Happy New Year, everyone!
Trying to compare 2021 and 2020 is like trying to compare apples and oranges. While 2020 was, undoubtedly, a year filled with trauma and devastating losses and plenty of uncertainty- 2021 saw some light at the end of the tunnel and some sporadic glimmers of hope throughout- even if we were and still are dealing with COVID-19, political and civil unrest, financial hardships, natural disasters sparked by global warming, etc., etc.
This entire year wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, of course- no year every truly is- and there were plenty of notable low points throughout 2021, which I think was to be expected. The loss of loved ones and longtime family friends, the anniversaries and reminders of tragic dates and untimely departures, sporadic health scares and the occasional injuries- and unexpected financial setbacks and expenses- but those were mercifully spaced out and not at all common in the grand scheme of 2021 and for that I am eternally grateful.
Honestly, there was no feasible way 2021 could have been any worse than last year was. Anything good or positive that happened over these past twelve months was a significant improvement and a small victory in my book- so I will happily and unapologetically go ahead and say that overall I enjoyed 2021 a great deal and it deserves a thorough review and a proper farewell before we head into 2022- which is exactly what this post is for.
The first few months of 2021 were very similar to the final months of 2020. Although I rang in the New Year as fancy and over-the-top as I could in Newport, Rhode Island– I was still working from home full-time, still avoiding large groups of people by practicing social distancing and visiting different restaurants, attractions, museums, etc. by myself to pass the time and get through New England’s harshest months. Whenever I was unable to avoid social distancing- I would put myself into a mandatory 14-day quarantine to play it safe. It was what I had gotten accustomed to doing in 2020, and I figured it would last forever.
However, the Spring of 2021 saw me getting both of my vaccinations for COVID-19, which paved the way for me to reconnect with my friends and family (many of whom I hadn’t seen since before the pandemic started,) go out and enjoy movies and restaurants more comfortably again, and make up for the time and travel opportunities I lost in 2020 with spontaneous trips to Las Vegas (trips, plural!), Texas (Part I and Part II), Pennsylvania, Delaware and Chicago among many others- and all around New England, of course. Most recently, I traveled to Maryland to visit Andrew and the kids leading up to Christmas Eve now that they’re living on the same coast as me!
I was able to attend live shows and music festivals again, return to my office for the first time in over a year, and just generally feel a sense of much-missed normalcy after such an extended and tumultuous period of time.
This past year also saw me advancing in my full-time career, returning to my beloved radio gig at indie617 (albeit still remotely right now!), building upon and strengthening valuable and important relationships in my life once social distancing and mandatory quarantines were no longer an issue- and collaborating with artists, businesses and brands after the COVID-19 restrictions were lifted a little and we’d all gotten our necessary shots to keep ourselves and others safe. Just in time for ‘Coffee & Chiffon’ to surpass 250 posts since it’s inception last year, coincidentally enough!
So with only a few hours left of 2021, and before I get into what I’m doing for New Year’s Eve this year to celebrate in my own little way and talk about the goals I have set for myself for 2022 as I prepare to head into the new year as optimistically and as motivated as possible- I think it’s important to talk about 2021 as a whole. The shocking news headlines, the pop culture phenomenons, the game-changers and bizarre moments- and everything in-between.
This is all of it- the good, the bad and the very, very strange. This was 2021.
You didn’t think we were done with this, did you?: Much like my recap of 2020, there was no way to talk about 2021 without talking about what is still undoubtedly the biggest headline of the past (nearly) two years- the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. While 2020 was very much a “no end to this nightmare in sight” kind of year, 2021 saw a glimmer of hope in the form of the development and widespread release/distribution of vaccinations.
Once fully vaccinated and protected from COVID-19 and the variants that were discovered this year- like Delta and Omicron- many people were able to reconnect with friends and loved ones, congregate in large groups and return to some form of normalcy again after nearly fifteen months of social distancing, quarantining and for many- soul-crushing isolation. Music venues, movie theaters, offices, museums and restaurants could finally open back up to full capacity with little to no restrictions- and it seemed for a fleeting moment that we were going to get through this ordeal once and for all.
Of course, conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers/maskers made sure to try (and unfortunately often succeeded) in ruining it for everyone else. Whether it was violent outbursts on airlines, temper tantrums in grocery stores, spreading dangerous misinformation on forums and social media- or going as far as to make fake vaccination cards or lie about their vaccination status- these most selfish of unhinged lunatics and inconsiderate crybabies were hell-bent on keeping us in lockdown for as long as possible rather than do something as simple and as painless as getting a shot to protect themselves and the most vulnerable in their communities.
