The past two years were truly a dumpster fire of horrible things. But the truth is, 2020 and 2021 are two years we can’t get back. How do you want that time to be remembered?

By Mindy Henderson, Photo by, graphic by Cy White

Dumpster fire. Nightmare. Waste of time.

Those are some of the words I’ve heard used to describe 2020 and 2021. But what if we consider this: The past two years represent time we can never get back.

Some of you may be screaming with delight and joy to hear you don’t ever have to relive the past two years, but hear me out. For better or for worse, time is something we can never get back. Do you want the past two years to merely be an ugly stain on your life, with no redeeming qualities or good memories or positive moments as you look back on it? Two years of our lives, y’all! Nothing more than an ugly stain? Nope.

I prefer to look at it as time I survived. Time I fought and won, time I conquered, time when I learned. And time when I rolled with the punches but did not get taken down.

Please know I would never, ever attempt to minimize a person’s suffering. The past two years have been unlike any I’ve ever lived through. People lost jobs. Lost connections and friendships and relationships. People got sick and lost their lives. For so many, 2020 and 2021 were devastating. I lived it with you: the isolation, the fear of sickness and hospitalization, the helplessness as family members got sick and I couldn’t be with them. So much of it was awful and devastating, confusing and infuriating.

But I am still here. I am stronger than the years have been hard. And so are you. If you are reading this, you are here. You are a survivor also. Go ahead, roll around in that for a minute and let it feel good. You earned it.

I don’t want “dumpster fire” to be the legacy my hardest years leave me with. Our words have power, and that label gives way more power to the trauma than I am willing to give. So, I choose to give myself credit for what I survived. I search my memory for the better times I had over the course of the past two years, and I let them be the good moments they were, not to be overshadowed by a “dumpster fire.”

My life is largely what I make of it. Of course, bad things happen to us that are out of our control. That doesn’t mean we have to be victims to them. We have the power to make a bad situation so much worse or so much better by how we respond to it. I choose joy. I choose to let my focus on making myself better overshadow the “dumpster fire.” I choose to let the happy or the proud moments be bigger than the awful moments.

As we embark on 2022, check your mindset. COVID-19 is still with us. As I write this, Austin is in Stage 4 status again. I am once again having nightmares about hospitalizations and about not being able to breathe.

But. I know that as far as COVID-19 is concerned, I am doing my best to protect myself. That means caution, and not going everywhere and doing everything I would like to do. I know more people will get sick, but I also know that there is good in my life. People I love and who love me. I have my dream job (and COVID-19 made it possible for me to do it remotely). Hobbies and things I enjoy spending time doing. I am in charge of what I do today and tomorrow and the day after that. And I am not going to stop making those moments bigger and better and more significant than the hard ones.

This year is another none of us will be able to get back. There may be moments of pain and fear and even devastation. But there are moments that we also have the power to fill with love and kindness and fun. Let’s go into 2022 knowing how strong we are, knowing how much we can endure and knowing we have the power to insert greatness into this year. Whatever that looks like to you. Overrule the limitations and find the possibilities. They are out there.

Happy New Year, my friends. Let’s make this one amazing.

Mindy Henderson lives in Austin with her husband of 18 years. They have a daughter at Texas State University, a puggle, a pug and a cat named Birdie. Mindy currently works as editor-in-chief of the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s (MDA) Quest magazine, host of MDA’s Quest podcast, a speaker, writer, host of The Truth About Things That Suck” podcast, and her first book launches in June of 2022. This column is a tool she is excited to use regularly to help us all uncover those sucky but surprisingly beautiful circumstances.

Connect with Mindy on Instagram at @mindyhendersonspeaks or on LinkedIn.


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