Grounding Ourselves for 2021: A NYE Round Table & Open Thread

It’s the last day of 2020.

This year was so difficult I don’t even know how to write sentences about it that get to the truth of what it means to be a person today. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you things will get better tomorrow on January 1, 2021. I don’t even know what “better” means at this point, and I certainly don’t know when that shift, whatever it looks like, will occur.

What I can provide is a space for us to be virtually together — this open thread — and also the incredibly generous, vulnerable, honest, genius words my co-workers at Autostraddle shared when I asked them to participate in our New Year’s Eve round table.

With the knowledge that we cannot rely on much, this year I asked the Autostraddle team: In a chaotic world, how will you show up for yourself and provide yourself with the consistency you need in 2021? Here’s what they had to say.

I’d love to hear what you have to say about this in the comments, too. Wishing you health, love, and happiness, sincerely sincerely sincerely, today, tonight, tomorrow, and every day.

Vanessa Friedman, Community Editor

This year I learned that showing up for myself often means doing the hard shit. It’s cleaning my room when I don’t want to because my anxiety is markedly worse if I’m living in a mess. It’s doing the dishes immediately so my one self-soothing technique (cooking!) is easily accessible to me at all times. It’s keeping my regularly scheduled therapy appointment even when I feel like I’m doing “fine!” because life moves fast and the switch flips to “definitely not fine!!!” with remarkable speed. Basically, showing up for myself means being a grown up for myself. Annoying, but 100% true.

Ro White, Sex & Dating Editor

This year I went through a break-up, survived having COVID-19, experienced intensifying chronic health issues, lost most of my work, fully switched careers and dealt with a level of anxiety I hadn’t felt in years. There were moments when I fell apart, but those were only moments. Overall, I took care of shit, and I’m proud of myself for how I’ve handled the pandemic-related hardships and personal hardships that 2020 brought my way. That’s why my 2021 motto reads like an elementary school teacher’s comment on an improving student’s assignment — “Keep up the good work!”

The “work” is taking care of my physical health, going to therapy, going outside every day, keeping up my regular socially-distant hangouts and phone calls with friends and family, maintaining a healthy relationship with continued vulnerability and clear communication and regularly backing up my damn laptop. I have to do this work 1. because it helps me be my best self so I can show up for my loved ones and my community and 2. because it helps me take control. I have a hard time with uncertainty, and there’s a whole lot of uncertainty in the world these days. Regularly showing up for myself helps me feel a little more at ease, and I would love to welcome some ease into my life in the coming year.

Shelli Nicole, Culture Editor

I am not really one for New Years Resolutions of sorts but this year I think folks are up for trying just about anything to make sure next year is even just a half bit better than this one.

Amid all the chaos of 2020, I’ve been afforded time and rest, two things that I wasn’t used to having. I’m dedicated to maintaining those things from here on out. I’ve put into practice various rituals and more that bring me joy and peace, discovered new ways to work that aren’t chaotic and realized that the rest I thought I was giving my mind and body was nowhere near enough.

I am keeping rest at the top of my list and it comes in many forms, from not feeling bad or anxious for turning down projects to not minimizing things like the happiness my skincare regimen or my 10 minute special coffee make me.

I’ve always been one to choose joy, and in the upcoming year I’ll be sure to do it even more and try to encourage other black and brown people around me to do the same.

Adrian , Contributor

One of my most sincere hopes for 2020 is to reform the way I use and relate to technology, especially social media. In 2020 everything about my life was mediated through screens, and frankly it felt very bad! Yet it also felt like the only way to meaningfully connect with the outside world. I attended weddings on screens, went to class on screens, caught up with my friends on screens. I also spent hours and hours and hours scrolling through Twitter and watching old seasons of home renovation and cooking shows. Some of this was necessary or at least the best I could possibly do under the circumstances. But social media in particular is — for me, and this is not a judgement on anyone else — a time suck that leaves me feeling drained and anxious. I have convinced myself that I need these things. I need Twitter if I am going to be a Real Writer™, but the thing is, I haven’t been doing much writing. I need Facebook to keep in touch with friends from different parts of my life, but true connection happens when I write a long email or schedule a phone call.

