The Best and Worst of 2021

2021. The year that was supposed to save us from 2020 and let us finally move forward. When a baby seal appeared on a jetty a few blocks away from me in Long Beach on January 2nd, I thought it might be a sign that things were looking up. A few days later, I turned on the news and realized that wasn’t going to be the case. Between coping with the ongoing political divide, the frequent alarming events, and still trying to process the emotional traumas that 2020 had left us with, it was all too much.

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This year seemed to have been even worse than the last when I created the “shitty things that happened this year” list in my head. I contracted a horrible stomach virus that landed me in the ER 3 nights in a row (just days after finally feeling comfortable enough to be around people again and play volleyball). My worst technological nightmare came true when my computer crashed over the summer leaving me scrambling for solutions, out of commission for over a month, and hopelessly depressed for a few months. Several letters arrived in my office mailbox (the office that I spent every day in until March 13, 2020) containing confusing and threatening notices addressed to my business (which I had tragically incorporated right before the pandemic), sending me into a tailspin. Several months of waiting and endless hours of listening to irritating yet catchy hold music on loops combined with repeating messages about the pandemic read by suspiciously optimistic voice actors would eventually resolve these issues. (I think.)

Due to my semi-permanently anxious brain and notorious habit of being a bit more dramatic than necessary, I thought I would never make it through these terrible times. But I did, in fact, make it through those times. I eventually found myself in a place where I truly began to find peace and make decisions using a newfound grounded strategy. Life was playing in color again. I attended a small gathering of friends with whom I spent most of the pandemic playing virtual games with over zoom and it felt amazing to laugh together in person. I went to a few shows that instantly replenished some of the joy that 2020 had so brutally taken away. I had finally found the motivation to work on my print shop again and I was presented with the opportunity to sell my photos at a local boutique. Things were falling into place and I found comfort in the way each painful event from earlier the year had helped me grow and learn.

Then…BOOM. A molotov cocktail was thrown into my world, aiming to destroy all feelings of hope and safety I had gained. I learned that a friend and colleague of mine had unexpectedly passed away, which of course made no sense at the moment since I had just spoken to him a few days prior. BOOM. I tested positive for Covid-19. A few days later, so did most of New York. Everyone was getting sick, events were getting canceled again, and people were scared. I couldn’t attend my friend’s memorial, I worried about my family and friends, and the popup shop I had worked towards and looked forward to was put on hiatus. Suddenly we were right back in the horror movie of 2020, only weeks after a lot of us had finally started to feel safe again. That’s the way these things happen though. That’s what makes them so tragic. That’s what makes them so powerful. The unexpected moments that hit you like a curveball and kick you when you’re down; catch you by surprise and force you to smash that pause button. Then they challenge you to find “meaning” or “reason” in their unfortunate existence until you start to question your own. These are actually the moments that help us evolve.

A lot of awful things happened this year for the world and in my own personal life, in spite of the hope we all had for global salvation. Although when I began to look at the glass as half-full, (no camera-lens-pun intended) I remembered a lot of the wonderful things that happened and how much better they actually seemed because of everything 2020 took from us.

Gathering the takeaways from a full year that fast-forwarded by, in year 2 of a global pandemic, requires the perfect balance of perspective and focus. These camera puns, of course, were fully intended, inevitable, and perfectly applicable to both life and photography. I spent a few days browsing through all of my photos from 2021 and realized that life had been in color the whole time, even during months where everything felt monochromatic. (I would have said black and white, but I just love black and white photos too much to use it as a negative metaphor.) Each folder filled with raw photos and exported edited images was actually proof that life went on and the beauty of nature prevailed every day.

I’d like to thank all of my new and repeat clients, anyone who purchased prints from my print shop, and everyone who comments on the photos I share. Thank you for continuing to support this passion of mine, motivating me to keep going, and for and joining me on this unpredictable rollercoaster ride.

So, was the baby seal in January a “sign”? Or was it simply just a baby seal chilling on a rock waiting for its mother to return with some tasty gourmet ocean food? However you’d like to interpret the event, it was certainly an exciting diversion for the crowd of humans surrounding the seal to distract us from our inevitable pain and suffering. If only we could all be so blissfully ignorant like our friend baby seal.

This year was full of exhilarating moments I’ll likely remember forever, and excruciating moments I’d really prefer to forget. I took thousands of photos, I finished design projects and started new ones, Bernie wore mittens, I got vaccinated, I learned how to be social again, I got lost and found my way back, I watched The X-Files series from beginning to end, my computer broke and I got it fixed, I got sick, I got better, my phone shattered, I finally got a new one, I attended rescheduled weddings and funerals, I lost friends and clients and I gained new ones, I’m 95% sure I saw a UFO, I helped catch a criminal with one of my photos, I experienced loss and I grieved, I went out and I stayed in, I felt sadness and I felt joy. There’s no guarantee that 2022 will be better, but it will certainly be different. Cheers to a new year full of sweet chaos.

Here are some of my favorite moments of 2021 in photographs:

View my best of 2021

1 Comment
  • Vickie

    Another year of Degen is always a good year!

    December 29, 2021 at 9:35 pm

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