Year in Review

2021 In Review

It is January 29th and I’m finally feeling up for writing my year in review post for 2021. If that doesn’t say something about how tired and slow and behind I feel these days, I don’t know what does! 🤣

It’s hard to reflect on 2021 because it feels like such a blur, and because it was full of so many difficult emotions. Between the news, and the social isolation, and the lockdowns, and the political divisiveness, it’s been so hard to be a person in the world lately. I’ve felt so overwhelmed and alienated, by turns utterly hopeless and (very) cautiously optimistic. Put simply: this year has been exhausting. I am craving simplicity, for things to feel easier, to feel hopeful again.

And yet despite the emotional turbulence I’ve felt for most of the past two years, I have to admit that this year did bring a lot of positive changes to my personal circumstances. So while 2021 didn’t often feel good for me in my everyday life, I know I have so much to be grateful for. Isn’t that always the way? We need some perspective & space in order to see the forest. When we’re deep in the trees, we can’t see a way to go on.

So here we go, my 2021 in review. Be forewarned: this will probably read like a highlight reel, but trust me when I say that this year felt like anything but in the moment. Both things can be true: it was good, and it was hard.


January

I started the year by hosting my first-ever virtual business retreat, which went a lot better than I expected! My friend Sonja designed a beautiful menu that all the attendees recreated at home, and we made the most of the circumstances by being together virtually while apart physically. In January, I also celebrated one year of being with my partner Mike. We were in lockdown and it was one of the coldest days of the year, so we went for a very brisk walk, got some bread & pastries from the place we’d had our first date, and played board games at home. And that was basically…it. Business was slow that month and I was worried about money, I went for a lot of very cold walks with friends, I did some coaching calls, I took some bubble baths, I watched TV.

February

Out of the blue in February, I got invited to apply for an on-camera role with Shopify, and…I got the job! This was huge for me, a chance to grow my skills and also find a bit of financial stability in such an uncertain time. It has sometimes been challenging (ie. filming by myself, all alone in a super-hot studio without air-conditioning in the middle of a heat wave!) but has been such an amazing opportunity. Also in February, I started The Notorious Romance Book Group, (RBG for short 😉), a feminist romance novel book club with the coolest women that my friends & I knew. This online group has added so much joy this year and helped me make some new friends during such a tough time. Other than that: see above. A lot of cold walks, desperately searching for a new apartment, and trying to cheer myself up by getting the best doughnuts around.

March

In March, things started to feel a bit brighter. We finally moved out of the lockdown we’d been in since November, the days got longer, and some flowers finally started to poke their heads out from under the snow. But the most exciting thing that happened in March, without a doubt, was being selected out of tons of applicants for the apartment of my dreams. It’s in my favourite neighbourhood, on the top floor of an old house, with tons of windows, the perfect patio, and buckets of natural light. It has been a safe haven this year, holding (literal) space for me to cry, grieve, celebrate, worry, stress, smile and rest. Also in March I found my dream pink velvet couch for FREE on Kijiji which was a gigantic win.

April

On April 1st, I moved into the new place and spent a lot of time just lying with my face in sunbeams. I was so happy to get there right as the weather was warming up a bit (in that first week, we had shakshuka on the new patio! celebrated my birthday with my family outdoors in the sunshine! rented a bonfire pit at Ontario Place with views of the CN tower!), but it turned out to be perfect timing because within days of me moving in, Toronto was plunged BACK into lockdown. We had to cancel my birthday getaway and pivot to doing Covid-safe things instead, like exploring the abandoned Camp 30 and making cocktails at home, and I spent most of the rest of the month alone at home, settling into my new space. In April I also got asked to be the speaker at Creative Mornings Toronto which was such a special experience. So many of my friends and colleagues showed up to support me, and I was so proud of the talk I gave.