Darwinism often dealt with these people, of course- as it always does- whether it was because they were attempting to battle COVID-19 by ingesting horse dewormer medication because a guy on a podcast told them to, slathering themselves with essential oils or chugging detox teas, etc., etc. If it wasn’t the side effects of whatever nonsense they were doing that made them sick- then it was definitely COVID- and it was often an unbelievably harsh lesson to learn for the ones that survived it.
At this juncture, nobody knows what’s in store for 2022 as this pandemic goes on- but the one thing we do know is that the vaccines work, they are safe and effective, and getting yours will allow you to live your life (key word is “live,” by the way. Very important) like you would have pre-COVID. It’s a no brainer- and frustrating that people would not only refuse it, but purposefully spread propaganda to dissuade others from protecting themselves and their loved ones by getting their vaccinations and/or boosters.
Hard to believe none of these people had to go to work that day: 2021 kicked off in one of the most wild of ways as early as January 6th- when, after being goaded by former Prosident Donald Trump during a nearby rally- a mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol in Washington D.C. in an attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 Presidential election. When the rioters managed to breach security and enter the building- officials and staff were either evacuated or forced into hiding as their offices and the Senate chamber were looted and vandalized during the seven hour occupancy and until some order could be restored once reinforcements arrived.
Outside of the Capitol, gallows had been constructed and homemade bombs had been located near the complex- making the violent intent of the riot and those who were participating pretty clear.
At the end of the ordeal, and in the weeks/months that followed- five people had died and hundreds more were injured in varying degrees of severity- including multiple police officers. Given that the insurrection occurred in broad daylight and in front of many, many cameras- it didn’t take long for participants to be identified (many by friends and family members who recognized them in footage/photos and notified authorities- and still others simply by openly bragging about their activity on social media,) arrested and tried for numerous crimes. Near the end of 2021, early convictions started to roll in for many of the insurrectionists- some with lengthy prison sentences.
Oh, and the election results weren’t overturned despite all the effort- so there’s the cherry on top.
How many trials did we tune into this year?: Given how 2020’s COVID-19-related quarantines and closures delayed pretty much everything- I don’t think it came as much of a surprise to anyone that many of the anticipated trials for high profile cases that occurred within the last couple of years were pushed into and subsequently began in 2021. As a result, there were many days this year that so many of us were glued to our phones or televisions to watch gripping and harrowing witness testimony and await the announcements of very important verdicts.
Some were long overdue, like the convictions of Derek Chauvin, R. Kelly and Robert Durst- among many others who got away with their crimes for an alarmingly long period of time before being held accountable- while still others felt like a gross miscarriage of justice, like the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse (who should face additional charges for that fake-crying face alone) or the overturning of the prison sentence for serial rapist Bill Cosby as a result of a technicality.
2021 was a year of both elation with the judicial system on certain days, and crippling disappointment with it on others- and with the trials of Ghislaine Maxwell recently wrapping up just days ago and Elizabeth Holmes’ still in progress- it looks like 2022 might be another year filled with plenty of divisive courtroom drama.
Social Media sort of helped solve a crime that took the nation by storm: In the Late Summer/Early Fall of 2021, after returning to their shared home in Florida following a cross-country road trip to the Pacific Northwest, the nation’s eyes slowly turned towards a young man named Brian Laundrie when word got out that he’d come back from the trip without his fiancé- 22 year old Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito- an aspiring influencer who had been documenting their trip for social media and seemingly disappeared into thin air over the course of the journey.
Suspicions rose when Laundrie not only failed to contact authorities or Petito’s family in the days and then weeks following her disappearance- but immediately retained a lawyer, instead. A nation-wide search for Petito began, with more and more disturbing details coming to light- including cryptic social media posts, witness testimony from those who had seen the two on the road, and bodycam footage from police who had pulled the couple over following a report of a domestic disturbance where Laundrie had allegedly been assaulting Petito outside of a co-op.
And given how much people obsess over all things True Crime- it didn’t take long at all for social media sleuths to jump all over the bizarre nature of the then-unsolved case. This ultimately resulted in another “vlogger” couple who had been documenting their road trip in the same area to review DashCam footage from a leg of their journey where they had passed by Petito and Laundrie’s vehicle parked on the side of a desolate road in Wyoming. This footage ultimately helped lead authorities to Petito’s remains- which had been dumped not far from where the vehicle was spotted in the recording. Her death was ruled a homicide.