I mostly use social media and reality TV and phone games so that I am never ever ever bored and so my brain is full of feelings about Discourse that is removed from myself and my life that I don’t have time to look at my own shit head on. It’s a coping mechanism, but one that has largely turned destructive. It keeps me from showing up for myself or doing the things I care about. I honestly doubt I’ll be deactivating my accounts, and I deleted the apps off my phone long ago. I’ll be setting a lot more Freedom blocks and using my Passion Planner more to structure my time to include work I care about and meaningful rest so I don’t have huge blocks of dead time that draw me into the latest cycle of Twitter outrage. I am still figuring out other ways to set myself up for success on this (suggestions welcome!). I know it’s not my fault. These things are literally designed to make us dependent and obsessive, and maybe I’m a fool for thinking there is a middle ground. But I’m hoping I can find a way to reset my approach so I can reclaim a few hours a day for things that actually make me happy! Fingers crossed…

Riese , Editorial & Strategy

I can show up for myself by focusing more squarely on thinking/communicating clearly and putting more genuine positivity into the world every day despite being a very cynical and depressive person. So just like, that one small thing, which I imagine will be very simple and require minimal effort! I’ve been really blessed in 2020 amid this horror to have remained employed and healthy and been able to take some time to build really strong friendships and also do some work on myself. More recently, I’ve been focused on managing anxiety spirals and owning my feelings instead of outsourcing them, which requires constant vigilance. Showing up for myself means believing that I can change if I try and want to. I need to do more meditation, I need to exercise more. I also think I might… start telling people how I feel and asking them how they feel? That’s a wild one but I’m strongly considering it. I feel so weighed down with lingering hurts and confusions, and I want to let go of it, whether that means simply dropping the concern or actually talking it out with the people involved. I’ve always been an extremely forgiving person — truly 99% of the time everybody is just doing their best and it’s really hard to understand someone’s motivations or intentions without walking many miles in their shoes so why judge? — but there were like … two people I still hadn’t forgiven, and last week I just decided to forgive them. And I feel so much lighter now! And I also feel more like myself, because holding onto that anger is not how I typically roll. The hardest thing I’ve tried to achieve this year is to like myself and believe in myself — that I’m good and generous and fun — regardless of outside validation or invalidation. To find some kind of inner core, which I’ve always lacked. Getting there would be like climbing Mount Everest for me.

Showing up for myself means when the pandemic is over that I don’t forget what it felt like to do things with my time that are not either work or socializing. Aka doing… nothing.

Also I need to plan my days better and cook more and read more so when 2021 comes around I’m not trying to read 5 books in two weeks to achieve my 25-books-a-year self-imposed goodreads reading challenge.

Stef Schwartz, Vapid Fluff Editor

Almost every year, I resolve to work towards a sustainable work/life balance, but seeing as how it may be next December before I’m properly busy with work again that isn’t gonna fly.

My adaptation to 2020 life has… not been linear. I do not enjoy idle time. Some days I am productive and pushing myself, and some days I absolutely just can’t get out of bed. There have been more of those than I’d like to admit. I have been unmoored by the isolation and absolute lack of structure in my life.

For 2021, I am working on giving myself a framework for my time, getting organized, giving myself schedules even if I don’t have much to do, setting goals and actually meeting them. I’m physically taking better care of myself and emotionally, I’m trying to give myself a fucking break. It’s hard to move past the things that are holding us back when the world doesn’t seem like it’s moving forwards at all, so right now I’m laser focused on coming out of this thing stronger than I went in.

I also would really, really like to spend less time staring at screens and more time reaching out to the people I care about and making sure they know I care about them.

Heather Hogan, Senior Writer + Editor

I’m embarrassed to say I had to Google what it means to show up for yourself, but then! When I did! I was pleased to realize that I showed up for myself more than ever in 2020! My impulse is to say that I didn’t have a choice because I got so sick that it was a last resort, but my therapist says we almost always have some kind of choice in any given situation, so I guess I did choose to show up for myself. (It’s a lot easier to show up for yourself when you’re surrounded by people who encourage you to do that and also when they model it for you by showing up for themselves, which was definitely the case for me this year.) So the three ways I’m going to keep showing up for myself, even better, in 2021 are:

1) Keep advocating for my accessibility needs, which is a new thing for me, and something that doesn’t come easy, but I am growing to realize that asking for what I need is very good for me in lots of ways. I hate inconveniencing people! Hate it! It goes against every fiber of my southern woman upbringing! But the truth is that when it comes to accessibility, the choice is often between mildly inconveniencing someone else and me not being able to function. And the worst thing that can happen when I ask for accommodation is someone can say no, and then I can say I can’t do the thing, and that’s so much better than me just trying to do something I know in my heart I can’t do and suffering for it.