May

Even though April was full of good things, May was better for one simple reason: I got my first dose of the vaccine. It’s hard to express how relieved and hopeful I was as I stood in line at a community pop-up playing loud, joyful reggaeton music with daffodils blooming and kind volunteers helping out. It was an unbelievably good day. In May the flowers are in full bloom here in Toronto, and my camera roll is just chock-full of cherry blossoms, green grass, lilacs and magnolias from my walks. I took myself on a beach picnic for the first time all year (one of my fave activities), put up string lights on the patio, installed my beautiful rainbow shelves and saw more sunsets.

June

I loved June. I could finally go to the beach in a bathing suit, eat all my meals outside, get ice cream, and go to the drive-in movies. I went strawberry picking, went to the Toronto Islands (on the rainiest, windiest day, oops), hosted my friends & family for brunch and dinner on the patio, got some new outdoor plants (which slowly died throughout the summer) and got my second vaccine dose. I was nesting, spending lots of time outdoors, and finally feeling hopeful again. Oh, and I didn’t know it yet, but my future fur baby Bruno was born on June 27th.

July

In July, we hosted our second online business retreat, which was even more of a success since I was in a newer, brighter space and the food was so summery and fresh. I think I felt a bit restless, so I restarted my Steph Saturday Morning adventures to explore some new coffee shops and restaurants and get outside of my neighbourhood bubble. I also started swimming at the local pool, which was such a joy and delight every single time. Later in the month my boyfriend got some bad news and had to fly home to Romania, so my memories of July feel a bit heavy and tinged with sadness. I also remember being extremely tired because I was having a lot of trouble sleeping.

August

We started the month strong by heading back to a family-run campground we’d loved the year before up near Magnetawan, Ontario. We rented a tiny cabin and spent the week swimming under waterfalls, hiking in Algonquin Park, making friends with chipmunks, buying junk at garage sales, canoeing, eating, reading and talking. Those were very good days, some of my favourite memories from the whole year. Also among my best memories were the days that my friend Katie came to visit from New York. We hadn’t seen each other for almost TWO YEARS which was unfathomable, but it felt like yesterday. We spent a long weekend finding magic wherever we went: in vineyards, at swimming holes, on the Island, at my sister’s birthday party. Last but not least, in August we did “Wines of the World” in my family which was the funniest, most delicious event: we all had to bring a wine from a famous region and pair it with a specialty snack from the same country. It was a delight.

September

On September 1st, I brought home a puppy. This was both impulsive (it came together in a matter of days) and also an incredibly long time coming (I had started seriously applying for dogs in January 2020). Still, I was almost completely unprepared for how difficult this transition would be emotionally. The first month, despite the adorable photos I captured, was one of the hardest months of my life, if not the hardest. Taking care of a small animal who is totally disoriented, peeing in the house, requires constant vigilance, bites your feet and ankles constantly, barks in the most high-pitched tone, and can’t leave the front lawn while neighbours incessantly hype him up and ruin your training….well, it’s hard. Not to mention that Mike was still in peak wedding season which meant he couldn’t be around to help out very much in the first few weeks. There was a lot of literal blood, sweat, and tears, and I barely left the house all month. I did manage to celebrate one year of my business community, The Profoundery, but to this day I have no idea how I got through the day with an 11-week old puppy in tow.

October

Things started to improve in October, although I was still the most exhausted I’ve ever been. Bruno got all his shots, so I was able to start taking him on walks, to some parks, to visit my Grandma, to puppy school, to play with my mom’s dog. My life was still very insular, and our routine was still a challenge, and I still fell into bed most nights without being able to do much if anything for myself, but things were better. Bruno is a smart cookie, so he was learning his tricks and commands and doing so well being exposed to new places.

November

In November, my life started to feel slightly more like mine again. I went back to filming for Shopify after a hiatus, and it was so fun to be in a real studio with a videographer instead of filming alone. Mike and I did a little staycation on the East end of the city and actually went out for dinner, just us, without Bruno for the first time. Bruno graduated from puppy school and went to his first few dogs parks. We had a real scare when he accidentally ingested some marijuana, we assume at one of the aforementioned dog parks since neither of us imbibe, and his symptoms were terrifying for a new puppy owner who didn’t know what was happening. He was totally fine but: woof. But the best thing that happened in November was deciding last-minute to fly to New York City for Katie & P’s wedding in Manhattan. They got married in a sweet little city garden in the rain surrounded by their families and took a sunset boat cruise to the Statue of Liberty, and I was so grateful to be there for such an important occasion.