Shortly after Laundrie was named a person of interest and a warrant was finally issued for his arrest- he, too- went missing, sparking yet another national manhunt with multiple and unsubstantiated tips/sightings. It took weeks, but his remains were eventually discovered not far from his parents’ home where he had reportedly committed suicide.
In the wake of Petito’s case- both her family and the families of those who have also been searching for missing loved ones heavily criticized the media’s obsession and fixation on a young, attractive white woman’s disappearance while failing to report on missing indigenous women and missing women of color around the country. The Gabby Petito Foundation, established by her parents and still in it’s early developmental stages at the time I’m writing this- strives to assist others in their search for their missing family members and friends.
Can geriatric men please stop hating women and mind their own business? Pretty please?: In a devastating blow to both womens’ and reproductive rights, September of 2021 saw the Supreme Court vote to allow the state of Texas to proceed with their enforcement of a law that would make any and all abortions illegal if a pregnancy was determined to be beyond six weeks of development- even in cases of rape, incest and domestic abuse.
As any woman or anyone with a basic understanding of how the female body works could tell you- this ruling forces a significantly small and unreasonable window of time to undergo any procedures since most women don’t find out they’re actually pregnant until well after six weeks when symptoms often begin to present themselves or become noticeable for the first time.
The law caused many women to head over state lines to seek care, while still many others who did not have the luxury or the means to travel beyond Texas’ borders were left with minimal and potentially dangerous options. Hotlines were developed by overzealous watchdogs to report women seeking what they considered “illegal” abortions- although they were almost immediately flooded to capacity with prank calls to thwart their efforts in detaining or penalizing women seeking safe procedures. The usual untrue and gratuitously gruesome propaganda has made the rounds as it always does- and politicians who supported the ruling did little to nothing at all to hide their utter contempt for women everywhere.
Since then, we’ve seen similar efforts to overthrow Roe v. Wade in other, more conservative states- with Alabama and Mississippi being the most recent- and the ruling sets a dangerous precedent for how women and the choices they make about their own bodies and futures will be considered or respected in this country moving forward.
She’s Free, Bitch!: In more positive and upbeat news, 2021 saw the 13-year long conservatorship over Britney Spears at the hands of her money-hungry father and his equally greedy family & associates finally come to an end after a tumultuous series of court hearings, heartbreaking first-hand accounts of what she’d endured, and an eye-opening documentary that pushed the #FreeBritney movement further into the spotlight.
First established in 2008 following a string of concerning behavior and outbursts- and only made worse by both gossip sites/magazines and paparazzi who incessantly stalked and hounded the performer and young mother at the time- the conservatorship was to be temporary and was maintained by Britney’s father, Jamie Spears. However, it gradually became permanent and as the years went on- Britney was reportedly forced to work against her will or wishes while simultaneously being denied access to her own funds and choices in her own medical care.
When she was finally able to speak about her desire for the conservatorship to end during a hearing in June- Britney detailed the ongoing emotional, mental and physical abuse she had suffered- including being forced to work extensive hours and perform multiple shows per day/week, being administered extremely powerful drugs and sedatives when she did not want to comply, and not being allowed to get married to her partner or have her IUD removed after it was implemented without her consent.
The documentary ‘Framing Britney Spears’, which was released earlier this year not only covered the bizarre and troubling circumstances around the conservatorship being enforced in the first place and upheld for as long as it had been- but also chronicled the many ways the media played a significant part in Spears’ public mental health break and the misogynistic exploitation and over-sexualization of many other female figures at the time her star was rising.
In November, the conservatorship was terminated- and Britney has been reportedly living her best life ever since- including finally being able to address and call out those who had caused her distress leading up to and during her ordeal without fear of punishment or censorship.
You LOVE to see it!
This F*cking Guy: In February of 2021, Winter Storm Uri made it’s way across the United States- resulting in frigid temperatures, heavy snowfall and in some parts of the country- widespread tornado outbreaks. It was Texas, however, that took the brunt of the storm’s fury when millions were left without power, heat or water after a catastrophic electrical grid failure, further exacerbated by poor preparation with winterizing crucial power sources around the state.
