Wrapping up 2021


Lauren Brace

A collage of some of my favorite memories from 2021

On Dec. 31st, she made a late-night purchase: a product that was immediately attractive with its bright, promising colors and shiny, exciting appearances. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision, and despite there being no prior reviews, something told her that there was no possible way that she could live without it. 

The packaging didn’t give her any clue as to what would await her inside; however, she couldn’t resist the alluring popularity of 2021.

Now, she has possessed this item for nearly a year, and she has been tasked with wrapping it up and sending the package on its merry way for someone else to enjoy. After sifting through mountains of bags, boxes, and bedazzled wrapping paper, she couldn’t find just one packaging material that would do the year justice. 

After YouTube tutorial videos failed her too, she realized that it was time to become creative.

January was able to be packaged neatly into a small blue box. Everything about the month radiated with simplicity and lack of excitement. Yet, the packaging still displayed her favorite color as it contained an exciting milestone: her 16th birthday. With this aspect of the gift, she was shown a world of freedom and wonder, the freedom that she didn’t even know that she needed and craved.

The day after she got her license was the worst blizzard of the year; the roads were unrecognizable, the winds were blinding, and yet she was forced to make the trek to her high school to take her 10th-grade PSAT. She let her twin sister drive that day. 

February was wrapped up in snowflakes, containing a whirlwind of emotions and a storm of in-person and online school. Although she had a trip to Boyne Mountain skiing down the slopes, her calendar was left largely empty. 

March was almost left out of the gift: a jumble of ribbon that never found its true place in the year. The flashbacks to 2020 were constantly present, and Odyssey of the Mind was practically the only exciting event she had to talk about. 

Instead of hitting the ground running, she skidded to a stagnant halt, left to focus on herself, her goals, and her future.

April came as a surprise, wrapped in cellophane that allowed everyone to see past her facade. She began with a much-needed spring break, traveling to national parks from Bryce Canyon to Joshua Tree. However, she was too wrapped in her own selfish ideas of fun to truly enjoy the majority of it. Looking back, she should have embraced the adventures of the unknown, but she was the only one to blame for her disappointment.

Her AP U.S. History exam was coming up: an exam that she had overworked herself to do well on; she continued to push through, determined to cram every piece of information she could into her brain to later spill onto the exam. The topic consumed the lives of her friends. All anyone could talk about was their first-ever AP exam. Thinking back, it probably just made everyone more stressed than they needed to be. 

May was consumed with a variety of stripes: lines that marked the beginning and end of important year milestones. She charged ahead on her first AP exam, ending a year of stress and studying-consumed weekends. Never before had she felt so proud for challenging herself more than she thought she was capable of.

She began the final steps to finishing her sophomore year—a time of cancellations, but also a time for incredible self-improvement and discovery. 

June was wrapped in confetti and excitement; she never took a single day for granted. The summer was heating up with fun activities, including an Odyssey of the Mind World Finals vacation to Florida. 

It was a stressful, incredible, eye-opening experience in which she got to share a house with some of her best friends and participate in her favorite competition. Afterward, the fun continued with break-out rooms, board games, and visits with old friends. Right off the bat, she was able to jump-start her summer with the vacation of a lifetime. 

June was wrapped in confetti and excitement; she never took a single day for granted.”

With this piece of the 2021 gift, she was able to experience what it was like to live out the teenage dream with the freedom of driving and hanging out with friends and family nearly every day. Despite all the life that she still had to live, a part of her wanted to re-live unwrapping this present over and over.

July was wrapped in polka dots—little blips of the hustle and bustle jobs that consumed that later half of her summer. Still, she thrived in the joys of babysitting and the other tasks that she volunteered herself for. 

The month granted her even more opportunities to get together with friends, and thankfully, her sister convinced her to seize that opportunity for all it was worth. 

August arrived, and she plastered on a smile. The summer was wonderful, but her junior year awaited her like ominous clouds approaching from afar. She knew a storm was coming, and instead of running away, she opened her arms to let the rain pour down on her. 

She became a section leader during band camp, and she embraced the role full-heartedly. With August, she discovered her continued love for playing her instrument and helping others. The colors on the trees began to change, signifying the beginning of her favorite season. 

Football games, new classes, and new friends galore came with the start of school. The previous yearly gifts had prepared her for this moment, and for the first time, she became an upperclassman. 

September was covered in chants and music notes. The concerts that September allowed her to attend immersed her once again in her love for music and performance. Her best friend introduced her to what it was like to be a fan of “The Big House” of the University of Michigan. 

Homecoming arrived right on schedule, and this aspect of the gift surprised her with a spectacular Homecoming junior victory and dance that pushed her far out of her comfort zone.

October rolled around in bubble wrap, and she couldn’t wait to pop off the days and be rid of the monotonous cycle of school. She became a member of the National Honors Society and tested her abilities with tutoring. 

A fun Cuyahoga Scenic Railroad trip popped out of nowhere, and she cherished the ability to bond with her cousins and family. 

The yellow brick road ribbon hung from the present, as she and her friends became members of The Wizard of Oz for Halloween. October showed her the joys of dressing up while reminding her of the incredible friendships that she had.

November was happily welcomed, decked out in plain-colored but beautiful feathers. She had found a love for her new and greatest obsession: The Central Trend. Overall, the month flew by and she was able to get a jump start in the preparation for December with a much-needed Thanksgiving break.

December came, as usual, wrapped in red and green. The month granted her a festive peace as she unraveled the final moments of the yearly gift. The holiday cheer is abundant in 2021, and she looks forward to all the family laughs and giggles. 

At last, she may get the temptation to order one of these strange packages again, except this time, it’ll have a different label: 2022. The only promise that the ad displays is the beginning of her high school senior year, a thought that makes her both hesitant and excited to add 2022 to her cart. 

Overall, she experienced lots of growth as a person despite the beginning of the year being overshadowed by the lack of activity. Whatever the next year will bring, she’s excited to store all the joy from 2021 into its own uniquely colored paper and bows, cherishing both the highlights and the downfalls.