2) Just not engage with people who make me feel crappy. I started doing this in 2019 by stopping my interactions cold turkey with someone who was an emotional energy vampire. It was a great decision! I have been surrounded by narcissists my entire life because my mother is a narcissist and I was raised to be a codependent extension of narcissism and I’m an easy mark. But I’m learning and growing in this area, big time in the last five years or so, and now I’m comfortable just being like, “No thank you, narcissist! Good day!” And I’m going to keep it that way, not just with narcissists but with any people who just make me feel bad in my guts.

3) I am going to prioritize my health over everything else, which means seeing whatever specialists I need to see, no matter how far I have to travel or how much they cost or how long I have to wait. And doing all the things I need to do to manage my whole chronic illness deal, even if that means not doing things I have always done and even love to do, like being the hero who swoops in and saves the day or stays up all night getting shit done or making decisions that make other people feel awesome even if they make me feel bad. This might also mean I can finally splurge on a Ninja Mixer? TBD.

Valerie Anne, Writer

This year I tried to show up for myself by letting myself find joy where I can and not feel guilty for impulse purchases or days I spent doing nothing but playing video games. Because for me, ironically, showing up for myself actually looks a lot more like leaving myself alone. I’m my own biggest bully and I need to stop giving myself a hard time for things like feeling like I’m not a good friend, for example. Because I used to be able to keep track of which of my friends are going through it and check in on them regularly, but now we’re all going through it, all the time, and I barely have energy to exist let alone check in on everyone. So showing up for myself is just doing the best I can and trusting that the people who matter most to me know I’m thinking about them and loving them even if I’m not checking in as often as I want to be.

I also know it’s a quarantine cliche (can you believe we have quarantine cliches now?) but I really do have to lay off my own self when it comes to productivity. I’m annoyed that I have technically had more time this year to work on personal projects and creative writing but haven’t done much of it, without taking into consideration that I’ve also been the most depressed I’ve been in over a decade so it’s no wonder I’m not exactly sitting around writing about space lesbians frolicking across the multiverse.

That said, I do want to start taking better care of myself, physically and mentally. I spent a lot of this year shrugging off things like excessive snacking or not moving more than the 20 steps or less it takes to get between any two rooms of my apartment. Which I think was fair. But as we move into the second calendar year of this bullshit so it’s time to start moving past surviving and try to get somewhere closer to thriving. Not snacking twice a day just because I can, not drinking wine every single night, actually getting into some kind of at-home workout routine so that when I have to walk a mile or more a day when NYC opens again it doesn’t feel like running a marathon.

I do hope to hold onto some of the things I picked up during quarantine; not wasting my time with friendships, relationships, or conversations I don’t want to be in. Being more open and vulnerable about when I’m struggling. (And maybe even someday learn how to ask for help when I need it!) Not guilting myself for “wasting money” when actually it went toward something that brought me joy. I guess just acknowledging that my joy is worth fighting for. And then doing just that.

Drew Burnett Gregory, Senior Editor

I’ve never been to a therapist who didn’t praise me for being self-aware. What I try to explain to them is I’m actually just good at pretending to be self-aware. One of them said even that correction was itself self-aware. I think the problem is “not quite knowing who I am” is a pretty core part of Who I Am. Just an endless searching, yearning, questioning. The person I am today is not the person I was a year ago and the person I’ll be a year from now is not the person I am today and at the same time all those people are very similar and maybe I’m being silly and this is literally just how we all feel. But I say this, because I guess I’m unsure how to commit to showing up for myself when I’m not quite sure who I’ll be showing up for. I could write some platitudes about exercise or mental health or positive relationships or self-care or whatever, but that all feels so empty. I show up for myself by checking in with myself, each day, each moment, and trying to figure out what I need, what the people around me need, and how I can best achieve both.

There’s this Jim Carrey movie called Yes Man that I haven’t seen about a guy who says yes to everything. I’ve sort of felt like that since moving to LA two years ago. I think what I’ve had to learn is that saying yes to oneself sometimes requires saying no to others. But I like the part where I say yes to myself. I like that I was writing a scene where some characters play soccer and thought oh I miss playing soccer so I bought a soccer ball. I like that on my walk today I stumbled upon a scooter and said yeah I’m gonna ride this scooter. These examples make me sound quite active but mostly this year I’ve been stuck inside my various rooms saying yes to myself in regards to smaller/bigger choices — how I spend my time, who I talk to, what I read and watch and listen to.

