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2021 New Years Journaling Prompts and Reflections

Posted by Alina Liao on

What am I leaving behind in 2020?

What am I bringing into 2021?

I thought of this two-part journaling prompt for the new year. With the changing of years, there’s value in doing some healthy letting go, hence the first part. But while part of me wants to throw up the finger and leave everything from 2020 behind, I’d lose out on opportunities for healing and learning by doing that, hence the second part.

I’ll start with what I’m bringing into 2021. A few months ago, as I was making journals and listening to NPR, I heard a tired nurse in yet another COVID pandemic interview say, 

“We’re not in this together.” 

When I heard her say that, I felt a crack inside me, with what I imagine is only a small fraction of the pain this nurse feels day to day. Since hearing her, I’ve been reflecting on her experience.

In 2020, some of us lost work because of the pandemic. Some of us didn’t. Some of us got richer because of the pandemic. Some of us lost loved ones. Some of us didn’t. Some were able to joke, “Everyone’s working from home!” neglecting the millions who were nursing, doctoring, teaching, stocking, maintaining, transporting, driving, constructing, firefighting, harvesting, slaughtering, preparing, cooking, testing outside the comfort and safety of a home.

Some got to post “Black Lives Matters,” send a “Happy Juneteenth” email to staff, check off a box, and go back to business as usual. Some had to keep showing up to work with generations-old wounds ripped open again and again and pretend like nothing was wrong.

She was right. We’re not in this together. So I’m bringing this nurse’s words and pain with me into 2021.

“Healing begins where the wound was made” (Alice Walker). If we are to progress in our individual and collective healing in 2021, I find myself asking, have we actually looked at, understood, and felt the pain of others - especially others not like us? Have we understood that other people experience the world differently from us? Not just understood conceptually, but understood at a deep, emotional level that leaves us feeling rocked or helpless in how different others’ truths are? Have we done our own personal healing to get to a point where we can validate someone else’s pain without feeling like the validity of our own pain is threatened? 

In saying we want healing, have we accepted this necessary phase of healing: “Trauma is personal. It does not disappear if it is not validated. When it is ignored or invalidated the silent screams continue internally heard only by the one held captive. When someone enters the pain and hears the screams healing can begin” (Danielle Bernock).

That brings me to what I’m leaving behind in 2020.

I’m leaving behind fixing. I’m leaving behind bootstraps. I’m leaving behind building back. 

We got the NFL back before we could get kids back in classrooms. We got vaccines before we got enough people to wear masks. We got removal of the word “master bedroom” before we got removal of white cops who killed innocent Black men, women, and children.

I’m leaving behind the urge to fix problems before acknowledging, understanding, and feeling the wound, the hurt, and the hard truths. 

A lot of my energy in 2020 was spent on my own healing from trauma, depression, and anxiety unrelated to, but exacerbated by, the pandemic and racial trauma in 2020. In the middle of the year, I realized I had been coping, not healing. As I transitioned to healing, I learned that there were no fixes. There was no pulling myself up out of a funk. There was no 10-step plan. There was not even a path. Healing has been walking in all directions across a desert expanse, rolling over every rock. Touching every cactus needle. Running my fingers through every grain of sand.

Thanks to the people who have been there for me, the work I put in, and a lot more patience than I’m used to, I am further along in my personal healing journey. The weight of my pain has lessened, but I don’t want to forget the pain. The pain helps me understand others better.

I don’t know what “the other side” looks like. I don’t have a PowerPoint slide or matrix for what we need to make things better in 2021. We all need something different. We are all hurting differently. If healing is what we want, what does it look like to make time and space for every single one of us to be heard in our pain? 

My focus for Zenit in 2021 is healing. My goal for myself is to practice healing-centered leadership. 2020 was a traumatic year for so many of us. I aim to grow Zenit to provide more experiences that can meet each person where they are and support them in their healing, from our customized journals and planners, to our wellness journaling workshops, to more that is to come. As I look towards my goal of building a team this year, I want to be deliberate from the start about replacing common corporate practices that perpetuate inequality and burnout with practices that will make Zenit a safe workplace, where everyone feels free to show up as their whole, authentic selves. I want to build coalitions in the local ecosystem in ways that generate positive ripple effects for communities here.

I don’t expect that by the end of 2021, we’re all healed and things are fixed. My desire for us in 2021 is for more of us to embrace our healing as worthy of our time, to develop habits of self-care that support our healing, and to have hope in our way forward.

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