December

I felt the seasonal affective disorder coming on STRONG in December, so I leaned hard into the holiday season. I decorated my whole apartment, made an advent calendar with Mike, sewed a Christmas quilt and got us matching pyjamas. Myself and a few friends were lucky enough to go up to a cottage for the weekend which was so peaceful and quiet. My sisters and I had a festive brunch and got pedicures together in lieu of gifts. And best of all, we actually got to celebrate Christmas together this year, even with some precautions because of a few Covid scares. Still, a huge improvement over the lonely year before. Even though I felt very stressed & anxious over the holidays because of Omicron and a new lockdown order and a Covid exposure and cancelling plans to drive to upstate New York for NYE, we tried our best to make the most of a challenging situation.


Firsts of 2021

  • First time becoming a (dog) parent
  • First time speaking in front of such a large audience (Creative Mornings)
  • First time filming a video in a real production studio
  • First time visiting Algonquin Park
  • First time hosting a virtual retreat
  • First time having an apartment with outdoor space
  • First time renting a bonfire pit at Ontario Place
  • First time assisting at an engagement shoot
  • First time installing bookshelves
  • First time being on-camera “talent” for a commercial shoot
  • First time getting a matching loungewear set
  • First time picking someone up from the airport by myself
  • First time swimming at the Elora Gorge
  • First time at puppy school
  • First time trying Firehouse Subs

2021 by the Numbers

  • 75 books read
  • 13 videos filmed
  • 5 hours & 23 minutes of meditation

Favourite Books Read

My word of the year: Soften

Ironically but unsurprisingly, I actually feel like I got harder this year, more rigid and uncompromising, especially after getting Bruno. I was hard on myself (and continue to be) for the ways I felt I was failing, and hard on Mike during a time when I had very little patience or energy. I can’t count the times (even before becoming a dog parent) where I found myself saying “this is so hard”, because this year was so hard.

And yet I do think I softened a little. I softened in my anxious attachment and settled into feeling loved and safe in my relationship. I tried hard to soften my expectations for every experience needing to be The Best Experience Possible Under the Circumstances. I got soft serve ice cream more than a few times. I got a very soft velvet couch and an even softer puppy. The puppy forced me to spend time every day just sitting on the floor playing and cuddling.

So all in all, it was a good word, a good teacher. As usual, I think I’ll probably see the payoff of this word this year, in 2022, a lot more than I did in 2021. I certainly hope so anyways. The world continues to get louder and sharper around the edges, and I want to be soft, compassionate, calm.


That’s it from me for now. Little reminder to future Steph: don’t put off writing these reviews. In the process, you always get more perspective, more joy, more gratitude for the life you’re fortunate enough to lead. That doesn’t diminish the feelings of despair or hopelessness, those are always hard and painful and challenging. But writing, reminiscing, processing, remembering, documenting: these things give you hope. These things bring you joy.

And if you’re reading this and thinking your year sucked compared to mine, please know that I feel that daily in comparison to other people. I encourage you to ‘romanticize your life’, as the kids say on TikTok, by writing a review of your own, by documenting the good and the bad for your future self to look back on. For me, it makes all the difference.

Sending you so much love and lightness and a loosening of expectations and a lessening of stress, and a languorous stretch in the sunshine, the kind Bruno takes daily. Here’s hoping 2022 holds many beautiful things for us all.

xoxo,
Steph

PS. If you’re curious, you can see more of my year-end reviews here:

2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011

One Second Everyday: 2021

Putting this video together is one of my favourite annual traditions, because I get to relive all the best parts of the year at once. And even though that means this is (mostly) a highlight reel, it also means that by the time I’m done, I am completely filled with gratitude for the year that was, no matter how tough and lonely and challenging it felt at the time.

