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On the Bright Side: 21 Things That Happened This Year That Made My 2021 One for the Books

On the Bright Side: 21 Things That Happened This Year That Made My 2021 One for the Books

  • As an overthinking, type-A, overachieving individual, it can be easy to forget or lose track of the enormous progress and gains I have made this year.

I have annual end-of-year traditions that typically revolve around reflections, mainly because I know without it, I stagnate. I avoid it at all possible costs. Succeeding, learning, heck even failing is always more welcome than things staying the same for me. I’ve been this way since childhood. As an adult, I’m more headstrong and set in my ways.

2021. The year that most definitely can be a sentence on its own, given the ups and downs we witnessed the previous 12 months. I remember coming into the year being ever hopeful about what was to come. The campaign I worked so closely with had won the election, and science was on the rise again. Vaccines were more widespread, and life seemed like it would be way better than in 2020. Seemed to be the operative word in that last sentence. Things didn’t stay stagnate but to say they were ‘better’ … well I’ll let you determine that for yourself.

I will say as an overthinking, type-A, overachieving individual, it can be easy to forget or lose track of the enormous progress and gains I have made in 2021. And so, I want to highlight 21 things that happened this year that made my 2021 one for the books. Full disclosure – I try my best to always “see the bright side,” recognizing that sometimes there is not one. And so, these are just the dates that I know will stick out for me – even in years to come.

