Well, that happened. It wasn't 2020, so I guess we'll take it?
That's just my initial response and reaction as I begin this reflection of 2021. At least...it ain't 2020.
Whether we think 2021 was the milder sequel to the original horror depends on your experience. Regardless, 2021 brought about the first stage of unpacking 2020, as well as slowly navigating how we move on. From finding ourselves once again in morning commutes, planning trips, finally seeing faces beyond the realm of a digital screen, and so much more, 2021 presented itself holistically as a year of transition, yet as an incomplete phase that is sure to continue into 2022.
Is this the second chapter of some trilogy we'll look back on? Once again, who knows? With the Omicron virus giving familiar vibes of early parts of the pandemic, it's already done a good job of setting us up for a tremendous cliffhanger for 2020, part III.
Nonetheless, as is tradition, let's get to the sixteenth (!!!) Year in Review on this little slice of the internet called Dome Pondering. As always, I thank you all for continuing to spend your time reading my thoughts and words on various topics. It's still amazing I've been able to keep this thing going after all these years, even into a time where reading (and blogging/writing) isn't a common medium for content intake. I so appreciate you all.
Now, let's slam the door on 2021. Here are my award picks for 2021:
THE PONDY AWARDS
*Crucial Moment of the Year: January 6th Capitol Attack
The images of that day still resonate greatly, and quite frankly, we haven't digested what happened on that day, as well as the inner workings of why it was allowed to happen. A real ugly stain for American history.
Honorable Mention: Derek Chauvin Verdict
*World Affairs Issue of the Year: Coronavirus (COVID) Pandemic
Uhhhhhh, yeah, here we are, year two years now into this thing. New variants. Constant arguments over vaccinations. And a continued inability to rid ourselves of this virus.
Honorable Mention: Climate Change, Afghanistan, Middle East Conflict
*Inspirational Story of the Year: Amanda Gorman's Inauguration Poem
Gorman hit the national stage in a big way with her uplifting poem, "The Hill We Climb". From the inspirational words to the sight of a young black woman performing at the inauguration of a United States Presidency, mixed with the feelings of everything we had just experienced on January 6th, Gorman captured us all.
*Random Story of the Year: Gamestop Stock Soars (Reddit vs. Wall Street)
I won't even pretend I understood anything the rogue Reddit group did. However, the mere idea of how it affected the stock market and how it had Wall Street crying about it, made you wonder about our financial system. Gamestop stock, changing Wallstreet - random as it gets.
Honorable Mention: Britney Spears Freed from Conservatorship
*Most Controversial Story of the Year: Vaccination Status
We're still going through it. All sorts of discussions on freedom, the political nature tied to it, "facts" and "experts", and so much more - I'm sort of over it.
*Most Overrated Story of the Year: Billionaires Space Race
The weird competition of all of these billionaires going up to space and returning was all sorts of overrated. Actually, it was more annoying and eye-rolling considering the state of the earth. But whatevs...
Tune of the Year: "All Too Well" (Taylor's 10 Minutes Version) by Taylor Swift
2021 had me all in my feels when it came to music. From nostalgia indulgences (Nas' King's Disease is my favorite Album of the year) to just outright songs filled with emotion - 2021 had lots to tap the toes to and bop the head alongside with.
I'm giving Tay Tay the victory here for the clinching fact that she walked into a booth to revisit and re-rerecord an all-too personal song and produced this timeless gem. As the legend goes, she started strumming her guitar and letting her thoughts out - and bam, we got an awesome 10-minute (not easy to do) ballad that is the calmest dis-track probably ever.
Honorable Mention: "Easy on Me" by Adel; "Essence" by Wizkid ft. Tems; "Driver's License" by Olivia Rodrigo; and "Nobody" by Nas ft. Lauryn Hill
*Invention of the Year: COVID Boosters Vaccines
We absolutely take it for granted, but yo, we really are incredibly lucky for these products being issued so incredibly quickly. I don't think we show enough appreciation for it - or for just having the option for it.
*Comeback of the Year: Entertainment
After a 2020 of binging old content, watching various art forms with limited live audiences (or none at all), with some not being available at all, ALL of it came roaring back in 2021. Music. Sports. Broadway. Movies. Etc... All of it. All too-welcomed.
