Reflection: Who Do You See?
We do not learn from experience… We learn from reflecting on experience.
Last week I looked ahead and shared some of my goals for 2022, particularly in the realm of my journey with voiceover. As I’ve said before, goals are important. They help us create focus for our lives and give us something to strive for. In my estimation, though, goals are only one side of the coin. If looking forward and creating milestones for ourselves is so imperative for success, so too, I would argue, is taking the time to look back and reflect on what we’ve experienced leading up to the present. Just as the New Year is a perfectly convenient time to set new goals for the future, it also allows for a wonderful opportunity to reflect back on what we’ve achieved and what has impacted us.
Until recently, I wasn’t a person who took goal-setting very seriously. I would come up with a few vague ideas of things I’d maybe kind of like to accomplish in the year ahead, but that was pretty much the extent of it. That said, I don’t have concrete goals from 2021 to refer back to and assess any level of success or failure. However, a friend at a New Year’s Eve party asked me what my favorite book, film, tv show, podcast, etc. was from the past year, and that got me thinking. I do think it’s beneficial—not to mention fun—to think back on some of the media I’ve engaged with in the last twelve months. Not only does media have the potential to be incredibly impactful in our lives—stories have power, after all—but when you take a look at the bigger picture of what you “consume” over time, it can be striking in the way in which it paints a picture of your personality. It reflects what you enjoy, what you value, and, from a certain perspective, who you are.
So, with those thought nuggets in mind, I want to take you on another journey—this time a journey through time to share some of my highlights of 2021! Buckle up and, please, if you are prone to time-travel sickness, a barf bag can be located under your seat. Let’s go!
Note: Not everything that follows was released in 2021; all of it, however, is content that I read, watched, or listened to in 2021.
My wife and I are avid readers, and I mean avid. It’s pretty much our number one past time and our go to activity when we can relax. In fact, my reading goal may have been my only concrete goal for 2021. I wanted to read 100 books this year—as I managed 97 in 2020—but I didn’t account for how much becoming a father, changing my day job, and breaking into voiceover would impact my ability to read for leisure. Still, I’d say 88 books in 2021 is pretty good.
In terms of non-fiction, the most influential book I read in 2021 was The Universal Christ by Richard Rohr. I’ve been in an extended season of deconstruction, for lack of a better term, in regards to my faith recently—and for those who are curious, no that does not mean I’ve lost my faith; it simply means I’m trying to explore and expand it from new perspectives—and Rohr’s exploration of the figure of Christ and how that both is and is not synonymous with Jesus was fascinating. I really appreciated this new (to me) perspective, as it gave me a much grander and deeper understanding of who Christ is and what Jesus sought to accomplish as he manifested Christ on earth.
Honorable mentions: The Making of Biblical Womanhood by Beth Allison Barr, The Bible Tells Me So by Peter Enns, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum, The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, and Inspired by Rachel Held Evans
As much as I enjoy reading non-fiction for all the ways it helps me learn about important topics and grow in very practical ways, fiction, particularly fantasy and sci-fi, is my bread and butter. Remember, I’m a huge nerd. That said, I read a lot of fantastical stories. They are my little avenues of escape and respite when life is stressful. I have a difficult time choosing a favorite, but Senlin Ascends (and the other Books of Babel) by Josiah Bancroft are undoubtedly high up on my list. The series tells the story of Thomas Senlin, a prim and proper schoolmaster. Though he is the least likely candidate for adventure, he dreams of traveling to and witnessing the technological wonders of the Tower of Babel. After getting married, he finds himself on the honeymoon of his dreams—an exploration of the Tower’s lower ringdoms with his new bride. Being quickly separated from his wife, however, he must face the mysteries of the Tower alone in an attempt to find his wife and bring her home safely. The series is full of whimsy, a colorful cast of characters, and contains some of the best character development I’ve read in a long time. I highly, highly recommend checking these books out.
