and I had two problems going on simultaneously: a rotten hip and an injured back. I took the whole semester off from the university. I cried a lot. At times, I lost hope. The pain was intense. The recovery was incredibly slow and required several trips to the surgeon and doctor. It took a while for everything to settle down, and even as I type this 4 months later, I am still not perfect. Not anywhere near it, in fact. But though it all, I learned who my “people” are—the ones you can count on to help you through it. The ones who check on you and call and text. Some sent cards and flowers. And some checked on me regularly to make sure I was okay. They encouraged me when I felt down, and I will not forget their kindness. Had it not been for my dearest family and friends who have lifted me up when all I wanted to do was retreat, I might not be where I am today. Thank you for that. It meant—and continues to mean—the world to me.

A week after surgery in September. Smiling through the pain.

Lesson 2: You are your own best advocate. This has been building over time. While I have confidence in some areas, in other areas I am lacking. My husband has helped me have a backbone…to advocate for myself…and to do this is a little out of my comfort zone. Whether it is for my health or the work that needs to be done as an author or on behalf of our children, if you don’t advocate for yourself, who will?

Lesson 3: Work, work, work is great, but finding that “thing” that makes your heart sing is vital. More than ever, and especially after what I’ve been through the last couple of years with my health situation, I’ve realized that it is vital to enjoy life a little more. As you age and the years fly by, you realize spending time doing what you love really matters. My spare time is spent with friends and family, writing, and boating in the summer. The pandemic is limiting travel for now, but at some point, I look forward to seeing more of the world. What makes your heart sing?

Finding time to do the things we love.

Lesson 4: The sky is the limit. Don’t let other people put a damper on your goals and aspirations. As James Cameron said in a Ted Talk, “Don’t put limitations on yourself. Other people will do that for you.” This year, I wrote three books and published two of them; the third is coming in the spring. I learned that the only thing you are limited by is yourself. Go for what you want. Be happy with how you reach those goals. And don’t compare your goals to someone else’s.

Published these two this year, with another one on the way. Anna in Tuscany is about a travel writer who spends a year in Tuscany and discovers a love story for a Valentine’s Day piece she must write; From Humbug to Humble is the continuation of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and what I imagine might have happened to him in the years after he saw the ghosts; and The Letters in the Books is a story of a bookstore owner who is an empath and writes letters to people who are feeling down.

Lesson 5: Avoid the haters. As an author, I’m on a lot of social media. I have to spend an inordinate amount of time marketing myself to help gain readers for my novels. In doing so, I rub up against a lot of angry people who enjoy putting others down or just being downright ugly and disrespectful on social media to others (not to me in particular, but to others. Luckily, I have only encountered a couple of such people online). Avoid these people like the plague. They don’t know you. They hide behind false names and a screen. But make no mistake, they are not kind. Do your best to stay positive and avoid the fringe.

These are my biggest takeaways from 2021. What did you learn? And how will you advocate for yourself in 2022?

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