2021 was all those things and more. This was easily one of the hardest years of my life, full of loss and disappointments. And yet! Look at all of the good! Look at all of the love. ❤️

Happy 2022.

PS. This is the app I use to create these videos! If you’re curious you can watch my previous videos here: 2016, 2017, 2019 and 2020.

2020 In Review

2020 In Review >> Life In Limbo

Well. We did that, somehow. We lived through 2020, the (hopefully!?) hardest year of our collective lives.

The pandemic hit different people differently, and everyone has a different personal code of ethics and risk tolerance. But for me, the lockdowns here in Canada meant that I saw very few places outside of my apartment and immediate neighbourhood this year. I interacted with very few people besides my boyfriend, outdoor time with a couple friends who live within walking distance, and occasionally, with precautions taken, my immediate family. And even those visits were few and far between!

I live alone, and I don’t have a car or any animals, so it’s been a bit of a hard year. There has still been joy and I still have so much to be grateful for, but I’ll admit that it’s been painful and lonely too. I’ve had very little energy for anything outside of work, which I really had to focus on in order to actually make money and support myself during such an uncertain year! So a lot fell by the wayside. Some of my friendships have weakened. I had less time for my favourite hobbies, like reading and writing this blog. My self-care and sleep schedule were intermittent at best. (Caveat: I know I’ve had it so easy compared to so many others.)

And yet we made it through! A few days into January and while nothing really feels any different than it did all of last year (same apartment, same schedule, same same same), I feel somewhat hopeful about what this year might hold. Maybe I can take a trip. Maybe I can hug my friends again. Maybe I can host another in-person retreat. We will see. All of us will see.

Until then, I still wanted to take some time to reflect 2020. As weird as it was, there was so much beauty too, and I want to remember those parts. So here we go! 2020 in review, such as it was.


January

The year started off on such a positive note! I was coaching a lot, making new connections, and prepping to host my first-ever business retreat the following month. I remember life feeling full and vibrant and fun. I started doing food prep and was really excited about that new development! I was taking great care of myself, having coworking dates in beautiful spaces, going to fun concerts, and generally having a very good time. But the most exciting thing that happened in January was meeting my now-partner Mike, who has been my steady, hilarious, generous, cuddly person throughout this wild, ridiculous year.

February

Another juggernaut of a month! I hosted my retreat and it was an absolute delight. I have thought of it often in the months since: how cozy we all were snuggled together in that farmhouse, how delicious the food was, how connected we felt. It’s almost haunting to know how much life changed right after that experience. In February I also gave a workshop to a big corporate client alongside The Birds Papaya, which was a fairly surprising (and cool) development. I also got a really great haircut…and haven’t had one since 😂

March

As you know, the world (as we knew it) ended. The day I was meant to take a beautiful snowy weekend getaway with four close friends, I got a cold. I personally put myself into lockdown, and my province quickly followed suit a couple of days later. I remember almost nothing from March, but a look at my calendar shows that I was still busy. I had a lot of coaching calls previously scheduled, and somehow, I still managed to show up for them fully. But I lost a major client and a major project pretty much as soon as COVID hit. I worried about money. I did not bake bread. I did not do puzzles. I DID get on TikTok and try to cheer myself up by learning a bunch of dances. I did go for a lot of walks, and read Untamed, which I adored. But mostly, I laid on my floor and cried, then got up and tried to serve my (also panicking!) clients.

April

I was supposed to go to see my favourite musical Hamilton on my birthday this year!!! Did not happen. But, I’m lucky enough that instead, my friends Sonja and Stirling came to my house with their guitars and sang to me, 6 feet apart, and my mom stopped by and waved at me from across the parking lot. Also that month, we moved NurtureNurture (our beloved twice-annual life retreat!) online and it was as powerful and fun as ever, despite the distance. I did eventually bake a banana bread, but I had a lot of trouble sleeping and didn’t touch a book for basically the entire month. I have no idea WHAT I was doing with my time, besides surviving. My camera roll shows only photos of walks, stress cleaning, and a lot of photos of me in my romper.