*"Wishing Well" Award of the Year: Open Dialogue (and Thought)
I thought General Mark Miley's thoughts on the military studying Critical Race theory, and the reactions to his words from various groups, political sides, and lobbying camps said so much about where we are in today's climate.
We've become insular in our thinking. We can't even have discussions anymore. We're unable to learn.
*"Just Go Away" Award of the Year: The Career Politician
The pandemic really has placed a spotlight on politicians who have been in government for 15+ years without any real sense of what they have done from those they serve? I'll throw the current President in this pool. I've grown sour on so many who use these platforms to push agendas that merely keep them elected for other purposes ($$$), and not for the benefit of the people.
Honorable Mention: COVID Variants
*"Largest Fortitude" Award of the Year: Euguene Goodman Defends Capitol
Damn, man. Every time I see the photo of Officer Euguene Goodman standing firm and holding off a mob, I am in awe of what courage that must have taken and the will to have endured in those moments.
Honorable Mention: Frances Haugen whistleblow of Facebook
*"We'll Miss You" Award of the Year: Hank Aaron
His legend is farrrrrrrrrr beyond just being a Home Run King. So much more.
*"What Were You Thinking" Award of the Year: Kyrie Irving
Look, I don't think Kyrie is a bad guy. He does a lot of good that goes unnoticed. He's just, well...really out there. Irving does a lot of questionable things in the name of trying to be an activist (see his recent stance on not being vaccinated). Often, you're left wondering the phrase for exactly why he gets this award - dude, what were you thinking?
*"What a Shame" Award of the Year: Voting Rights and Gerrymandering
The 2020 Census proved the country is changing. The last presidential election results and demographic assessment is further proof of that. Thus, this is the reason we're getting changes to "voting validation" and complete changes to the district boundaries of towns.
It's a shame voting isn't just automatic - you know, like when you turn 18. But eh...that's too heavy for right now.
Honorable Mention: Astroworld Tragedy and Asian-American Hate
*"Welcome to the Scene" Award of the Year: Climate Change Reality
Floods. Fires. Quirky temperatures. Tornadoes. It's hard not to see or feel the evidence.
Honorable Mention: Juneteenth Holiday, Cryptocurrency, Squid Games, and Zaila Avant-Garde
*"This Should Have Been Done Before" Award of the Year: NIL NCAA Rights for Student-Athletes
After finally being pinned against a wall on the
exploitive "amateurism" foundation, collegiate athletics have taken the first step in reimagining the NCAA by allowing student-athletes specific NIL rights. And more is coming.
*"The Incredibles" Award of the Year: Vaccine Scientists and Researchers
Ditto on what was said on the Vaccines. We rarely think about the individuals who are creating these "options". Thank you to all of those individuals.
*"We Need to Fix This" Award of the Year: Trust in Science
You know it's bad when people - with no significant background or education - have their own "research", and those theories and "findings" are seen as valid.
Honorable Mention: Mass Shootings
*Biggest Letdown of the Year: Societal Response to COVID
Yup, we're still trying...
*Idiot of the Year: January 6th Capitol Insurgents
*Dome Pondering Person of the Year: Eugene Goodman - Officer from Capital
The events of January 6th have hung over 2021, especially as details, images, and further information is released on what truly happened inside of the Capitol. Insurgents and domestic terrorists (also this year's Idiots of the Year) ran amok throughout the building in a display that unveiled the underbelly of our country. The terrible day resulted in the loss of life, as well as others who perished due to the mental health ramifications of what they experienced on that day.
In that context, it was Eugene Goodman who acted with courage and with intense intelligence leading the rioters away from the Chambers where armed officers were awaiting them, diffusing further calamity, protecting the lives of Senators, and even saving the lives of the insurgents.
Here’s the scary moment when protesters initially got into the building from the first floor and made their way outside Senate chamber. pic.twitter.com/CfVIBsgywK— Igor Bobic (@igorbobic) January 6, 2021
Goodman is a real-life mega-hero - easily my pick for Person of the Year.
*Wrestling Show of the Year: AEW Full Gear
From top to bottom, AEW Full Gear was a night of "can you top this?". A tremendous card.
