Sara Watkins

After a tumultuous 2020, I figured a column focused on the new year was in order.

It’s finally 2021! We made it! I didn’t quite jump headfirst into the new year like I thought I would (blame the post-holiday haze), but I also thought giving myself a couple weeks to settle into January would be a good idea; kind of let the dust settle to see what 2021 has in store for us.

It seems I may have waited too long. In light of current events in our ever-fragile country, it appears we got a solid week or so in of a quiet year before a new level of madness began.

In any case, it’s still a new year, I still made it (however narrowly) out of 2020 and I’m still hopeful for a better 2021. I’m not big on resolutions, but I do find the beginning of a new calendar year to be somewhat head-clearing; a fresh start for the next 12 months.

I’ve already procured and filled out my new planner, which is a task that, for whatever reason, brings me great joy. Our Christmas decorations have been taken down and stored away. My kids are, for the most part, back into their school and activity routines. However different it was in 2020, the end-of-year chaos is behind us and the blank canvas of 2021 lies ahead.

While I don’t focus on making true resolutions that are bound to be broken before the end of the month, I do try to ask myself some deep questions: What do I want out of the next 12 months? What are things I would like to change from last year? What would I like to accomplish in 2021, not just for myself, but for my family, as well? What big events or travel plans do we have in the upcoming year and what would we like to add? How can I be a better version of myself in 2021?

You know, just a couple run-of-the-mill soul-searchers like that. I can’t always come up with the answers to every question, but simply having the presence of mind to ask them is helpful for me. And even when I form concrete answers… Well, if we’ve learned anything from 2020 it’s that plans and goals, including the big ones that have been carefully laid out for an entire year, can change in an instant.

To that end, my hopes, dreams and goals for this year are a bit different than usual. Less of the tangible, we’re-going-to-Disney-World variety from last year (not falling for that again until coronavirus is securely in the rearview), and more of the abstract, introspective kind.

I want to spend more quality time with my family, sitting around the dining room table playing card games, talking and, more importantly, listening. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: These young children years are fleeting, one seems to melt right into the next at warp speed. Treasuring the time I do have at home with my son and daughter takes top priority. Always.

I want to carve time out of my day to read more books; no small task during this busy season of life, but an absolute must to be the best writer I can be. I love to read, so it’s an easy pleasure to let slide when the pandemonium of everyday life ensues; before I know it, I’ve taken half a year to read one book.

I want to focus on kindness and patience this year; for my family and with my family, for others and even for myself. That one falls under the personal development category, but I really do want to take it seriously throughout the year and beyond. If I’m not becoming a better person year over year, I’m doing something wrong.

I want to be more involved in my community. I have never felt more connected to any community I’ve lived in than I did in Guntersville in 2020, but I know that was just the tip of the iceberg. Feeling connected (in many different ways) is extremely important to me and something I hope continues to grow in my life, particularly in my community.

The areas I could always use the most significant growth in, specifically this year, are faith and hope. I know that sounds cliché and unoriginal; two things I can’t stand. But hear me out.

In my opinion, having faith in what is meant to be and hope in a more promising future is what will get us through these trying times. Because, as I’m sure we all suspected, flipping the calendar to January 1, 2021 didn’t magically erase all of the pain, unrest and turmoil from 2020. It’s still there and we still collectively desire to make it through to the other side. Will that be in 2021? No one knows yet. But relying on faith and hope as we carry on makes things so much easier, don’t you think?

Whatever your hopes and dreams are, the goals and aspirations you choose to focus on, I pray that 2021 finds each and every one of you happy, healthy, safe and fulfilled. Cheers to the new year!

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