I make mistakes — my inner voice can be confusing — but it’s slowly finding clarity and I’m figuring out how to separate my true desires and values from the rest. The better I get at that the easier it is to keep saying yes to myself and saying yes to myself is showing up for myself. I guess in 2021 I’m just going to keep working on that lifelong project — a car driving through the fog of life hoping my headlights are bright enough.

lnj , Director of Operations

Coming out of 2019 and into 2020, I was acutely aware of how little I really knew about what would come, and I promised myself I’d stay open to it all, which, even in the most generalized retrospect, was surely the best outlook to have adopted for the year. I want to keep that openness, and a self-awareness of what is and isn’t in my control. I’m also learning how to create a daily routine that includes all the things I really want to do — things that have nothing to do with work or what other people need or expect from me — while also giving myself the space to not always do it. That sounds counterproductive to having a routine but a lot of my personal healing this year centered around being extremely gentle with Me, and part of that is knowing when I need space okay!

Trusting my own damn self is a constant practice, but in 2021 I want to add another dimension to that concept by trusting that I can safely trust other things, too. Which! Yikes! Yikes all around! But letting other people in or trying something new is just an extension of trusting myself — it’s believing I’m right about someone or something, and knowing I’ll be okay even if I was wrong. After 2019 and (weirdly to a lesser extent) 2020, I know what I’m capable of living through, and friends, I want to LIVE. I want to hold my little birdcage heart open and see what flies out, follow it all over the place, kick in the teeth of anything stupid enough to try to hurt it.

Reading through everyone else’s responses, it seems like we’re all kind of on the same page of taking the rather hard lessons of this year into the next, and I love that for us.

Natalie , Writer

It’s difficult thinking about how to show up for myself at this moment. I am a giver — I’ve always been someone willing to give up my time, space, energy and money to help others — and during 2020, there were just so many people that needed help. With so many still struggling, with so much loss piling up around us, it’s hard to imagine that my time would be better focused on myself.

But, as 2021 looms, I’ve come to understand how important it is to prioritize myself — to value my physical and emotional health, my creativity — because I can’t be of help to anyone else when I’m threadbare.

For me, showing up for myself means investing in my own growth. It means learning new things and reveling in the energy that comes from new experiences. It means putting the creative ideas that have been swirling around in my head for months in some tangible form. Maybe they’re for public consumption, maybe they’re just for me…but either way, I’m making space for something new. I want to grow more comfortable with failure: taking each as proof that I’m trying, not evidence that I’m inadequate.

Nico , A+ Director

Shortly after the pandemic started in March, I threw myself into our first fundraiser of the year (and I know many people here did, too). I came up for air in May and that’s when I actually had mental space to process everything that had happened for weeks which was cool because when you process everything at once you get to spiral out into a deep depressive episode. Not long after recovering from a few PTSD flare-ups, it was time to plan the next fundraiser! Which honestly, listen, this community and the ways you’ve shown up for us have given me so much joy, have brought so much meaning into a year filled with senseless loss. Overall, this year has looked like showing up for my workplace, for my community in my own small ways, but in a year where people keep talking about free time, I’ve never had less of it.

I’m very lucky for that in some ways, to be constantly occupied and never bored, but in others, this year has also led me toward leaning into patterns that made me a really great target for abusive relationships in the past; mental scripts that encourage me to shrink and where saying anything that is actually about myself throws me into a fit of anxiety. Starting later this fall, I’ve begun to finally have time to carve out for things I want to do again, in the way I did in 2018 and 2019; for my writing project outside work, for friends and family, for reading and exercising and existing, for my spiritual practice, for cooking and baking and being just playful, you know? A big way I hope to show up for myself in 2021 is to preserve the space I’ve reserved for myself to inhabit as a person. One of my favorite parts of my day is when I finish my morning prayer and head upstairs with a pot of coffee, check on my partner to see if she’s awake and wants a cup, then sit down at my desk, light a candle or some incense, and work on my personal projects for forty five minutes or an hour or so before my workday starts.

After reading everyone else’s responses, I definitely feel that screens are such a mixed bag. Sometimes, it’s been healthier for me not to be on social media, and then other times, I’m asking myself if that’s an excuse to not be a person other people can see? I had to actually talk through using Twitter with my therapist because every time I Tweet something or post on Instagram it makes me so nervous! So, showing up for myself means figuring out how to do the social media thing, to exist, to recognize that I’m good at doing work but that quietly doing work isn’t the only thing there is, and that I need to maybe not just keep Henry Darger-ing out over here, and actually share things about myself once in a while.