As damages began piling up well into the billions and the death toll in the state surpassed 200 from mass cases of hypothermia and carbon monoxide poisonings as Texans struggled to stay warm and fed- Senator and possible Zodiac Killer Ted Cruz took the opportunity to flee with his family (leaving their small dog behind in a house without power) to Cancun, Mexico. Once spotted during the flight and heavily criticized for leaving the state during a major crisis and an ongoing pandemic, Cruz returned to Texas on the same day and proceeded to throw his young daughters under the bus- claiming they had begged him to go on the trip despite leaked text messages from Cruz’s wife indicating otherwise.
Rescue and recovery efforts were greatly hindered by additional storms that rolled through the state shortly thereafter, and multiple organizations, celebrities and politicians began bringing supplies to affected areas and raising money for damages in the days and weeks that followed.
By March of 2021, legislation was passed to update Texas’ power grid system- including proper winterization for critical gas facilities to prevent future mass outages in extreme weather.
We said goodbye, as we do every year…: Without fail, and just like every year that has come before it- 2021 saw us bidding farewell to icons, heroes, inspirations and artists we loved and looked up to. Some of the deaths, simply from old age/natural causes- were not particularly shocking or unexpected but still sad nonetheless, i.e. Charlie Watts, Larry King and Christopher Plummer- all of whom lived long lives with successful careers that spanned multiple decades.
Others, however- felt like they came completely out of the blue and were the result of battles with long-standing illnesses or tragic accidents. 2021 was the year we lost Norm Macdonald, Dustin Diamond, DMX and Helen McCrory- among any others who seemed to leave us well before their time.
Prior to my publishing this, it was announced that both Jean-Marc Vallée and John Madden had passed away just a couple of days apart from one another- much to my and many others’ dismay- and I’m truly hoping we don’t start 2022 with any more depressing news and/or departures.
This happened- and caused renters everywhere to re-evaluate the safety of their structures: In June of 2021, in the late hours of the night/early morning, the 12-story Champlain Towers South beachside condominium in Miami, Florida partially collapsed- killing 98 people and injuring multiple others as rescue teams scrambled to both evacuate the remaining part of the structure and search for survivors.
An investigation found that the concrete structural support on the ground level (in the parking garage under the apartments) had been badly eroded due to heavy water damage and corrosion of the steel beams- which was noted during inspections as far back as 2018 and was deemed way more hazardous just a couple of months before the collapse. Despite these warnings, no work was performed to correct the issues/reduce the damages or risks.
For over a week, the nation watched updates on search and recovery efforts. Events in and around Miami were cancelled during searches and cleanup of the area as a sign of respect for those who had perished. Among those who had died in the collapse was the sister of Paraguay’s First Lady- who had lived in the apartments with her husband and children.
The collapse was deemed the third-deadliest structural engineering failure in United States- and lawsuits by both survivors and families of the deceased are currently pending.
This Fall saw two high profiled accidents as the result of gross negligence: In October of 2021, it was reported that there had been an accidental shooting on the set of Alec Baldwin’s Western movie, ‘Rust,’ which had been in production in New Mexico at the time of the incident. A prop gun Baldwin was holding between takes discharged a live round- fatally wounding cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injuring director Joel Souza.
The incident, alarmingly similar to what had happened to Brandon Lee on the set of ‘The Crow’ immediately sparked debates about safety within the film industry and the necessity of real firearms on sets. Active investigations were and are still underway- including into the professionalism of the property key assistant and armorer, as well as the assistant director- both of whom have had prior complaints lodged against them for their inability to follow safety protocols on-set.
No one has been arrested or charged with any crimes at the time of my publishing this.
Weeks later in Houston, Texas during Travis Scott’s Astroworld Festival- 10 people were killed and hundreds more were injured during a mass crowd crush event due to overcrowding and poor security measures as Scott took the stage to perform. Although video from the event shows multiple concert-goers pleading with crew members and security to stop the show as it had quickly become apparent that something was wrong when the crowd surged forward and no one could move- nothing was done and the performance continued through completion.
Lawsuits are, unsurprisingly, pending- including many against Scott himself for failing to stop the show and/or attempt to control the crowd while paramedics struggled to reach those in cardiac arrest and distress.
I anticipate both of these stories will have more updates by 2022.
While I’m sure there are many people out there who will argue that plenty of other major news stories/headlines deserved to make the cut for this wrap-up as well- these were the big ones for me and the stories I followed most closely! This was, in my opinion, 2021 at a glance- although there were a few other random odds and ends that I feel should be properly highlighted, as well.
