December 30, 2021

I don't know about you, but I'm 2021'd out.

It's been a crappy year for many people, so I'm not going to dive into that. We all know it. 

And it's been a crappy year for me. I'd say the worst year of my life. I pretty much spent eight to nine months of it losing my mom. She died in August, and it's been incredibly surreal, especially after spending years taking care of her.  

But I don't necessarily want to get into that either.  

My initial plan was to write something to reflect on all of this, but I have a different idea. Even though this year was absolutely horrid, I'm going to try to come up with 10 positive things that happened to me. I might have to stretch a bit, but luckily, I have a great imagination.  

1. I became a UGA student. Again.  

As the story goes, I dropped out of UGA several years ago to study acting, and I dabbled in college at Georgia State for a while, but I spent much of my time there watching Ludacris and Jermaine Dupri filming music videos among other things. I think I've been trying to go back to UGA since I left, but the timing never worked for whatever reason. 

I've also got this newfound interest in farming and agriculture. As I stated, this has been a terrible year, and I woke up one morning back in March, and I was depressed. I was trying to think of what I could do to pull myself out of it, and "Driver 8" by R.E.M. came on my phone. I started thinking about Athens and UGA, and later that day, I sent in my application. 

Long story short, they accepted me back despite my 1.66 GPA, oops, and I have enjoyed every single minute of it, even if I'm almost old enough to be some of my classmates' mother.  My major right now is biological sciences, but I'm thinking of switching to agriscience or animal science. It's almost like I'm having the experience now that I should have had when I was 18, except I'm paying for it myself, I have to keep up with a full-time career and a household, and I probably shouldn't hang out at the Tate Center looking for cute guys.    

2. Darius Rucker serenaded me. On Twitter. With text. But still.     

Speaking of R.E.M... This is a silly one, but it's a fun one. If you know me at all, you know I've been a huge Hootie & the Blowfish fan since I was a girl coming of age in the 1990s, but I have had terrible luck with it. Essentially, every single time in my life I've managed to get tickets to see the band live, something has happened where I couldn't go. I've had friends around the country trying to make it happen for me, but it just never does. It's become a running joke with some of my circle. I even bought virtual tickets to watch them online one time, and my mom happened to be in the hospital, and she called me about 20 minutes into the show, and I missed most of the rest of it.    

So, I've never seen them live, but I could listen to Darius Rucker sing all day long every day and be just fine, and I love to hear him cover R.E.M. The Hootie & the Blowfish version of "Driver 8" is something I listen to almost daily.  My favorite R.E.M. song just happens to be "You Are the Everything," which isn't one of their most popular songs, but one day this fall I got it into my head that a Darius Rucker version of it would be the best thing to ever happen to the world. 

I tweeted him about it once or twice because why not? I didn't expect a response. Dude has millions of fans and followers and probably doesn't even read that stuff, right? Well, imagine my surprise when he responded with some lyrics from the song. I know it's dumb, but it made my day. My week. Maybe even my month. 

But I'd still kill to hear him sing it for real. Just saying.  

3. I became the proud owner of six ducks. 

I was planning to get more chickens this year, but I started trying to think of ways to cheer my mom up. Something that would give her a sense of purpose as her mental and physical health declined. She's always wanted ducks, so in late March, I went to a local feed store and got six ducklings. Unfortunately, she never got to spend much time with them because they spent a lot of time in places she wasn't physically able to get to. And the last time she went into the hospital, we spent most of that time busting our asses to finish their pen so that when she did get home she could finally hang out with them anytime she wanted, but sadly, she never came home.  

All of that said, I love those stupid ducks. I do have too many drakes, and I have a feeling that's gonna be a problem come springtime — they already squabble over the girls a bit. I'm actually thinking about ordering some more ladies, but they're just so much fun. I can sit down on the ground, and they come running up like little puppies, and they eat out of my hands. I never thought I'd be so gaga over birds. 

P.S. The great Southern writer Flannery O'Connor had ducks. I learned that in a documentary the other day. Just sayin'. 

Flannery O'Conner had ducks too

4. Work has been going extremely well for me.  

I won't say much here because it's pretty boring, but my writing career has been going well. I had a little rough patch this summer, but otherwise, things are going in a good direction. And I'm hoping to start expanding into even more writing endeavors next year. Even if I could just spend some time writing what I want to write — more fiction, farm/garden/ag stuff, etc. — I'd be happy. 

5. I spent a week in Turks & Caicos.  

Back in 2019, after I spent the first half of the year taking care of my mom who'd been in an accident that left her with several injuries, and the second half of the year taking care of my dad who nearly died from sepsis and had to have open-heart surgery, I told a friend of mine I needed a nice tropical vacation. We planned a trip to Turks & Caicos for 2020. Shortly before we were about to leave, we had to stay home and flatten the curve or whatever, and leaving the country was out of the question. 

We rescheduled. Reschedule again. Rescheduled again. I had to line up about 8,000 people to take care of my mom while I was gone, and she was not at all happy with me leaving.