May

I decided to launch “Productivity Parties”, collective work sprints that could bring people together to get their work done in a supportive community. Those were so fun, and a real hit – people were really craving that togetherness, myself included. In May I also visited my mom’s property for some socially distanced quality time on the trails and it was so good for my soul. I walked around the city bloom-spotting and the flowers brought me so much joy. Sonja and I started having regular weekly outdoor dates, and thank goodness. And I got an unexpected job offer which felt exciting and cool, though I ultimately declined it for many reasons. Life got warmer, and life got better.

June

The job offer started to go sour, and I made the executive decision to decline it and continue to do my own thing instead. I decided to re-launch my group coaching program to see what would happen, and enrolled two amazing groups that I adored working with for the rest of 2020. I gave a great online workshop about productivity. I planned a fun COVID-safe adventure day complete with strawberry picking, hiking, and a drive-in double feature (SO fun). I also got a big wake-up call about my complacency and inaction around anti-racism after the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent protests, and started trying to be more vocal and active in the fight for an anti-racist world.

July

As mentioned, I started running two new simultaneous cohorts of my group program, which was such a joy, a delight, and a relief from a business perspective. I also started running my monthly Transparency Tuesday updates, to share my action steps to become a more anti-racist business and person. I tried to take advantage of the beautiful weather by hiking to waterfalls, camping out at my mom’s backyard, reading on the grass at the park, and walking down by the lake. I even ventured to a few patios for a couple of dinners! I love July and though it was different than usual, I still loved soaking up the sunshine and seeing my friends at a safe distance.

August

This was a fun month too! Beautiful weather and much better vibes. I dogsat at a friend’s house which was a very welcome change of scenery after several months stuck in my own apartment. I surprised Mike for his birthday with a park gathering with several of his friends, then took him to an indoor obstacle course which was so much fun (albeit less fun with masks on, lol!). I took a Mental Health Crisis Response course online, went to a few apartment open houses (nothing panned out), and even tried out text banking for the American election. Meanwhile, I was hard at work building out the infrastructure for my online business community!

September

Said business community, The Profoundery, launched! I had actually been working on it, on and off, for most of the year, so it was so rewarding to actually see it come to fruition. And the members who joined (and who have continued to join!) are so incredibly inspiring and thoughtful. The other super fun thing that happened this month was that Mike & I took a camping trip! Such a delight to spend a couple days away from it all, cooking over a fire, taking photos, and exploring. Also in September I carefully visited my grandparents for the first time since Christmas, celebrated a friend’s birthday on blankets at the park, took some excellent workshops through SURJ, and finally got back to reading a little bit more. See also: tried to soak up every moment of the good weather before it got cold again.

October

It got cold again. Sonja and I tried to drag our weekly outdoor hangs out until it was too cold to sit outside anymore, so we switched to walks. October was the month that I really started to feel panicky again about the impending winter. I wanted to move, I wanted a dog, I wanted the pandemic to be OVER, I wanted a break. Nothing really changed, but I definitely felt agitated about it. On the positive side, I started running monthly calls in The Profoundery and it was SO much fun, I was immediately so glad I had created it, and still am. The only other good thing that happened in October was the second NurtureNurture of the year, which again was so fun and delightful. A serious bright spot in an otherwise challenging month.

November

More of the same: work, walk, sleep, repeat. It was hard to stay motivated and hard to stay positive when life just felt cold and dreary almost all the time. There were some dark days in November, for sure. The positive things: I finished the Duolingo Romanian course I’d started in March, I “went to see” a virtual Donovan Woods concert online, and my best friend got engaged! I also launched my first online retreat, which is happening in a week as I write this. I also visited my mom for her birthday, which was a delight.

