12 things 2021 taught me (or us)

You must have read well-researched, well-informed, and long-form articles getting deep into the art of storytelling that takes you to another land that opens up your mind. Yeah, this one is nothing like that. 

2021 for most of us, was like a cute puppy that we brought home expecting we’d put Instagram posts about it, earn a shit amount of money and followers. But before you knew it, that puppy was eating your expensive dress, pooping on your carpet and not listening to you like your friends.

It may seem like 12 things in the title represents 12 months of the year where I take you to month-by-month analysis and things I or we all learned as a society, yeah it’s nothing like that as well.

But it sounds like an excellent idea for an article; I’ll write that in 2022. 

Soooo, just like that casual relationship stretched for too long, finally, 2021 came to an end as well.

It wasn’t an average year for any of us, except the 1% of the wealthy population that got even richer because we couldn’t stop ordering those cute bookshelves and cheap charging wires that burned your house from Amazon. 

Last year escalated faster than usual, from waiting for a cashback on Paytm to buying its stocks, from staying in to going out and partying hard just to spread corona and go back to staying in. So we’ve come a full circle.

This was when the virus wanted to do the self-improvement thing and get better like all of us. So I’d use that to segue to the first point on my list. 

  1. Self-improvement works to a certain extent only – If you’re anyone like me who has read several self-improvement books, then you’d realise that at some point, you have to stop reading books and, you know, improve. 

The purpose of self-improvement is to make you ‘feel’ productive. So when you read a fantastic book about boosting your productivity, the author advises you to wake up, do pushups with one hand, and brush your teeth with another. They tell you to eat wisdom and poop knowledge; you feel like a productivity god. 

If you fully improve yourself, there won’t be any improvement. It’s counterintuitive. I remember reading Atomic Habits and feeling so damn productive about reading it that I forgot to take something from the book and make nuclear habits. 

We consume all content, and that’s what attention economy is all about. It wants us to waste our time to the point where we stop doing anything and stick to our phone and do nothing eventually.

2. You don’t need a massive group of friends – A lot of people grow up with a lot of friends. On the other hand, I’m sure some people grew up with a small group and some with no friends because they were too scared to come out of their basement. 

Most of the people are your acquaintances and not your friends. These are called circumstantial friends. You meet them during a class, in the office or that friendly meeting under the bridge to exchange some salt for money. You go out with them, you party with them but remember a few and share with even fewer when it comes to some tragedy or problem.

Having 15 people in a group is a good idea when we’re teenagers because we were not worried about life. Going to school, eating each other’s lunch box, thumping and clapping your hands to play “We will rock you” by Queen to annoy your teachers provided us the the most happiness in a day.

Maybe a little feud that you won’t remember after six years. Or 6 seconds. That’s how quickly things were solved when we were that age. But as you enter adulthood with those 15 people, those friendships go through an automatic shredder at some point or another, and only 1-2 close people are left.

3. Taking breaks from social media helps to recalibrate – I do this every once in a while where I delete social media apps from my phone where I don’t wish to know what other people are eating for dinner or where they’re getting their pet groomed. 

I unfollowed several radical and extremist pages that used to promote ideologies that didn’t use to align with mine. That didn’t mean I wanted to live in a bubble where every page I follow confirms my biases. I’m aware of the other sides.

Also, I don’t buy the quick, cheap, ad-bloated articles that only want to sell stupid stuff. So, evidence-based news and creative pages became a way for me. 

And it’s no surprise that only our happy moments make it to social media so much that we start living so that we can capture those happy moments. Nobody is posting about that breakdown they had on the subway or the watercooler rant they did today at the office because nobody cares about your problems anyway; people have millions of their own. 

“No, girl, I don’t care about why your toxic boyfriend left you for the 10th time after cheating on you with someone else. Maybe leave him for good.” 

4. Travelling is therapy – We were trapped inside for a while, but we made that little trip whenever we got the chance. I was also inside most of the time due to covid Restrictions, but I made a few trips this year as corporate life tried to suck all the energy out of me; mountains and beaches were a great source of that energy back. It’s like meditation. There’s something about the experience of going to new places that I can’t find an alternative to. Even though I don’t need to find an option, I can visit new places. These places are a part of me now. I even uploaded some great shots on my photography page on Instagram.

5. Music makes everything okay – If I could, I would fit a radio in my head that plays a song according to my situation. But, since the technology isn’t that advanced right now, we still have to use our hands in some way to wipe our butts; we have to do it manually. 

I always have a piece of background music going depending on my situation. The amount of peace that music provides me is unparalleled. I try to listen to new genres now and then, but it’s mostly the same 150-200 songs on my playlist. 

According to my Spotify wrapped 2021, I listen to 20,000 thousand minutes of music which is 97% higher than the rest of the population of India because it doesn’t know I switched to Apple Music in the 4th quarter; otherwise, it would have been longer. 

It doesn’t matter how much I listened to it, but more like what I was listening. Coldplay and The Weeknd were on my list, followed by indie artists and songs with deep lyrics. Good music should be able to take you away from reality for a while. 