Anyway, we finally made it in June of this year, and it was nice to feel like a part of the world again after a year and some months of laying low. I hadn't even been outside of Georgia since August 2019.  And while it wasn't the trip we originally planned or hoped for, it was nice to go somewhere new. It was nice to spend a week drinking margaritas and swimming in the Caribbean waters. It was nice just to have a minute to myself. The trip home was a whole different story, but you can go read about that in my post about Fort Lauderdale.  

6. Football.  That's all.  

I love football. I love sports in general, but I love football the most. If it weren't for football, I'm not even sure I would have survived the last few years. It's beautiful. It's a great escape. This football season has been extra special. My dad and I have sat in his living room and watched many games together, both of us worn out and thankful for it after everything we went through with my mom. 

But it's not just that. My Bulldogs have had an amazing season. Yeah, that Alabama game hurt like hell, but I'm pumped up for Michigan later this week and, hopefully, the championship game in January. And as most people on the planet know, I'm a huge Peyton Manning fan and have been for about as long as I've loved Hootie & the Blowfish, and having him on Monday nights has been incredible. My fantasy team leaves me with a lot to be desired, but I've been enjoying this season so much that I don't even care.  

 7. I discovered The Last Kingdom

This is another silly one, but I told you I had to stretch. Sometime around the end of last year or the start of this one, my mom was in the hospital, and I was in bed, exhausted, playing around on Netflix, and on a whim, I started watching a random show called The Last Kingdom. I'd never heard of it before, and it wasn't something I'd normally pick, but I'm so glad I did. It is, without a doubt, one of the best shows I've ever seen. With the exception of one character, the casting is wonderful. The scenery is gorgeous. The storyline and the way it intertwines with history is intriguing. 

I don't have a ton of time to binge-watch shows, but I may or may not have watched it four times all the way through this year. I managed to get a friend of mine hooked on it too, and before you know it, we're listening to podcasts on it and buying the books on which it's based and having these lengthy discussions about the plot and the characters like we're in some kind of comparative literature class.  I was a little familiar with Alexander Dreymon, the star of the show, from a season of American Horror Story, but the rest of the cast is new to me. I was going to list my favorites, but it's hard to choose because they're all so good. I will say Arnas Fedaravicius (who plays Sihtric) really stands out. I've heard a few interviews with him, and he seems like a fascinating guy. I can't wait to see what kind of roles he gets in the future. Heck, he's even inspired my own writing lately.  

8. I'm setting up a cool office.   

I'm really stretching here, but as I've mentioned, my mom had some hoarding tendencies. It wasn't like she kept dead cats and empty food wrappers or anything like that, but she's accumulated a ton of stuff over the years — two houses full! The week after she died, I started sorting through it, though I've had to put that on hold for a few months due to a work situation. I'm starting back on it next weekend.  Anyway, in one house, there's a formal living room that I'm pretty sure no one has used since my grandmother had her church friends over circa the early to mid-1990s. It's a fairly big room, and it's got bookshelves and my grandparents' piano, and I was working in there and thinking that it's a shame that it goes to waste. 

That's when I decided it will become my office for now. I don't know what my plans are for where I'll live in the future, but I do know that I'd like to have a nice comfortable place to work for now. And after living out of boxes for years, it'll be nice to have a space that feels like my own again. I've got some cool plans for it that I'll start on in January, and I'm really excited about it, and I'm excited that I'll finally have time in the new year to start going through all my mom's stuff again. It's like a bittersweet treasure hunt in a way. We had actually planned to do it this fall anyway, but we were going to do it together.   

Cool Outkast artwork for the office.

9. Some good things happened to some of my best friends.  

Because this list is totally self-indulgent, I decided to mention something that isn't about me at all. Well, I am genuinely happy about these things, but you get the point. I've had some friends have some really great things happen to them this year. Some have made career changes that really suited them. Some have beat cancer. Some have had babies. Some have gotten engaged or married. Some have spent time with loved ones they haven't seen since the pandemic started. Some have moved. Some have gotten books published. It really is great to witness the people in your life having some wonderful experiences.   

10. Last but not least, I learned a lot of lessons.  

If there was ever year for learning lessons, this was it. For me anyway. Many of them were hard. Many of them hurt. I learned an awful lot about people, both good and bad. I learned a lot about myself. I learned that life without your mother can be both terrifying and liberating. I learned that no one will ever have my back like she did. I learned that even so, I'll probably be okay. 

We weren't allowed to see my mom much when she was in the hospital because of the whole pandemic situation, but one day, they brought us in to discuss some unpleasant things, and I remember my father telling the lady who was running the show, "I guess I'm just a pessimist."  The lady who probably wasn't my biggest fan looked at him and said, "It's a good thing your daughter is an optimist."  

And I guess I am. Sure, I'm sarcastic and cynical and often joke that I'm dead inside, but I am forever optimistic. And even though 2021 was this shittiest of years in a series of rough years, I still look to 2022 with unwavering hope.