Rachel Kincaid, Former Managing Editor

One thing I’ve been trying hard to do in general in 2020 is have realistic expectations for people; as I’ve seen said a lot, everyone needs more right now than anyone else is capable of giving, and that isn’t anyone’s fault! And all of us have been going without a lot of things we really, non-negotiably need often while navigating intense family crises or deaths and separation and/or health problems; no one is doing ok. So I’ve been working to give everyone context & grace when someone drops out of communication, or is irritable, or needs to change plans, or needs to vent or needs more social/emotional availability than I can realistically give; all of this is so understandable and ok! It breaks my heart anytime a freelancer emails me and is fervently apologetic for missing a deadline, inevitably because a loved one is in the hospital or something on par; it’s fine! Miss the deadline!!

In 2021 I’d like to try to give myself the same gift; I’m very lucky that I’ve been mostly healthy through this and the losses to my immediate family haven’t been as intense as a lot of people I know, and I have more social support available than a lot of folks. At the same time, nothing is normal and it’s unfair to myself to expect my ~productivity~ or even day to day capacity to be normal; I want to have realistic expectations for myself at work, in my relationships, with my personal projects, with keeping in touch with people; we’re all doing our best, and that includes me, and my best is not that great some days! I want to give myself the affirmation that not accomplishing 100% of everything I hope, being the best version of myself in every waking moment, or using 24 hours in a day to ~produce~ won’t make this a wasted year; hating myself just for being a person would!

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Vanessa is a writer, a teacher, and the community editor at Autostraddle. Very hot, very fun, very weird. Find her on twitter and instagram.

Vanessa has written 404 articles for us.


  1. Gosh I love you all

    I love how thoughtful and generous you all are ~ that you want to extend that thoughtfulness and generosity to yourselves too.

    That you keep trying, and sometimes that trying looks like telling yourself it’s ok to stop, to breathe, to just be and not do, and sometimes that trying looks like going to take a walk or doing the dishes because actually that’s going to help you feel better, and sometimes (so often!) that trying is finding ways to give friends, family, community, strangers: to give grace, to give practical support, to give space, to give love.

    It’s been a hella hard year. You may be battered, bruised, heartbroken, exhausted, but you’re here and you made it through. Take a moment and feel in your bones what it is that brought you through.

    That, in the core of you, is what you are bringing into 2021. It’s yours and your gift to yourself.

    Here’s to you, stepping through in 2021 ✨💜✨


    Thank you Vanessa, thank you to all of you


    For myself, I want to take through into 2021 the ability to see beauty in the smallest things, to take time to look at a tiny mushroom growing on the moss on a tree, the way frost looks on the rough sidewalk. To keep playing music and finding how it feels to be absorbed in the now, not the then or the maybe. To not react to others from fear or exhaustion…and to not constantly judge myself by the fear of how others feel. To give myself love.

    And to take some days off as soon as it’s possible bc damnnn 3 days vacation this year was not enough

  2. I’ve just finished rereading my 2020 diary (very patchily maintained) and while it’s not fun looking back and watching myself repeatedly spiral into major depressive episodes, it’s also actually really encouraging to see the ways that I did show up for myself, or at least tried, and how I tried to be gentle on myself and how I seem to at least have a fairly good sense of what my needs are and what needs to be done, even if it’s sometimes just too hard to face actually doing those things.

    One of the things that I keep intending to do for myself every year is to develop better community ties and get some description of regular therapy happening. I don’t know how well I’ll go with the therapy in 2021, because Australia’s already facing massive problems with too many people needing therapy and not being able to get appointments – the Black Summer bushfires followed by covid is an especially bad combination – to the point where people who are acutely suicidal can’t get appointments for 6 months because there’s just no time, even with therapists working way over their previous hours, and other horror stories like that. I’m also currently living in an under-serviced rural area right near a state border, and every time the border closes down, it fucks over thousands of local people who can’t physically get to their only available healthcare providers, who are only 20mins drive away, but on the wrong side of the border. If people here keep getting slack about social distancing and covid keeps coming around again, the border nightmare will probably keep stopping and starting for all of 2021 too. So I don’t know how well I’ll go making therapy happen in 2021, but I’m trying to plan how to work on my own journalling/reflecting and goal-setting types of rituals, and set about doing more self-help research online, to try to keep things moving.

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