Honorable Mention: Wrestlemania Night 1
*The Jim Ross "Business is About to Pick Up!" Award of the Year: CM Punk Returns
Easy pick. I loved everything about that Friday night on AEW Rampage. Had some thoughts on this return as well - CM Punk's Return - Perfect Timing for the Symbol of Anti-WWE.
*Pro Wrestling Match of the Year: WALTER vs. Ilija Dragonuv - NXT Takeover 36
Just smash-mouth pro wrestling that kicked ass. It didn't feel like it fell into any tropes we often see in the current age. Loved it.
Honorable Mention: Josh Alexander vs. TJP - Iron Man Match - BTI Impact; Thunder Rosa vs. Britt Baker - AEW Dynamite; Bianca Belair vs. Sasha Banks - Wrestlemania Night 1; MJF vs. Darby Allin - AEW Full Gear; Rich Swann vs. Kenny Omega - Rebellion 2021; Bryan Danielson vs. Kenny Omega - AEW Dynamite; Bryan Danielson vs. "Hangman" Adam Page; Lucha Brothers vs. Young Bucks - AEW All Out 2021; and, Edge vs. Roman vs. Bryan Danielson - Wrestlemania Night 2
*Pro Wrestling Tag Team of the Year: Lucha Bros (AEW)
I'll admit it, the random non-tags and pseudo-tornado-style-rules-behavior do bother me (I know, I know, I'm such an old-school fan at heart), but damn it, they were absolutely must-watch this year.
Honorable Mention: FTR (AEW); Usos (WWE); and, The Young Bucks (AEW)
*Female Pro Wrestler of the Year: Britt Baker (AEW) and Deonna Purrazzo (Impact)
Baker clearly took a HUGE leap this year, especially following her signature match against Thunder Rosa on AEW Dynamite. Purrazzo continued the momentum of what was an utterly strong 2020 with another dominant year - this time in AAA as well as Impact.
Honorable Mention: Biance Belair (WWE) and Thunder Rosa (AEW)
*Male Pro Wrestler of the Year: Kenny Omega (AEW)
Like the women, the men's pick was a bit difficult this year, and quite frankly, you can make a case for Roman Reigns or Bryan Danielson here, and I could be okay with it. I went with the Omega for not only carrying the AEW, AAA, and Impact World Championships simultaneously but also appearing at events and television respectively for each. He did this high-level worth of work on three different products. And oh yeah, just for bragging rights, Omega was severely banged up all year.
Honorable Mention: Roman Reigns (WWE) and Bryan Danielson (WWE & AEW)
*Sport Event of the Year: WNBA Finals - Chicago Sky vs. Phoenix Mercury
So many storylines in this one from Candace Parker returning home with the Chicago Sky, Diana Taurasi's recent crown as the GOAT, the super team that is the Mercury, the married couple of Allie Quigley and Courtney Vandersloot on the same team, and all of the drama and chaos that was this series - very easy selection here.
*"The Derek Jeter Flip Play" Award of the Year: Gonzaga’s Jalen Sugg’ Final Four Buzzer-Beater vs UCLA
JALEN SUGGS FOR THE WIN 😱😱😱 pic.twitter.com/S8M5RMEpYD— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 4, 2021
Not only was it an awesome game, but that's a shot that will live on forever.
*Coach of the Year: Monty Williams
Williams not only lead the Phoenix Suns to its first NBA Finals since 1993, but he once again has the team in prime position to make another run as of this post. He's done it developing so many young talented players as well as keeping a Hall of Famer Chris Paul motivated and at an elite level.
Honorable Mention: Brian Snitker and Jim Harbaugh
*Team of the Year: Milwaukee Bucks
They were doubted all year. Many expected the Bucks to dominate the regular season, and then bow out along the way - never truly a sexy pick for the title. Ditto on Giannis Antetoukounpo's ability to "get it done".
Not only did they push their way past some VERY talented teams in some difficult series, including that memorable seven-game set with Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets, but they also won it all. Now once again, the Bucks are primed for another run at the NBA crown.
