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  • Erika Dowell

The 2021 Review

Things I learned in 2021

  • Staying focused on positive things usually has tremendous results

It’s been easy lately to get into a negative mindset. Early in 2021 I really started working on finding the positives and working on a positive mindset. Part of this was regularly updating my notes with three positive things for the day/week/month. I eventually stopped doing it because life got busy - hello posting season - but it really helped in the early months.


  • Take time to get away

In February, the week before tax season started, M and I got away to some a tiny house about an hour north of Kelowna (where we used to live). It was a great three or four day break; reading, hot tub, gaming. Can’t get much better than that.


  • You can buy your own damn presents

This might seem weird, but M and I have learned this year that we don’t really need or want for anything anymore. There are some big ticket items that could be nice to have, but we don’t need anymore towels, plates, mugs, or stuff. Gift cards are nice to have so we can have our date nights out. Otherwise, if we break something or really truly need it, we just go buy it.


  • Do things until they aren’t fun anymore

I’m at a point in life that I don’t know why I do things that aren’t fun. Obviously, I’m not talking about doing chores or the things that actually have to be done. I’m talking about taking control of your life and not doing something just out of expectations. Focus on what makes you happy.


  • Setting expectations is important

M and I started doing this thing in 2021 where when one of us is talking about a problem or issue, the one listening tries to ask ‘Are we in problem solving mode or just ranting?’ This sets the stage for if we need to problem solve or just offer support. More often than not, we already know what we should do but we just need to rant.

*the use of we is more of a me


  • Stop letting others control parts of your life they have no right to control

Not much needs to be added here - 2021 was a year of boundary creation and enforcement. Due to the nature of M’s job, it can, at times, feel like I’m being controlled by the job’s restrictions. I’ve instead taken this and turned it into a challenge - what can I/we do within the boundaries and anything outside of that I can do on my own or with a bit more planning.


This also includes making changes to friends or family. Family does not get unfiltered access and I’m not required to have a relationship that I don’t want.


  • Don’t focus on the nit picky little detail of things

I admit. I’m a big picture person. It’s hard for me to see the little details sometimes. I mean, I have my spreadsheets and I can get to the exact penny of spending and revenue. For me, I can’t get to the nit picky details - it just simply doesn’t matter. Go with the flow, those details will figure themselves out.


  • Trust your gut and set boundaries

We made a big move this year. In any new situation, it’s going to be overwhelming. I knew it was going to be but I ignored my instincts and got burnt out. Lesson learned.


  • Burn out isn’t just going to go away

Which brings us to the time in my life that I felt like I was going through the motions. I barely remember birthdays, hang outs, painting my office. I was just in overdrive and getting things done fast. After crying almost every day for a month, I finally said it was time to take time off. My work was suffering (to put it mildly), I didn’t want to see anyone, and I sure as heck didn’t want anyone else asking anything else from me.


  • Make time to do what makes you happy and have down time

Which then took me to booking a weekend off - no one was allowed in our house and I refused to do anything with anyone other than M. It was a great weekend - made the best breakfast sandwich, played video games, napped, everything. I now aim to have that weekend every month. The second month that I did that, I felt kind of silly doing it - but I reminded myself that it’s required maintenance that keeps me strong!


  • Use iPhone’s focus setting

That iPhone update, tho! I mostly use ‘sleep’ and ‘drive’ focus but I created one specifically for ‘Holidays’ where my phone acts normal but blocks email notifications.


  • Therapy

Around the time that I had burn out, I also started therapy which really helped me with setting the boundaries that I’ve been alluding to. I read some books, I talked to a professional (and continue to do so), and reflected on why and how I am who I am. Also, I’m married to a social worker so that’s also helping me figure out my emotions.


  • Mental health

I read somewhere that Millenials talk about mental health more than any other generation before us. That said, mental health is serious and it isn’t a joke - 2021 I continued to learn and listen about mental health.


  • Communicate when it’s right

Something that came up in 2021 was my time in youth group - I was part of a baptist youth group that was…. Unique. Listen, I had lots of great friends in that group. Maybe. I found a journal from when I was a teenager last week. I wrote about questioning why I had to be this way, why [insert purity culture or other organized religion belief here] was seen as wrong. I don’t know that my friends at that age let me ask those questions. I know my parents did. Anyway, through this, I decided it was time to communicate with the majority of my family that I would no longer support or attend church/organized religion.


  • Tell yourself that you’re great

Mindset. I remember driving to Vernon one day and I stared out the window doubting myself. Then, almost as if I was talking with a friend, I just said (in my head, obviously), ‘We’re not doing that anymore’ and I essentially made a pact with me, myself, and I that I would not doubt myself and tell myself that I suck.


  • Stop working for people who don’t give a shit about you

I’m self employed. I work for myself. I also have many clients and have also moved on from a few. It’s not my job to be talked down to by anyone just like it’s not your job to put up with employers who do not give a shit about you and pay you the very least possible.


  • Pick your family

This sounds funny, I know. We recently moved ‘home’ - in the same city that M grew up in. Before now, we had lived a least a province away from our family so we picked our family - our friends who we hung out with like family. Thanksgiving and holidays. Birthdays and celebrations. I miss those friends.


  • Allow yourself to… allow yourself?

An exercise in therapy asked me the most important boundary that I needed to set. I started asking myself what I allowed others to do that I perhaps shouldn’t have. I then asked myself what I hadn’t allowed myself to do and wow… that list got a little long.


  • You can have whatever relationship you want to have

So allowing myself led me down the ‘well, maybe I don’t need to allow this relationship/friendship as it currently is in my life’ road. Have what you want and don’t want.


  • Get off twitter

I think I left twitter in September. I deleted all my tweets, all my likes, etc. I still have it so I can quickly check trending topics or why the hell there are fireworks downtown on a Tuesday night. I unfollowed or muted accounts that didn’t bring value to me and that was that.


  • It’s not always about the money

When we moved into our new house, we had to buy a new dishwasher. My dad taught me how to fix and install dishwashers, but I don’t have time or patience for it so I paid for someone to do it even though I could probably do it cheaper.

But it was installed better and I have the peace of mind knowing it’s not going to leak (or if it does, a professional did it and will fix it).

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