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I know you don’t need me to tell you how awful 2020 was. You lived it. It felt like a blackhole that sucked in hopes and dreams and happiness. It felt absolutely surreal. At the beginning of the year I could laugh at all the jokes about how the writers of 2020 were making the plot too unbelievable, but by the end of the year it really did feel like there was some outside force trying to figure out the worst ways to screw us over. I knew that New Year’s Eve wouldn’t be some huge turning point; it’s not like the year would end and everything would just go away. But New Year’s Eve is my favorite holiday, and I’ll admit, I felt lighter when the clock hit midnight. No, nothing had changed, but 2020 was finally over. We only had three more weeks of Trump in office, the vaccine was being distributed, and on a more personal level, I was preparing to start my second-to-last quarter of college and quitting a job that made me nothing but miserable. I know I’m not alone in hoping 2021 is better, than last year, and while the task seems monumental, here are some of the things I’m prioritizing this year to make my year better.

Reading

I love reading, but I only read 11 books last year. I have a notebook where I’ll rate all the books I read throughout the year out of five stars and write a paragraph saying what I think about it. Eleven is an embarrassingly low number for me. For Christmas, I asked all my friends and family for books and decided that in 2021, I will read at least 40 books. I know it doesn’t compare to the 200 book reading challenges people regularly accomplish on Goodreads, but it feels like a doable number and will encourage me to take the time to do something that makes me happy. When I sit down to read, I want to make sure I’m reading for me—so books for school don’t count (with that being the case, I only read six books last year… embarrassing). I just started They Could Have Named Her Anything by Stephanie Jimenez. Other titles I got for Christmas include A Promised Land by Barack Obama, My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsberg, The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel, Mexican Gothic by Silvia Morena-Garcia, In The Dream House by Carmen Machado, and P.S. From Paris by Marc Levy. I’m going to make a reading journal similar to the ones @alltheradreads on TikTok makes. That way I get the bonus serotonin points of making a pretty journal for something I love.

Confidence in Myself

Towards the end of last year I realized I was over-explaining pretty much everything I said. I recognize that this stems from my classmates. I’ve had classes with certain people in the past where everything I said, they would find a way to disagree with. Now I’ll over explain what I’m trying to say so that they can’t find a way to disagree with me. Doing this makes me feel really insecure about what it is I’m saying, because while I know I’m doing it to protect myself from one or two people, to my classmates it sounds like I can’t pick a stance. Learning not to care what other people think is exhausting and incredibly difficult, but I know once I’ve acquired the skill, I’ll thank my current self for all the hard work I’m putting in.

Practicing Gratitude

I used to be a really positive person, but somewhere along my college journey I became very negative. I can’t even blame 2020 for that one (though it definitely made it worse). I’ve heard of practicing gratitude from friends and therapists, but I’ve always felt really silly doing it. I forgot it was a technique I could use until I watched Big Mouth last month. The grati-toad was a funny character who honestly seemed high most of the time, but watching the new season I figured, why not give it a try? Seriously, what’s the worst that could happen? The answer so far: there are literally no downsides to it. I’ve felt happier and lighter every day since I started seriously making an effort to practice gratitude. A lot of it has been in small ways, like telling my friends and family that I love them more often. I’m not always the most comfortable being affectionate, but especially with all the crazy shit and negativity going on in the world right now, telling the people I love that I love them often and regularly makes me feel really good, and reminds them how much they mean to me. I have a gratitude journal that I keep telling myself I’ll use, but I’ve really only written in it a couple times. It’s more important that I’m actively seeking out what I’m grateful for, feeling that gratitude, and expressing it. Maybe at some point I’ll make a point to journal it, but for now, that’s not my main focus, and that’s okay with me.

Being Hot is a Mentality

This final one is perhaps my favorite, and honestly a huge game changer. Towards the end of last year, I saw a lot of people (mostly girls) posting videos on TikTok saying that being hot is a mentality. My favorite self-described bimbo, Chrissy Chlapecka, makes posts about this all the time, so I tried it, and honestly? It changed my life. There’s no time to have low self-esteem or dislike parts of yourself when you think you’re hot. So now, whenever I feel bad about how I look, I look in the mirror and tell myself, “You’re hot!” And you know what? I’m right! (And you know what else? Since I started doing this, I don’t feel bad about how I look.) This morning I saw this video on TikTok (yeah, I spend too much time on TikTok because I rarely leave the house, okay?) where Casey says, “I have a lot of false confidence for a 4… Have I ever acted like a 4 though? Honestly, no… You know what happens when I act like a 10? Fun shit, dude!” The people who created beauty standards did it to make money. I’ve learned that every time I’ve felt bad about my body, I’m contributing to that system and allowing it to continue and potentially harm future generations. On top of that, it’s exhausting to feel bad about the one place I’ll always have a home in. I’ve worked hard to love my body, and I do, unconditionally. But loving my body and constantly telling myself that I’m hot? So simple. So effective. Because seriously, what’s the worst that will happen? Someone will tell me that I’m not? Pfft, I know lies when I hear them.

2021 is the year I prioritize myself. I’m going to be selfish with my time and energy, and I’m only going to give it away to people and things that deserve it. I spent a full year being stressed out, making myself physically ill because of how much stress and anxiety I held about things I couldn’t control. (Did you know imitation IBS is a thing? I didn’t until I got so stressed my GI tract literally stopped working for about a week); it never brought me anything good. So this year I’m taking care of me, dammit, and I want you to do the same.

Alexandra McGrew

Seattle U '21

Reading. Musical theater. Writing, writing, writing.
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