Honorable Mention: Chicago Sky and Atlanta Braves
*Dome Pondering Athlete of the Year: Shohei Ohtani
Ohtani literally had a year we've never seen, ever. He hit 46 home runs, hit 26 doubles, stole 26 bases, and score 103 runs. He also went 9-2 with a 3.18 ERA in 23 starts.
Ohtani literally did it all. Special. Just, absolutely, special.
Honorable Mention: Giannis Antentokounpo, Candace Parker, Lewis Hamilton, and Suni Lee
I enter 2022 a much happier person than I've been in years.
That's not the nature of being "unhappy" per se, but by nature of focusing on, and more so recalibrating, the way that I function, the way that I interact, the way that I care, and ultimately, the way that I live.
2021 was a transitional year. For so many of us, we were just trying to pick up the pieces from 2020 and doing with them whatever we needed to do in order to move on and genuinely smile again. I found MY (repeat: just my experience) method of "picking up the pieces", "moving on", or transitioning into this new "normal" through self-care. Or in a less modest way to explain it - focusing on me.
Me. Me. Me. Me. Ugh...I know, I'm the absolute worst.
We can't say it enough, 2020 was the absolute shits, and I know that I am STILL very much grappling with what it was, and in many ways, attempting to make complete sense of it. So many are trying to move on by making up for lost time or putting it all behind them as soon as possible, but 2020 presented such ground-shaking (and breaking) occurrences and reverberations for us all. Restoring ourselves - myself - has felt difficult, especially to recover and rebuild moving forward.
I gave a lot of myself in 2020. A lot. Most of it is admittedly tied to the loss of my father, the loss of one of my best friends, being available for students who poured their overflowed troubled souls onto me (the toughest semester I've ever experienced in my career), and the constant external exhaustion that is our society - social change, the stretching of the truth, the annoyance of politics, the frustration with our justice system, but most of all, just the lack of overall humanity, care, and compassion in our world.
There is also being a parent to a budding toddler thrown in there for me.
And ummm yeah, that pandemic thing is kind of hanging around, too.
With all of that circling around, it was around mid-June when I realized that I couldn't "service" my way out of well, whatever 2020 did to me. I was trying too hard. Spinning my wheels to go nowhere, really.
It was then that I realized that focusing on myself was a need. What I've been drawing from was routinely on low, or lacked substantive resources. I found a need to give my energy to the things that truly mattered. A desire to offer energy to those who sustain and appreciate it. But most importantly, proactively investing in growing and protecting that energy.
How often do did I intentionally choose happiness? My own happiness?
That question became a pillar in my recovery from 2020, in my overarching journey that was 2021, and my marching vibe towards 2022.
It's been SO incredibly long since I've invested in myself. I immediately thought of words I wrote that exemplify the baggage and weight I carried dating as far back as 2017 when my father's health drastically began to decline:
Regardless, it was during this time I learned how much I became Superman for my family and friends. Somehow, everyone revolved and depended on me. And at times, it felt good to provide that refuge, but with it came a sense of isolation.
Dome Pondering - 2017 Year in Review
Damn. Four years ago, I compared myself to Superman. Superman?!
I've always attempted to make self-care a priority. And I've been bad at it. Terrible, actually. 2020 makes you realize it's not something you fit into your life, it's something that MUST happen in your life.
Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”Philippians 4:8
- Appreciate (and be in) the Moment - I've tried to spend less time on social media, or on my phone in general (doesn't always work). Nonetheless, multi-tasking isn't always a good thing or should be the selected option. Giving moments my undivided attention has been a secret blessing.
- Count Your Blessings - I've spent the last two years from the mindset of negativity, frustration, and looking at the world and its shortcomings. I intentionally take to time to pray, to express gratitude, and to merely add perspective and appreciation for things in my life. Again, a game-changer.
- Moving for Me - I gained so much weight during quarantine. Like, 20-25 pounds. I've fallen in love again with lifting - not to lose weight, but to just be as strong as possible. And to challenge me. Again, for myself. I also completely adore stretching. I wish I could tell 20-year old me the value of stretching for 20 minutes and the wonders it would have done for me in college.
- It's OK to be confident. Moreso, confident in your decisions, for you.
- I've never been one to care for what people think - I now don't even bother with those who simply are nothing but negative for the sake of being negative. Not worth it. No time for it. Not wasting energy on it.