2021: Challenges, Goals, and What I’ve Learned


Byline poses for photo. Photo provided by Sydney Harrell

Sydney Harrell, Reporter

For many of us, 2020 was quite a taxing year.

Okay, maybe that’s a little bit of an understatement. But as we transition into 2021, there’s a chance to have a fresh start. We can take what happened last year and use it as a springboard, identify what we could’ve done better, and then learn. As I enter into this next year, my goal is to use what I’ve learned, start it off sprinting, and make this year the best it can be. 


What are my resolutions or goals for 2021?

A big goal I have for the next year is to challenge myself. Having been cooped up at home for most of the past year, I’ve had a lot of time within my comfort zone. While staying in that zone is nice and relatively stress free (it is called the comfort zone, after all), I want to use this year to put myself out there and broaden my horizons. 

For years, I’ve struggled with bad anxiety, and along with that comes trouble pushing past that anxiety to do unfamiliar or scary things. Yes, I could go skateboard up and down my street for some practice, but do I want to take the risk of falling and people seeing? Or say I want to go to see my friends; sometimes the fear of messing up something will keep me home instead. And of course, these are smaller examples, but overcoming those anxious thoughts are daunting, and sometimes, it seems impossible.

But I’ve found ways to try and help myself, or to grow in my ability to overcome my doubts.  A couple months ago, my therapist suggested a way to reframe my anxious thoughts, which was to look at what my anxiety is telling me I can’t do, then to challenge it.  Although, of course, this solution doesn’t work all the time, it helps me to look at the anxiety I have about doing something…then just doing it anyway. Almost like I’m the hero defeating a villain against all odds. But it did take a lot to get here. Things like anxiety aren’t just something that you can stop immediately. You have to find ways to cope, and in a way, this mindset allows me to healthily begin growing and coping with my anxiety. 

So this year, I hope to use that new mindset to try new things, and to find paths I’d never thought of trying. It might take some baby steps, like trying a new hobby, or learning a language, but maybe I can work up the courage to do things like speaking in front of a bunch of people, or deciding to go to college across the state. So coming into this year, I want to give my all to challenging myself to get out of my comfort zone and do things I wouldn’t have been able to do before.


What am I  looking forward to after quarantine ends?

I think most of us can agree that not being able to see our friends and loved ones during quarantine has really hit hard. Having those physical, face-to-face relationships is very important. Humans were built to be together, and so in a time where that isn’t available, we crave spending time with each other again. During this time, we’ve lost that bit of stress relief from being able to spend quality time with people that make you happy, and we’re getting a lot less positive interactions because of that.

For those reasons, I am very much looking forward to being able to hang out with people physically. I enjoy seeing my friends in person, having them alongside me as we talk, to be able to see their faces without it being through a screen. I also really want to be able to go on fun trips with my friends, so when it is safe to go to places like theme parks again, I am looking forward to having that type of fun, daytrip bonding experience again.

I also just miss the sort of little things about the world you don’t get to experience when you’re stuck inside. It might be the cat you would see on your walk to school everyday, the crashing of the waves on the beach, or sounds of a new city you’re exploring. The world has many little beauties, and I think we tend to take advantage of them most of the time. Now that I’ve been stuck inside, I don’t get to appreciate the little things about the world that usually would’ve gone unnoticed, and I miss them. So when quarantine ends, I look forward to being able to appreciate our intricately beautiful world.


How will I  manage your mental health going into this year?

One of the biggest things I’ve learned in managing my mental health this year is that taking care of myself is extremely important, and that it’s good to put weight onto making sure I am happy and healthy. At first, this might seem like a difficult task, but it’s important to recognize you deserve to be the best you can be. This starts by making sure you are well taken care of. 

It helped me to think about it like this: If I were actively trying to make myself feel worse tomorrow, what would I do? Well, I wouldn’t eat breakfast, I’d skip out on putting in my contacts, and probably stay up way later than I should staring at my phone. Sound familiar? It should, because these are the types of things we do anyway! Especially for high school students, we don’t do the things that are good for us and don’t take care of ourselves, which makes us feel worse. 

Then, once you can identify the things that you know will make you feel worse, avoid them. Work instead to do the things you know will help you feel better, both physically and emotionally. Yes, that will take more motivation and effort, which can be extremely hard to find in times like these, but remember that you can work to take baby steps. Some progress is way better than none. Trust me, you will feel so much better if you are actively making sure your body and mind are taken care of. If you can do that, it may help you deal with the problems you have externally as well.


How did I  overcome the challenges that 2020 brought?

Experiencing all the hardships of 2020 and having to look at all of the problems that the world faced was extremely daunting. It was easy for me to see everything that happened and say, “well, there’s nothing that can be done!” and to dwell in all the fear and overwhelming feelings. But having a positive mindset very much helped me to get through the year.

No, seriously! Although it’s not in the way you might think. 

I didn’t simply ignore all the catastrophes I was faced with, and I didn’t force myself to feel happy even when I felt everything was crumbling around me. That, as you might know, is called toxic positivity, and it is NOT healthy. Feeling stressed or down when something bad happens is completely natural. Don’t let yourself or others make you feel like you have to have those positive vibes all the time, because that sort of mindset is both toxic and taxing.

Instead, I learned to find things I enjoy and use them to find the motivation to push through all the bad. Something I started to do when I was particularly down was to find something I could look forward to. No matter how small that thing might be, it gave me the motivation to power through the bad to get to the good. For me, that might be looking forward to the next episode of Wandavision airing, hanging out with my sister for a movie night on Saturdays, getting to watch my favorite Twitch streamer play a fun game, or maybe just looking forward to the end of the school day. 

It brings just a little bit of excitement, and can start to even create a little hope in our lives when it seems like the world isn’t going to give us any. Again, we aren’t using the good things in our lives to ignore the bad–we’re creating the hope and motivation to get through it. Plus, it gives us the force to be able to do something about what we’re faced with. So seeing heavy political unrest, a global pandemic, climate change, and much more all in one year is, understandably, very scary. But by discovering  things that bring you a little motivation, you can funnel them  into finding a way to get through those tough times.