December

Which brings us to December. We had some pretty snowfalls, which I appreciated more than in previous years because they were at least something visually interesting and a bit different than the grey sameness that Toronto was otherwise bringing! I got my first (tiny) Christmas tree to have at home, and decorated it with my favourite ornaments from years past. I tried to lean into the festivities by making snowflakes, buying Christmas candles, and knitting a festive tree skirt. Mike and I had a dress-up date night at home, just for fun. And I took a full two weeks off for a break, which was wonderful, even if I didn’t get to see as many of my loved ones as I would have liked. It was a cold break thanks to all the standing outside we did, but I was so grateful that we could make those memories. It was special, in its own way.


Firsts of 2020

  • First global pandemic (and ideally also my last)
  • First time running a business retreat
  • First time not hugging my mom on my birthday
  • First time singing Christmas carols to my grandma on her balcony
  • First time camping with Mike
  • First time cooking over a fire for the weekend without a stove
  • First time launching an online business community!
  • First time doing my coaching program fully online
  • First virtual bachelorette party (would not necessarily recommend)
  • First time doing night sky photography
  • First time wearing a mask to the grocery store (and everywhere else)
  • First time making homemade margaritas
  • First time eating outside in the rain under a haphazardly constructed tarp tent to stay socially distanced
  • First time getting TikTok and posting dance videos on the internet
  • First time giving a workshop to a large private corporation
  • First time having a virtual movie night date
  • First time having a virtual retreat
  • First time attending a virtual concert
  • First time learning how to speak Romanian
  • First time trying dance-based workouts
  • First time trying Weber’s burgers
  • First time having white shoes

2020 by the Numbers

  • 70 books read
  • 45 blog posts written
  • 44 Instagram posts
  • 5.25 hours of meditation (or 43 sessions)

Goals & Intentions

You can see my full post of goals & intentions for 2020 right here! Here are my updates.

Wellness

  • Don’t drink alone: HAHAHAHAHA. Let’s put it this way: I literally forgot this was a resolution of mine
  • Walk for 20 for 2020 outsideI did pretty well with this! I don’t have an official count of days, but I did this more often than not.
  • Set up my Alexa morning & evening routines: I did set them up! Then eventually I turned them off and never turned them on again.

Home & Community

  • Explore one new star per week: Again, this is hilarious considering that we could not explore ANY new shops or restaurants for large swaths of this year. So no, this did not happen.
  • Do an Energy Exchange at Yoga Village: This also did not happen! They actually never answered my email.
  • Capture 1SE: This I did do, and I am so grateful that I did! I will be sharing the video very soon.

Rest & Relaxation

  • Read 111 books this year: I did not read this many books, since the pandemic destroyed my ability to concentrate for a few months there. I did however read 70 books! Which is wonderful.
  • Create a shut-down ritual for work: Did not do, did not even attempt.
  • Take a vacation: I think that my camping trip counts as a vacation! It wasn’t what I had perhaps envisioned when I wrote this, but it was restful and fun all the same.

Self-Care

  • Try acupuncture: Indeed yes! I snuck this one in right before the pandemic happened. I liked it, and would probably go again after COVID life is over.
  • Get quarterly massages: This (perhaps obviously) did not happen.
  • Find a great therapist: This could have happened! But didn’t. I really lost sight of my goals for much of this year and this was among the ones that got totally forgotten. I hope to do it in 2021.

Whimsy

  • Celebrate minor holidays: Not really.
  • Do monthly surprise dates: This started off strong! And quickly deteriorated as the year went on and we had fewer places to go.
  • Buy something that sparks joy each month: This, I actually stuck to! I purchased some very joy-sparking things throughout the year. Here are some highlights: my Always pan, my Airpods, my Smash + Tess romper.

My Word of The Year: Devoted

Funnily enough, this was actually the perfect year to have the word Devoted. This year was hard, and it required a lot of devotion: to my health, to my relationship, to my clients, to my business. I was very grateful to have such an intentional and forceful word guiding me through the year, to remind me to SHOW UP and CONTINUE SHOWING UP, no matter what might be thrown my way.