6. Change is the only constant of life – When it comes to accepting change, few of us are given the power to take it happily. For those who don’t, circumstances make them accept it forcefully.

No matter what you do, things, people, and everything change. So even if you’re stagnant, your body is changing, people around you are changing, getting older day by day. 

No matter if you stayed in bed the whole day, a lot changed in 24 hours. The clock got back to where it started. Some days are too ecstatic, and others feel like burning hell, but that’s what it depicts. Change. 

7. Reading gives a new perspective on life – no matter if you love fiction or non-fiction. Every book has something to teach you. Fiction will open the gates of your imagination, and non-fiction will open the gates of your mind when that new information flows. 

From Atomic habits to Psychology of money, from Ikigai to Eleven minutes, I expanded the horizon of my thoughts. But, as they say, to write more, you need to read more. 

This year I read approximately 15-18 books which isn’t a significant number, but It’s definitely higher than the last year. I’m aiming for at least two books per month for 2022, which will make it 24 books? Eh. Doesn’t sound that ambitious. Let me know how many books you read in 2022.

8. Friendship is a choice you make every day – you can’t choose your family. The blood relations never change. But the people you spend time with every day, it doesn’t happen by fluke. It happens by choice. 

That random gossip with your friend at 2 am is a choice; going on a trip with them is a choice; staying with them when things aren’t super smooth is a choice. 

And one day, one of you can pack your bags and decide to leave. That’s a choice you or they made that day. It’ll hurt, but is there anything you can do about it apart from sulking? Accepting is the way to go. 

9. Setting arbitrary goals is self-defeating – let’s start with an example. Imagine you set a goal to travel to 5 countries this year because it’s cool and everyone is doing it. FOMO. 

So you go out on this journey, and after spending a shit amount of money, you managed to travel to 5 countries. 

But as you’ll notice, there will be a feeling of emptiness after completing this goal. You set a plan, and you’ve finished it. Now that goal is over; it’s gone. 

Instead of setting a particular goal, you can widen it and decide just to travel a lot this year. You travel because that’s what you enjoy and not the feeling of achievement when you cross a place. It’s the experience that you should enjoy instead of having a goal in your mind. 

10. Living in the present can make us blind to the bigger picture – It’s challenging to live in the moment for many of us, yet that’s what we do. We want what we want now! There’s no tomorrow. That parcel should be delivered within 24 hours, and that food delivery is in 30 minutes? FAB! 

We’re in times where it’s hard to zoom out. We’re too focused on the present and what’s happening now. So, yes, the stock market is down, that heinous crime has occurred, and that illiterate politician repeated something stupid. But if you’ll look back, it’s not the first time all of it has happened. 

The stock market has gone down and come up; crimes have continued to happen, and saying something stupid is a politician’s job. 

If you see how your last year has been, it might not have been the best one, or it has. Maybe the year before it was even better. So, looking back into the last 4-5 years can give you a perspective about how much you have grown. Or how stagnant you are. 

If you’re okay being stagnant, then it’s great. But if growing and getting better is your focus, starting right now would be the right time. 

If you look at a giant painting from too close, you might not understand what it is. But, just by backing up a little, you’d be able to appreciate the beauty of something. 

11. Not expecting anything is the best way to move forward – you can always control your input, not the outcome. For example, you can enrol yourself in an expensive course in a big university, hoping to get an excellent salary. Still, there’s no point if you won’t put any effort into studying. 

If you study hard, that’s your input, but you still don’t control the outcome. And I know that if we work hard, we expect it to work. Hell, we sometimes even hope to succeed when we don’t do anything because the power of positive thoughts and luck will get us there. That might work for some people, but for many, it won’t. 

There were many times when I wasn’t expecting something and running for it, and that’s when the best things happened.

When we desire something, we have already lived that moment even before it has happened. So when it’s different from the story from what we anticipated, we get disappointed.

12. Writing is something I want to do more of – I posted a total of 16 posts in 2021 on my blog, which is relatively less than 2020 when I published 37 articles. But I can say that I want to do more of this. 

I feel at peace when I pen down my thoughts and express them through my blogs. 

As this year progresses, this is another thing I want to bring into my habit, writing something every day.

Like everyone else, I also learnt a lot. I realised terrible experiences are just as important as good experiences because when you combine them, it makes you what you are today. 

So these were the 12 things that I learned in 2021, and now I’m nine days late to post this. But it’s not too late, I believe. So write down your thoughts on what you learned in 2021. And I’ll continue to write and try to entertain you.

2 thoughts on “12 things 2021 taught me (or us)

  1. I think everyone ought to take self improvement books with a pinch of salt, because while some can contain very helpful tips, I think for some they can become a little addictive, and people end up trying to improve themselves without really improving themselves. After all, being super productive is not really the way in which people can become their happiest.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly! I was also on a self-help reading spree before I realised that I’m feeling productive just by reading these books only which wasn’t the right thing.
      So, I stopped for a while, tried to take good things from the books.
      But yes, there needs to be a precaution while reading all these books.


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