Unlearning & Embracing: What Will You Take With You in the New Year?

Woman and her daughter hold sparklers on a winter night

Wouldn’t it be glorious if the end of 2020 marked a close to COVID, election stressors, racial and gender inequities and a huge economic downturn? While we carry too much of this (and any) baggage forward into a new year, we do also have the opportunity to drop off a few routines and ways of living we no longer need, and hold on tighter to the stuff that we now know really serves us. 

Some of us don’t feel the need to ever squirm into snug jeans again. Others have reassessed relationships, or how committed we are to the jobs we log on to every day. Konmari-ing the clutter from the kids’ rooms may have never felt so cathartic. And some of us may have used the time to finally unsubscribe from the hundreds of sales emails and newsletters we never read.

What will you let go?

What we release can be internal as well. The Mom Project community member Emily S. shared with us on Instagram that she’s letting go of trying to know everything.

“I’m unlearning to provide answers,” she wrote. “So much wisdom lies in questions.”

My own neighbor confided in me that she’s opting out of having a perfectly clean home. It’s not the time it takes or the stuff, she said. Instead, she feels power in saying farewell to the pressure to be a pristine housekeeper on top of all the other demands of motherhood and her career and tending to her aging parents.

One of our commenters sees this as a way to say no thanks to external pressures and embrace who she really is: “I am unlearning what society deems ‘success’ and ‘perfection’ and letting go of all the trappings. Enjoy the little things and be boldly you!” Niki C. shared.

What will you hold on to?

We may also be learning to accept the complexity that COVID-era living has revealed. Having kids at home for remote learning can be overwhelming, and also a welcome opportunity to fall into a heap on the couch together without the pull to go to soccer practice and piano lessons and playdates. We can miss our friends and Pilates class terribly, and also love the quiet space to meditate or learn to crochet. Sussing out what serves us well could be the roadmap forward. 

What will you commit to?

From pants that button to perfectionism, the real power of what we lose or carry, unlearn or master in 2021 comes from the intention and choice. As one of our community members Bozhena A. wisely wrote, ”We are not meant to get to the finish line unscarred, clean and bored.” 

Resources for a stronger, happier and healthier new year

Here are some of our favorite resources for continuing your own unlearning, unpacking and recalibrating of 2020-ing.

If you want to unlearn perfectionism, read Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection

If you want to make more money or manage your money messages, invite Jen Sincero to read You Are a Badass at Making Money to you while you choose not to scrub the baseboards.

If you are ready to clear the clutter of things, activities and obligations, listen in to the wisdom of Christine Koh and Asha Dornfest on the Edit Your Life podcast.

If you want to unlearn racism and address implicit bias, read Ijeoma Oluo’s So You Want to Talk About Race and How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. Listen to Code Switch podcast, and watch 13th on Netflix. 

If you’re re-examining your family dynamic, rewatch Schitt’s Creek, read Educated by Tara Westover, and tune in to The Michelle Obama podcast

If you want to embrace your body, watch Shrill on Hulu, devour Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gray, and follow Jennifer Pastiloff, author of On Being Human. 

If you are ready to quiet your busy mind, download the Shine app or listen to soothing sleep stories on Calm. Turn to affirmations by Buddhist monk Pema Chodron, and explore the power of simple prayer in Ann Lamott’s Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers

If you’re rethinking your relationship, find advice from the Dear Sugars podcast and support from real-couple counseling sessions in Esther Perel’s Where Should We Begin? podcast.

If it’s time to invite more laughter into your daily life, read R. Eric Thomas’s column in Elle, push play on the raunchy and hilarious stand-up by Michelle Buteau, or Mike Birbiglia’s less raunchy but still very funny show, The New One. Read everything byJenny Lawson, who creates community, hope, and big laughs by talking honestly about mental health challenges. 

With some reflection, honesty and possibly dirty kitchen countertops, we might just go into the new year stronger, happier and more ourselves.

Jessica Ashley is a writer, content strategist, and coach whose life’s work (paid, unpaid, and in endless school board meetings) is focused on empowering women through tough transitions with creativity, grace and maybe some cussing.

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