As I said in last year’s post, there was a fierceness to this word that I was craving, and which I definitely needed to embody. Starting a relationship during a global pandemic, when all of your raw emotions are exposed and on display all the time? Not easy. Very triggering. Requires devotion. Taking care of your body and mind, eating well and exercising and getting outside while you’re in lockdown? Requires devotion. Trying to keep your business going and actually being able to support your clients despite the turbulent conditions? Requires devotion. It all required a lot of me, and while some things certainly fell by the wayside as a result, overall I’m so glad I had this word guiding me through.

And bonus! I also bought a beautiful ring engraved with the word devotion which was the perfect talisman to remind me of my intention. Yes.


Whew!! What a year this was. Reflecting on it in this way is actually quite rewarding, because it forces me to see how much goodness I got to experience this year. I was lucky: my business stayed afloat, I found love, I played with dogs, I spent time in beautiful parts of nature, I helped my clients. I have so much to be grateful for, even if this year was nothing that I could have expected or would have chosen. I tried my best, and my best was good enough to get me through, and for that I am so grateful. I know others were not as lucky as me, and my heart goes out to them.

So as we end this historic year, I am sending you love and positivity and hope. Hope for the vaccines. Hope for the future. Hope for our loved ones and our families and our health. Hope that we can get through these next few months and come out into a bit more light on the other side of this very dark tunnel.

All my love,

Steph

PS. If you’re curious, you can see more of my year-end reviews here:

2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011

2019 In Reading

2019 In Reading >> Life In Limbo

2019 was my best-ever year of reading, and also the one that felt the most effortless. I read more books than I ever have before, but it also felt super easy and fun. Yes, really! Reading is my favourite hobby and has enriched my life more than I could ever say, so I feel so happy that I made it (even) more of a priority this year. The books I read this year gave me so much in return.

So today I start a new annual tradition: the Year in Reading! Yes, this is #Extra. No, I don’t care. Reading is an important part of my life, and I want to take some time to reflect on what worked, what didn’t, and what I might want to do differently in 2020.

My Goal

Every year I set a reading goal, which I’ve upped incrementally over the years. My first year it was 52 books, and then it was 75 for several years. This year I decided to push myself a bit! My 2019 goal was to read 100 books, and I’ve currently (as of December 30th as I write this!) read 112, with two more on the go. This is amazing, because I’ve never surpassed my yearly goal by so many books, even when I was challenging myself to read fewer books! (You can see all my reading challenges here.)

The point of a reading challenge (for me) is to stretch myself just a touch beyond what I would probably read anyways. I spend wayyy too much time on screens every day for work & play, and I really do need the reminder to unplug and prioritize different kinds of activities. Reading is like a form of meditation for me – it helps me shut my brain off and feels like a vacation from my worries. Making reading a goal reminds me to prioritize it and make space for it in my regular daily grind.

What I Learned

1. Read WHATEVER you want

I FIRMLY believe that if you don’t like reading, you’re probably not reading what you actually like to read. I’ve known this to be true for years, and yet this was the first year I really, fully embraced it for myself. My list this year is a wacky blend of romance, pop psychology, fiction, essays, young adult, sci-fi, re-reads and beyond…and I loved almost all of it. At the beginning of 2019 I’d decided that with such a high goal, I was going to worry nary a bit about what I was reading, and it has served me so well. I highly encourage you to read whatever strikes your fancy and have zero qualms about it.

2. Better goal, better results

As I mentioned, this year I read the most books ever, and I also surpassed my reading goal by the most books ever. Can you believe?! I think the key was upping my baseline. As with everything in life, it’s all relative. When my goal was 75, that was what I was working towards and tracking towards all year. As a result, reading 77 felt like a big triumph! But this year I raised the bar. When my goal became 100, suddenly 75 was a milestone, not an end point. It’s a good lesson to bring with me into the rest of my life: if I aim low, I’ll get lower results. If I aim high, I’ll get higher results, even if I don’t quite meet my goal.