Honorable mentions: Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson, The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, The Order by Ryder Lyne, Tehanu by Ursula K. Le Guin, and Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
Being deeply embedded in the world of podcasts, my wife finally got me into them a couple of years ago. As with my reading interests, I enjoy a variety of different podcast topics. From fantasy discussions to board game reviews, voiceover tips to spiritual influence, podcasts have become one of my favorite ways to add a little something to my morning run or the time spent washing the dishes. The most impactful podcast I listened to in 2021 would easily be the Almost Heretical Podcast. Hosted by two guys who have been burned by the evangelical church, the podcast is a series of discussions on various subjects and/or biblical topics that are either generally ignored, taboo, or both. Like The Universal Christ, this podcast opened my eyes to new ways of understanding my Christian faith and helped me grow in the ability to dissect my spiritual beliefs, rather than simply believing everything I’ve been taught at face value. While I don’t agree with all the conclusions made throughout the podcast, I am appreciative of the way it helped me become a more critical thinker, particularly in an area of my life I have taken for granted for so long.
Honorable mentions: The Bible for Normal People Podcast, The Legendarium Podcast, The Voice-Over Roadmap Podcast, Mythical Monsters Podcast, and Lore Podcast
Film & TV
I don’t watch nearly as many movies and tv shows as I did when I was a bachelor, but I do still thoroughly enjoy the storytelling of both mediums. We also don’t often see movies in the theater anymore (both because of pandemic concerns and the fact that our nearest theater is two hours away…), so we often have to wait until new ones are available to purchase digitally or are on a streaming service we have access to. As a HUGE Marvel nerd, 2021 was an incredible year for new movie and television content. I have no doubt that Spider-Man: No Way Home would be my favorite film of the year, but alas, I haven’t been able to see it yet—so please, NO SPOILERS! With so much great Marvel goodness (especially after the extremely dry year that was 2020), I was surprised to reflect back and realize that Disney’s Cruella was probably my favorite film of the year, simply because of how much it surprised me with a quality story. Who would have thought that the relatively flat and uninteresting villain from 101 Dalmatians would provide a solid foundation for an unexpectedly interesting, fun, and humorous rags to riches story? Well done, Disney; these are the live-action films you ought to keep making!
As for television, how do I choose? WandaVision was so bizarre and different, breathing new life into the MCU. Loki singlehandedly blew my mind with how big an impact it had on the greater Marvel universe as a whole. Hawkeye was an unexpected holiday romp that I didn’t know I was craving. Obligatory nod to Marvel aside, though, one of the best miniseries I watched in 2021 was Netflix’s Maid based on the memoir of the same title by Stephanie Land. It tells the true story of a young mother who works as a maid to care for her daughter as she strives to escape from an abusive relationship. It was one of those stories that helped me experience life from another person’s point of view. I watched this one alongside my wife and we ended up having meaningful conversations after each episode. It was a heartbreaking series to watch, but one that left us desiring to be more aware of our views on poverty and domestic violence. Viewer discretion advised if either of those topics are a trigger for you.
Honorable mentions: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Encanto, Luca, Raya and the Last Dragon, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (Disney +), The Bad Batch (Disney +), The Good Place (Netflix), Merlin (Netflix), and Sherlock (BBC, Netflix)
And because I’m sentimental and want to prove that I do in fact reflect on more than just media, I wanted to share my top three experiences from 2021. In no particular order, they are:
· Celebrating our fourth wedding anniversary with my wife. We have a favorite spot in South Africa at which we love to spend a couple of nights away for our anniversary. Due to pandemic lockdowns in 2020, we were unable to go to our regular getaway, so it was like a sweet little homecoming to be able to return there in 2021.
· Traveling to the US for my sister’s wedding. Not only was it wonderful to spend some time Stateside and witness my sister marry her best friend, I also loved every moment I was able to spend with extended family who I haven’t seen in years.
· Planning and executing the 2021 Holiday Extravaganza! Okay, I literally just named it that, but that’s what it felt like in hindsight. From Thanksgiving, to Christmas, to New Year’s Eve, our family hosted, fêted, and splurged through the holiday season. We made countless memories together as a family and we had so much fun doing it.
As I reflect on what I’ve taken in and experienced in the past year, I can honestly say I like what I see. I see a fun-loving, sentimental, story-driven nerd who values relationships, believes in self-improvement, and is willing to strike out on new adventures.
What were some of your highlights from 2021? Is it a year you’ll look back on fondly, or are you rip roarin’ ready to go into 2022? Who do you see when you look back on the past year? Regardless of what kind of year 2021 was for you, I hope you can reflect back, pull out some gems, and know that they will help you be better, achieve more, and experience 2022 and beyond to the fullest.
Until next time, friends, keep telling stories.
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