52 Things Learned in 2021

It’s 2022 today, and Happy New Year to you and yours.

The year past was at a macro level, a bit of a hellscape, but at a micro/personal level, far rosier.

We managed to travel safely - around Indiana, to a relatively secluded beach, a weekend in Chicago, and then NYC/Boston. I switched from Engineering to Product at work. I found a thing I believe in to work on on the side. I started regular therapy.

I enter the new year in a pretty positive place - with goals defined long ago, clear plans to get to those goals, and a new sense of self gained over the last year.

I’m excited - and not afraid to admit that.

With that in mind, here’s some bits I learned along the way in 2021:

  1. I like hiking - mostly fairly flat stuff for now
  2. A daily walk is a key part of maintaining my mental health
  3. Therapy isn’t as scary as I thought
  4. I can live without Slack - and many other things - on my phone
  5. Outdoor Research tends to make things I like and that fit me
  6. Adding a tiny bit of cornstarch to the eggs makes it way harder to overcook scrambled eggs
  7. I spend entirely too much time on my phone
  8. Getting a passport is easier than I expected - and feels pretty liberating, too
  9. Michigan State fans are good people, and their stadium experience is the most cult-like I’ve been to yet
  10. An Indiana State Park pass is a great value - even if it remains deeply strange that the state charges entrance fees for its parks
  11. Kentucky University football really likes to pretend the University of Louisville doesn’t exist
  12. Yuletide is a really great holiday tradition we’ll probably keep up from now on
  13. Throwing leftover chili, some cheese and whatnot on a baked potato is a surprisingly great lunch
  14. $1.50/slice pizza from a hole in the wall pizza joint in NYC is miles better than the fancy-ass pizza you get from the Upscale Italian grocery store elsewhere in Manhattan.
  15. Takeout Chicago-style pizza really needs to be held level on the way home to keep stuff from sliding around and off the pie
  16. Always have a spare battery, a lightning cable and a way to charge my Apple Watch when traveling - stuff goes dead and I’m toast without
  17. Walking tours are almost always worth the investment
  18. The cash you save by staying in the outskirts is outweighed by the time you lose in transit - the costs likely even out anyway
  19. A late snow - when you get it on early spring greenery - makes for a beautiful scene and hike
  20. Sous vide makes a beef roast really easy and pretty cost-effective (since you can use a cheaper cut and still get tasty outcomes)
  21. Backpacking is fun - but difficult to pull off without feeling guilty about leaving my family behind
  22. Despite years of avoiding it and being a generally scruffy-looking guy, I actually like shaving regularly
  23. I’m really not much of a beach person
  24. Or a pool person
  25. I can make bread!
  26. I like cooking for other people
  27. I can make pasta!
  28. Illinois football doesn’t take itself too seriously - which is fun as a spectator
  29. Northwestern football - and Ryan Field in particular - feels like a time warp
  30. Public transportation makes travel way more fun
  31. Don’t over schedule said travel. You’ll end up buying tickets for things you don’t go to
  32. Merino wool can be a bit pricey, but being able to pack less stuff makes it worth it
  33. I feel better about myself if I take just a few minutes each evening to wash my face before bed
  34. Having a bunch of cheap deli containers around the kitchen are really handy - and space-efficient in the fridge
  35. A grill basket really makes grilling various veggies way easier
  36. Homemade barbecue sauce isn’t that difficult to pull off
  37. I like wearing sandals more than I would have thought
  38. I can replace the hardware on a dishwasher rack - and it’s way cheaper than a new dishwasher
  39. Zero drop shoes cause immediate and massive blisters for me
  40. Having open and honest conversations at work can sometimes get you closer to what you want
  41. Actually thinking about what you want also gets you closer to what you want
  42. Prioritizing general things or themes - the big stuff - also helps
  43. Saying no and turning things off leaves room for some of that stuff you prioritized
  44. If you’ve prioritized something and it’s still not progressing, maybe rethink your priorities or your approach. Or take smaller bites
  45. Little things done regularly have compounding value
  46. After buying many different ones over the years, it’s time to admit that todo apps don’t work for me
  47. My inner voice thinks I’m probably wrong, but in reality, I’m usually right
  48. Many things that say they are pest or rodent proof probably aren’t
  49. There’s a great - and mostly free - electronics recycling place on Shadeland
  50. Nobody knows what they’re doing - including me
  51. Everybody is struggling in their own way
  52. Tomorrow can always be better than yesterday - but it might need a little push (it’s ok to not feel like pushing some days)
Chris Vannoy @v