  1. January 6th. While there was a significant, shocking, and quite frankly terrorizing event that took place on this date, so as not to start on a horrible note, I am going to highlight flipping the Senate. The special election in Georgia and electing Senators Jon Ossoff (insert heart eyes and fire emoji here) and Raphael Warnock into office was what I choose to highlight on January 6th.
  2. January 20th. The first female Vice President was inaugurated. The first Black and Asian Vice President. Joe Biden was our President. The ceremony was so emotional and one that I will truly treasure forever. “The Hill We Climb” and Amanda Gorman reminding me that “there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”
  3. March 8th. I served as a panelist for an International Women’s Day discussion hosted by lululemon with extremely powerful and impactful women. I #choosetochallenge myself celebrating my strength, grace, and accomplishments alongside women who dare to lead. I reveled and spoke of the rebirth that resulted in me going against the grain and participating in a reality-television docuseries dating show – something completely out of my comfort zone. I reminded myself of the importance of taking that first step. That first step is to decide to do something. Anything. Do it with passion and fortitude. Along with a few hype girls (+guys). You never know where that step will lead you, but I promise it will bring success.
  4. March 19th. I was nervous but so excited to get my first COVID vaccine. I’m the youngest in my family and was the last to be vaccinated. As dramatic as it may sound, I felt like the world was just a little bit lighter that day. Minus the icky side effects, March 19th was a good date in 2021.
  5. April 8th. My most favorite day of the year. I have always wondered after all these years why my birthday is so special to me. As a kid well, it was obvious – I was excited about the piñata, presents, cake, and all the smiles and joy the day brings. But as I have aged, it still holds that same excitement, if not more. After deep reflection and binge-watching, a lot of This Is Us episodes, I have realized – it is because of all it symbolizes, especially the bond that it allows me to remember with my favorite human, my favorite woman, my mother. This year was extra special as I got to spend it at the beach with my parents and our puppy… a tradition I hope to continue for years to come.
  6. April 9th. A day after I completed a year around the sun, it only made sense to get my second dose of the COVID vaccine. I spent the afternoon walking around Duke’s campus, thankful for science. And of course, Dr. Fauci.
  7. April 10th. I self-nominated (and won) a position with the State Executive committee where I would work alongside other individuals to govern decisions made at the state level for the North Carolina Democratic Party. Given my recent (and growing) interest in politics, this date will always be special as it was the date of my first (but not my last 😊) winning election.
  8. April 20th. 2020 brought a lot of things to light, including the unfair, unjust, and brutal murder of George Floyd. While the trial on this date concluded with a guilty verdict, I’m well aware that the centuries of systemic racism this country has faced is far from over and this one trial doesn’t undo any of that.
  9. May 10th. Towards the end of April, my worst fear when the pandemic started in 2020 started to come true. India had no concept of social distancing. It was logistically impossible. The healthcare infrastructure couldn’t handle the rampage that the Delta variant caused in India. The virus ravaged through the country, sparing none. Entire families were wiped out. Children were orphaned. All of this while many begged for something we often take for granted – oxygen and hospital beds. On Mother’s Day, an extremely kind-hearted local activist friend and I organized a COVID fundraiser to raise awareness (and funds) in the community at large for India. While it was a somber event, I felt a great sense of joy knowing what my community had come together to do.
  10. June 7th and 8th. People always talk about how amazing and life-changing solo trips are. I didn’t expect much when I drove to the treehouse (with an OUTDOOR, but private, shower) a couple of hours away from home. Admittedly, this was my first one in nearly a decade. I came back most certainly a changed individual. Though it was just a 24-hour trip, I made some phenomenal discoveries about myself, including how much I enjoy my own company, how I truly love myself, and mostly how resilient I am.
  11. June 24th. This was one of the most memorable dates of 2021 for me. I got a call two days prior from a random 202 number I did not have saved in my contacts. I answered almost foreshadowing what was to come, thinking to myself who is calling me from The White House? A few moments later, I was screaming as I just got told my name was on the “VIP list” for President Joe Biden’s Raleigh, North Carolina visit. Needless to say, I took several selfies with the nicest, kindest President in the world. I met amazing new friends and spent most of the days that followed re-living the conversation between Joseph Robinette Biden and me.
  12. June 29th. My first flight since the pandemic. The last time I was in an airport was March 13th, 2020. I was flying home from NYC after a scary week and a lot of uncertainty about what was to come.
  13. July 4th. After a successful solo day trip to the treehouse, I was ready to take on a bigger challenge. A week in a new borough in New York City. I spent the entire week exploring Brooklyn, Fort Greene, specifically. I got lost a LOT, ate a ton of soft-serve ice cream, and traversed the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges several times for the mere love of bridges that I will always have.
  14. August 30th. A devastating day for me. One that caused me to go down a rabbit hole to truly understand the past 20 years of this “war on terror” in Afghanistan. I distinctly remember walking with a friend in downtown Durham, discussing how unfair all of this was and how they educated me on understanding the intricacies of what this war involved, and how truly corrupt it was. I learned a lot on this date. And hold it close to my heart, given how passionate I am about human rights.
  15. September 1st. Though I’m not a citizen of Texas, have no plans to live in Texas, and have only been to Austin once in my life, I was completely gutted on this date. As a woman, I felt let down and wondered how long before this affects other states and the Supreme Court.
  16. September 9th. On a lighter note, one of my pandemic purchases a Peloton bike was finally being put to good use. I hit 100 rides on this date, an achievement that was long overdue, but celebrated!
  17. September 24th. Buying a home is probably one of the biggest purchases we make in our lives. I’m fortunate enough to have done this with one of my dream builders, in a community I had envisioned myself living in for a very long time. Almost like I manifested signing the deed to this home.
  18. October 13th. Between working full-time and some other chaotic life things (more about that “later” this year), I managed to take a 6-week training course to become a Guardian ad Litem for the state. October 13th was my swearing-in ceremony.
  19. November 4th. Diwali is always a special time for my family and me. We celebrate the festival of lights, decorate our homes and souls, and remind ourselves that good always prevails over evil. This Diwali was extra special as my father returned home (though short-lived) after being hospitalized for nearly six weeks.
  20. November 11th. A few days after Diwali, my father was re-admitted to the hospital for the fourth time this year. We knew the conversations with his physicians were going to be difficult ones. On November 11th, his doctors and team shared that his lung disease had further advanced and that they were recommending hospice, indicating he has 6 months or less to live.
  21. Every date since November 11th. Death is without a doubt the most difficult part of life. As ironic as it sounds, I hate death almost as much as I love life. Not to be a total sadist, but before my father got sick, I compared unexpected death to “expected” death, stating unexpected death was the worst way to go. I rarely admit this, but I was wrong. Witnessing my daddy decline every single day is not easier. There is no eloquent way to say this: death sucks. The sledgehammer reminders, tragic loss, and facing grief every single day… are quite literally the worst. Most days, I’m on autopilot, getting through the day as best as I can. It’s strange though… knowing what’s coming, we’re more intentional with how much we love one another. We never miss an opportunity for a big hug and kiss. And though it’s sad, there’s also a comfort in knowing each day will be filled with endless love.

I honestly do not know what to expect in 2022. I recently saw a meme on the metaverse that suggested 2022 is pronounced 2020-too. Not going to lie – I had a mini anxiety attack when I saw that meme. Though 2021 was a difficult year, a repeat of 2020 seems even tougher. I do know what I’m hopeful for in 2022: good health for myself and my loved ones, to become more of a warrior and less of a worrier, and of course, more soft serve ice cream.

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Wishing you and yours a healthy and love-filled 2022. Xoxo.

Manisha Dass lives in North Carolina with her family. In addition to working for a public health global nonprofit, she volunteers for multiple social justice causes and serves on the board for the North Carolina chapter of the National Association of Asian American Professionals. If you think Manisha looks familiar, you are probably right! She was on the coveted Netflix docuseries, “Indian Matchmaking.” Other than volunteering (and making Netflix debuts), Manisha loves spending time with her family and friends, walking on pretty bridges and trails (i.e. taking ’gram-worthy pictures of sunrises and sunsets), watching (and re-watching) Bollywood movies, dancing, and trying new restaurants.

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