If someone had told me a year ago the changes I would face in 2021, I’m not sure I would have believed them. This time last year, I was hopeful for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic, thankful for my family and friends, grateful for a job I loved and was able to keep while working from home to help stop the spread of the virus, missing my best Buddy, and preparing to publish my 4th novel. In some ways, beginning the final month or so of 2021 feels like a repeat of 2020. I’ve jokingly referred to 2021 as 2020: Part II several times throughout the year because, in many ways, I feel like we’re in the same place with the pandemic. So many other things have changed, and there are still so many things for which I am thankful.
Changes of 2021
Our family fell in love with Roscoe.
We adopted Roscoe at the end of 2020, but I’d say he really settled himself into the family in early 2021. He’s not a replacement for our lost Buddy, just a multiplication of the love we all had to give to another pet. While things were a bit touchy with Peanut at first, Roscoe had won him over within two weeks. The brothers still have squabbles on occasion, but it’s clear that the boys love each other.
I published my 4th novel.
One Shot hit the web on January 23, 2021, on what would have been my late father‘s 68th birthday. The novel was a labor of love like all of my other novels, and was my pandemic baby. I’m really proud of the hard work I put in on that novel.
Drew caught COVID-19.
In February, right before a little snowstorm in Arkansas, my then 12-year-old son was diagnosed with COVID. Luckily, his case was mild and he recovered well. No one else got and we took all the precautions we could by wearing masks and banishing him to his room during our quarantine. Looking back, we think Meredith’s respiratory virus right before then might have been COVID as well that didn’t present with the typical symptoms. Jonathan and I had received our first doses of vaccine in January, so we feel like that protected us.
We bought a Tesla car.
I know…buying a new car might not be considered a big change by some people, but I really thought it would be a bit longer before we took the plunge again. My 2005 Chevy Cavalier that I’d bought in late 2004 was starting to have problems, so we decided to trade it in toward a used Tesla car. That little green car was my first big purchase on my own after starting working full time at ATU, so maybe it was some odd foreshadowing that it started to fail as my time at ATU was about to come to an end. Our loan paperwork was finalized one day before layoffs were promised at the university. The whole situation made me feel ill. I told Jonathan after the announcement that I had a bad feeling about the situation.
I was fired.
Laid off, let go, downsized, eliminated due to restructuring, screwed over…however you want to describe it. For the first time in my life, I was fired from a job—a job I loved. Leaving ATU after almost 17 years of employment broke my heart. While expressing my hurt over the situation, I caused a misunderstanding with some former coworkers and friends. I hate that I hurt them with what they assumed I thought, but sometimes in life we have to apologize and move on.
Unemployment was scary, but it was better than the alternative of taking a consolation job that would have been bad for my mental health. I applied for 38 jobs from the time I found out about my impending job loss to the time I was offered a new job over a period of two months. I interviewed for three jobs out of those 38 applications and never heard back from about a third of those potential employers. The fastest rejection I got was within 5 minutes and the longest elapsed time was about 8 weeks between the application and the rejection email. Waiting sucks and never hearing back sucks even harder.
New job offers
Coincidentally, Jonathan found a new job before I did. He interviewed for two jobs, and was thrilled to get an offer in July for the Director of Technology at Subiaco Academy, a private boys’ high school. He loves his new job, and the 30-minute drive is no problem with the Tesla. I accepted an offer at ArcBest as a senior copywriter. I love my new job. I get to work from home and report to Ft. Smith for quarterly meetings. My coworkers are all awesome people and have been so welcoming to me.
COVID-19 hits close to home
In September, my first cousin died from COVID-19 complications. Tara was only 45 years old and left behind a husband and 6-year-old son. I wore a mask and kept my distance at her outdoor funeral while remembering all the fun we had as children visiting our grandparents. Tara was a beautiful soul who will be sorely missed by all who loved her. Later, Jonathan’s oldest brother Dino was hospitalized with COVID pneumonia and almost died. He’s still in the hospital for rehabilitation now. It’s a miracle that he’s alive and we’re thankful for that. Jonathan, Drew, and I are fully vaccinated, and Meredith will get her second dose of COVID vaccine next week. I’m really thankful for the scientists, researchers, doctors and nurses who made it possible.
We went solar
In our quest to be more environmentally friendly, Jonathan and I had solar panels installed on our house in October. It was a lengthy process, and we’re grateful we were able to make this work for our family. Alternative power sources will become more and more important in the future, so we wanted to get started now.
The past two years have been the equivalent of being trapped on a roller coaster. I don’t know yet what 2022 has to offer, but I know that I have so much to be thankful for:
- God’s blessings, grace, and comfort during hard times
- Friends and family
- My health and that of my family
- Jonathan and I love our new jobs and amazing coworkers
- Jonathan and I can provide for our family
- Our sweet dogs
- Our home
- Our security
- Medical advances
- Artists who share their projects and passions with the world (Two of my favorite musicians this year are Hailee Steinfeld and Joy Oladokun). I’ve read a lot of great books this year, so check out my Goodreads reviews for recommendations.
This isn’t a comprehensive list because I would be here writing all night. I hope to do a lot more writing in 2022. Depression zapped my passion for a bit this past year, so I had to engage in some self care and give myself a lot of grace to get through it all. I want 2022 to be a year of health and growth for me.
What are you most thankful for? What are your hopes for 2022?
Let me know in the comments.
-Brandi Easterling Collins