3. Embrace mental comfort food

This year was pretty stressful, taxing, and overwhelming at times. Looking back, I can see that fact reflected in my reading life as I gravitated towards less challenging books that brought me comfort & joy. It’s no surprise that this was The Year of Romance Novels, because they are uplifting and fun and guaranteed to have a happy ending. And it’s also no surprise that as soon as I got onto Christmas vacation, suddenly I felt equipped to dive into tougher reads like Gladwell’s latest and a beautiful collection of essays by Heather Havrilesky. It’s good to remember, both to use as a barometer for my stress level (what am I gravitating towards and what can that tell me about how I’m feeling or what I might need?) and for self-compassion (ie. not beating myself up for reading ‘fluffier’ books when I need to).

My Favourites

Best Books of 2019 >> Life In Limbo

1. Circe by Madeline Miller: Without a doubt my favourite novel of 2019. This is a feminist retelling of the Greek myth of the witch Circe (the one who turns Odysseus’s men into pigs!) and it is beautiful and epic. The author is a historical scholar and it shows in all the gorgeous details in her novels. I cannot wait for her next one!

2. Joyful by Ingrid Fetell Lee: This book changed the way I see the world! It’s a smart, fascinating exploration of what brings humans joy from a biological, evolutionary perspective, as well as a guide to bringing more joy, play, fun and delight into your life every day. I loved it so much and will definitely be re-reading.

3. Gravity is the Thing by Jaclyn Moriarty: I really enjoyed this quiet, charming novel set in Australia. I don’t think I’ve read much Australian fiction before and I really enjoyed the tone, the phrases and the overall mood of this one. It was so uplifting and light while still playing with darker themes and managing to be incredibly poignant at times.

4. Amateur by Thomas Page McBee: Ever since hearing Thomas Page McBee on an episode of Hurry Slowly, I’ve been a big fan of his work. This book is his memoir of training to be the first transgender man to fight at Madison Square Garden, as well as a thoughtful meditation on modern masculinity. It was utterly fascinating.

5. Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid: The rumours are true, there’s a reason this book is on everyone’s lists! It took me forever to buy into the hype (I like to give hype some time to die down because not all hyped books stand the test of time, amen) but when I finally did, I was not disappointed. I read this book in one shot, standing waist-deep in sunny lake water at a friend’s cottage, aka my happy place. It was fun and surprising and cinematic and wonderful.

6. Normal People by Sally Rooney: I got into this one reluctantly, after seriously disliking Conversations with Friends. But I was instantly swept up in this love story about two star-crossed lovers. It was romantic and weird and interesting and heart-wrenching at times. I love love, and I love reading about different kinds of love. I wouldn’t want to be in their relationship, but I loved reading about it nonetheless.

7. Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey: As mentioned, I read a lot of romance novels this year. I was new to the genre, so it’s been a process of immersion trying to figure out what I like and don’t like…and this book is a prime example of what I like. This one is fun, breezy, steamy, and modern and really set off my obsession with romance for once and for all. People who don’t like the genre: don’t read this. If you’re curious about romance: start here.

8. Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin: I read quite a few financial books this year but I particularly enjoyed this one. The idea is to figure out how much money you actually need to be happy and how to spend more wisely in alignment with that. She was also one of the first people to talk about financial independence (aka retiring early) which is a super inspiring concept. Highly recommended if you’re looking to invest more (pun intended!) in your financial life this year.

9. Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell: One of my final books of the year and yet one of my faves. I love everything Malcolm Gladwell does (including his excellent podcast) because the way his mind works is fascinating to me. This book should be required reading for all of us (especially police officers). I learned so much about the mistakes and fallacies we make when interacting with people we don’t know. Also, they made an insanely detailed audiobook that includes all kinds of source material, interviews & re-enactments, which I’m excited to listen to as well.


And there you have it, my 2019 in reading! It’s been a good one. I can’t wait to see what 2020 has in store for me, book-wise. So grateful to have the library at my doorstep and ebooks galore on Libby. Aren’t books just the best?!

You can see everything I read this year right here, and as always you can follow along with what I’m reading over on Goodreads here! Happy reading, everyone.

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