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  • Writer's pictureMary

A Lost Year

Happiest of New Years to everyone reading this, and even to everyone who looked at the title and decided not to read it. You deserve a Happy New Year too. I understand all too well the overwhelming sensations and stimulation you're experiencing, and don't blame you for the glazed look that passes over your eyes as yet another person is promoting their blog and asking you to read something they wrote.

New Years is an odd time for me. I spent the last five days completely alone in my house, with my roommates all still out for the holidays. An enormous snow dump right after New Years forced me to stay inside, and so I spent a few days drawing, gaming, and puttering away at my novel, as I usually do on days when I'm unable to drive or go to work. A slow start to 2022, of which I don't really mind.

With everyone gone, I celebrated New Year's Eve by myself, a first for me. I popped a bottle of champagne a few hours before the countdown, made myself a French 75 with my purple gin, and sat down with some music in the background. I could have danced, I could have sang, but instead I started working on my newest project for the year: a bullet journal.

I'm terrible at New Year's Resolutions. I fit right into that statistic of people who give up after 2 weeks of attempting to change their life. I get tired, I lose my momentum, and I sit back with a shrug and say "maybe next year", as if that will change anything. And I'm not saying this year will really be different, but I am trying something new, and hoping that at least the idea will stick.

A few years ago, I stumbled upon a video by CGP Grey, a wildly entertaining and informative youtube creator, about New Year's Resolutions. He suggests taking a different stance on Resolutions, and instead of making extremely narrow and specific changes, to instead choose a generalized theme for the year, and to work along that guideline.

It's a great little video, I highly suggest giving it a watch:

I tend to work much better along guidelines than with strict structure. It's like I'm building myself a room, but I forgot to leave space for a window or even a door. I find myself completely dedicated to my task, to my goal, but then I run to get more materials, and find myself entirely enclosed by a room of my own creation. I've trapped myself, and the only way to get out is to destroy everything that I just built, and by that point, it's too late.

So I decided this year to follow this video's example and to choose a theme. So this year is the Year of Letting Go.


I'll get back to the bullet journal, I promise, but first, I think I should explain my theme and how the journal relates to it.

My birthday is in June, so this is just over halfway through my 25th year. I was reading through some old stories and bits of writing, and some drawings I did a few sketchbooks back, and started to connect dates together. What I realized is that I don't really remember being 24 years old.

I have a lot of projects that were started or completed when I was 23, which I realize because I'd start out journal entries or segments about me with "Hi, I'm Mary, I'm 23 years old." But I couldn't find anything like that when I was 24. Even now, I have many of those same projects that start with "Hi, I'm Mary, I'm 25 years old," but 24-year-old Mary got lost in between.

2020 was a strange year for me, but I think 2021 was even stranger. I moved in 2020, right after I turned 24, and then in 2021, I struggled to keep myself balanced in every part of my life. I was a combination of wildly under-stimulated and extremely overwhelmed at all times. I was a ticking time bomb of nerves. The pandemic in full swing meant I couldn't travel, couldn't visit any of the museums or bars or concerts. Before I knew it, I had slipped right into being 25, and my 24th year was gone without anything to show for it. Part of me feels like a character in a drama waking up from a coma that lasted an entire year, and finds themselves disoriented that the world continued on without them.

Last month, I went on the Metro for the first time since I moved here.

"Mary," my roommate said with a shocked look, "you've been here for a year and a half and you haven't taken the Metro?!"

I stared right back at her. "What was I going to go and do in DC? Everything was shut down."

I still tell people I'm new to the area. Only now am I starting to actually visit the places my friends have been talking about for years.

In a way, 2020 and 2021 are the same year for me, a blended mash that swept by in a blur of Zoom meetings, quarantines, and social distancing. Right now, this feels less like the end of 2021 and really the end of both 2020 and 2021 put together. And who knows, maybe I'll get to the end of 2022 and it'll join the slow slog that has become my mid-20s in a pandemic.

Let me not say, though, that I didn't learn anything from this amalgam of a year and a half. I did, truly, learn a lot about myself, most of it being the things that trigger my anxiety, but not all of it was bad.

What 2020 and 2021 taught me about myself:

  • I enjoy being alone, but not for too long, because it can easily turn into loneliness

  • I'm better when I'm creating something

  • I'm better when I'm on the right medication and can think clearly

  • Making lists is one of the Greatest things ever - I wish I had realized this sooner

  • Time is a nebulous beast and being able to control my awareness soothes the anxiety

  • Drinking enough water is very important

  • I have to let go of my desperate attempts to control everything in my life, because it's slowly destroying me

The last one is really the kicker. 2020 and 2021 were years that made me feel like I was trying to build a house of sticks, pinecones, and twine, and grasping at them all frantically with white-knuckled fingers, because one slip would cause the whole thing to collapse. I needed to maintain control. I didn't know what else to do.

It seems odd, then, that I'm starting a bullet journal in order to help me in my Year of Letting Go, but the process of creating something to help me get a handle on my life is very different than me using it to control my life.

Bullet journaling is essentially creating your own planner in a notebook. The "bullets" refer to bulleted lists, and there's a fairly simple system for how to use it. It breaks down thoughts into events, tasks, and notes, and then the writer is encouraged to create "collections", which range from habit trackers to book lists to monthly calendars, and to move those events, tasks, and notes into those collections as time passes.

Bullet journals have always appealed to the creative side of me. I love to make things, as I mentioned in my last blog post. I like making something customized to me, but I've always been put off by the amount of time that needs to be put into a bullet journal. It's supposed to be used every day, and that made me nervous. If I missed a day, would I be able to keep up my motivation? But I realized very quickly that I already have so many notebooks and loose leaf pages and phone notes that essentially comprise what would be put into a daily planner anyways. I like the idea of putting them all together into something cohesive, tangible, and solid.

And so I am starting that. It's messy and rough. If you google "Bullet Journals", you'll find pages and pages of beautiful pictures of people's near professional monthly spreads. I have nowhere near that experience or skill, but I'm so far enjoying it for what it is. It doesn't have to be perfect. It just has to be useable. So I'm letting go of my need for it to be perfect for me to use it. So far, it has brought me a good amount of peace in the 11 days since I started it.

I hope the past year has taught you about yourself in possibly unexpected ways. I hope that you started this next year fresh and ready for something new. And I hope, desperately, that this year will not be a mere blend of months and days, a year that doesn't quite exist. I hope, very much, that this year exists.

Happy 2022. I'll catch you at the end, and we can reevaluate.

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Jan 13, 2022

I am looking forward to a year of new possibilities as well. I love the theme approach - can a person have two? I'd like this to be a "Year of Organization" and a "Year of Deepening Friendship". Is that allowed? ;-)

Jan 13, 2022
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I think that's extremely allowed ;)

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