5 Life Lessons I've Learned in 2021

5 Life Lessons I've Learned in 2021

Photo by Markus Winkler / Unsplash

2021 is over. Welcome, 2022.
I wonder what this year is in store for me?

It's scary; going into the new year, I have lost my day job, no clients for my music freelance work, and my emergency fund, which I think will last me for at least, the first month.

And here I am, starting my website.

I have longed to start this website of mine at the beginning of 2021 for me to have a place to store all of my works, but my excuses range from "I don't have time" or "I have nothing to write about" or "when I have the money, I will start." And before I knew it, 2021 had passed.

For me, 2021 has been a very emotional rollercoaster. It constantly swayed between being hopeful as everything eased out to being restricted again by the next month. Changing restrictions allowed me to not care about planning my next month and forced me to live day after day, week after week. This year seems so fast, and on some days, I wanted it to slow down a bit. My heart can't catch up.

This backdrop compelled me to start writing again and care about my website. I thought the best way to start this new year was to step back, pause, and evaluate what happened in 2021. Is it good? Have I grown? No one knows for sure, but I am sure that I've learned some things at the very least, and it made me understand life a little bit better.

Here are the five (5) life lessons I learned this 2021 that improved my outlook in life, and I hope it encourages you as well.

1. Forgive yourself.

It's easy for me to forgive other people when they have done me wrong. But what I find more challenging is when I am in the wrong (which is most of the time). Even when the people around me say it's okay already, I beat myself to it. I can't forgive myself. I dwell on the sadness of my failure, overthink that maybe people won't see me the same way again, and repeatedly repeat the disappointment in my head. I thought that being hard on myself would make me avoid committing the same mistakes in the future.

But this year, I learned that the only thing it did to me was to weigh me down. Everybody had moved forward, and I chose to be left behind. Sure, I can go back and stay in my past failures, but no one will be there for me anymore. I am the only one who cares about my mistakes. And the only way to learn and grow from every failure is to forgive me, accept, and move forward.

Self-forgiveness is the most significant learning I had in 2021.

2. Don't skip a meal, and eat slowly.

This life has gotten more demanding every year, pressuring us to be consistently productive and achieve more in our careers earlier and better than anyone. Things like a life hack, how to do things faster, how to quickly lose belly fat, how to manage your time more efficiently, and all that encourage us to double the things that we can do in the same amount of time are all over the internet. I thought I might be more successful by swapping one or two mundane things in life–as simple as a meal–for something "more" productive.

But I learned that this mindset puts our output more important than our health. I knew that skipping meals did not help me lose belly fat–it just made me more unhealthy and my body less efficient. By skipping meals and eating quickly, I deprive my body of the enjoyment of the process of nourishment and care only about the end goal: to be stuffed.

When I eat quickly, I miss the crisp of fried tofu, seeing the vibrant colors of sinigang, tasting the unique flavors of pizza, the aroma of the coffee, the tenderness of an air-fried roasted chicken, and the warmth of ramen in my tummy. These things make life meaningful and colorful, and if I keep skipping meals, I reject the colors of life in exchange for the seemingly glorious but fleeting grayscale output of worldly success.

No wonder some self-made people are still sad; they choose output over meals, reputation more than health, and work over nourishment. What's the point of your life's work if you cannot witness its success?

And so, whenever I'm deep in life's grind and hustle culture, I will remind myself not to skip my next meal and savor it slowly. It's through this that contentment and gratitude will overflow from my heart.

3. No one will wash the dishes for you.

2021 is my first year of living alone in a studio-type apartment, and if there is anything that changed my life is this: No one will wash the dishes for me.

Sure, I can eat whatever I want, cook whatever I want to, and drink whatever I want to, as long as I wash my dishes afterward. I may choose to delay it and leave it at my sink; I can also choose to escape the reality that I still have dishes to wash and go on with my life.

But, the longer I delay and escape from the responsibility, the words get worse; dirt is now much harder to clean. And when the time comes that there is no denying I need to wash the dishes, the activity is much more strenuous and gross. All because I didn't wash my dishes early on.

My point is that sometimes I love to begin exciting things in life but don't follow through to the end. I only wanted the reward, not the maintenance. If things get tough, I abandon ship. I expect people or friends to clean up my trail of shortcomings and expect them to forgive me as if nothing happened rather than take responsibility and clean up my mess.

I can't blame anybody for not washing those dishes for me; they don't owe me anything! The longer I escape that reality, the more things are just getting gross to no return, which turns to regret. All that mess wouldn't have happened if I had washed my dishes sooner.  

And so, I will face this year knowing that I am free to enjoy my freedom and direction to the things I want to pursue, as long as I wash my dishes and follow through to the end.

4. The antidote for discontent is gratitude.

I quit being active on social media because it continually encourages me to peek at others' fences and neglect the beauty of my backyard. The culture of FOMO - Fear of Missing Out - steals the joy of living, making me feel empty or unsuccessful compared to my neighbors; even, in reality, it doesn't matter. We all have our timelines, and I have my own, a beautifully crafted one, and this year taught me that the antidote for the poison of discontent is gratitude.

Whenever I start to be envious of the success of my colleagues and friends, I remind myself to be grateful for what I have and where I have been. Whenever discontent arises, it just means I am getting less and less thankful. I don't need to have more; I need to thank more.

5. Have courage, and be kind.

Yes, it's a quote from Cinderella.

I believe these two words struck me more this year; it's so profound that I think it's not the words that made it; it's the balance of the two that unlocks the potential of any human being that dares to confront life head-on.

Courage without kindness is scary, for people scorn courage; kindness without courage is weak, for people abuse kindness. Life has never been fair. Because of this, some people either lose courage along the way or lose kindness along the way. This year, I learned that to take hold of the opportunities life has to offer, I have to make one courageous decision after another to change the course of my life forever. And as I navigate through that challenging road, kindness will be my anchor to keep my feet on the ground and retain the relationships that matter to me the most.

Courage takes hold; kindness gives back. And that's the key to a life of peace and joy, free from the love of money and content with what I have.

So there you have it! My top 5 life lessons I have learned in 2021, and I will carry these lessons with me as I navigate through 2022. I hope it encourages someone today, and if you enjoy reading until this point, may we be both prosperous and contented as we navigate this year full of gratitude and hope.

I hope you can join me the whole year in witnessing this website grow, and it excites me to see where this will take me. But for now, I'll forgive myself, have courage, be kind, eat slowly, and wash my dishes.

Jeroel Maranan

Jeroel Maranan

Jeroel Maranan is a musician, singer-songwriter, arranger, and producer. He loves cats. 😸 Join his newsletter and friendly community of creatives by clicking on the "Subscribe" button below! See you!
Los Banos, Laguna