From billionaires in space, to cryptocurrency confusion and a revolving door of game show hosts- these were the Honorable Mentions of 2021!
– Billionaires! In Spaaaaace!: While the majority of the world continued to struggle through COVID-19 and the absolute devastation this pandemic has caused on a global scale, billionaires were spending exorbitant amounts of their money to fly into space for brief periods of time in what was called the ‘Billionaire Space Race.’
Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson- the most prominent participants in this competition- all took turns with their respective space exploration projects to try to outdo the others and their competitors throughout the Summer of 2021- with Branson’s July 11th journey with Virgin Galactic ultimately being declared the most successful of the launches. Given how impressive Virgin America (RIP) used to be- I’m not surprised.
– We were all so bored that watching a canal get blocked was peak entertainment: In March of this year, with little to nothing else to do apart from continuing to work remotely and socially distance- a container ship getting stuck in the Suez Canal in Egypt turned into peak entertainment and the inspiration for memes for nearly a week. The Ever Green, a particularly large ship that was passing through the canal while en route to the Netherlands, was reportedly knocked off course due to strong winds. It became stuck- sideways- in the canal- preventing any traffic from passing through for days.
Nearly a week later, the ship was re-floated and corrected so that it could proceed through the canal- and the hundreds of ships that followed were finally back on course. For a brief period of time, though- the world felt united as we watched it all unfold.
– We had like, 30 Jeopardy! hosts: Following the death of Alex Trebek in 2020, there was speculation and predictions into who would potentially take his place as the full-time host of Jeopardy! While a suitable replacement was considered, the show saw a string of guest hosts- including Anderson Cooper, LeVar Burton, and Aaron Rodgers. Some hosts seemed to do well, while others cracked under the pressure.
When producer Mike Richards was announced as Trebek’s successor in August of this year, it didn’t take long for past controversial statements and comments he had made on multiple forums to come to light- and he was instead replaced by Mayim Bialik and Ken Jennings- who will co-host the show through the Summer of 2022.
– Who knew GameStop would teach us about the stock market?: In January of 2021, Reddit users who had gotten wind of GameStop stock being the target of short-selling immediately jumped in to buy shares in high quantities- driving up the value and resulting in multiple short sellers, investment firms and hedge funds losing thousands of dollars- and some even losing millions. Trading applications, like Robinhood, ultimately halted the selling of shares- which caused a significant amount of backlash from those who demanded to know why the savvy stockbrokers on Wall Street could use such tactics to make money- but regular people could not.
Watching it all play out in real-time, and learning a little more about the system as it happened- was not only entertaining but educational, too.
– YASS Queens!: With the belated Summer Olympics taking place this year and all eyes on the Women’s Gymnastics Team, it was star gymnast Simone Biles that made headlines when she withdrew from the team and the competition to focus on her mental health after nearly injuring herself during her routine. Biles was candid about her struggles and the toll the intense pressure and scrutiny she was under were taking on her health- mentally, emotionally and physically.
Her revelation came after a similar withdrawal took place from the French Open, where Naomi Osaka stepped down- also citing mental health struggles. While both women faced some criticism and backlash for their decisions- the praise for their choices and openness in discussing them to raise awareness was far greater- and started a dialogue into how female athletes are treated by the press.
– Does anyone actually know what a NFT is yet?: And finally, I saved the most asinine thing for last. NFTs (non-fungible token)– a MLM-like scheme if I ever heard one, took everyone by storm this year, whether it be because they were seriously interested in investing or if they were just laughing at the fallout whenever someone’s’ investment didn’t quite pay off.
The often hideous avatars, which went up for sale and were supposed to be a completely unique piece of “art” for buyers to own- were no match for the dreaded right-click-save by multiple people who didn’t feel like shelling out the money to buy something that really didn’t look all that unique to begin with.
I can’t wait to see if they fizzle out by 2022.
And that’s a wrap! Well, almost…
I’m bidding a fond farewell to 2021 and welcoming 2022 in style once again- this time in Stockbridge, Massachusetts- where I’ll be indulging in a multi-course dinner, some champagne and a cozy night by the fire at a historic inn for a little “staycation” in the Berkshires. I’m looking forward to being pampered, doing some shopping, and taking in the scenery of one of the most picturesque towns in New England.
I’ve compiled a small list of New Year’s Resolutions- which of course include the usual things like eating better/exercising more and generally taking better care of myself, as well as saving more money- but I had a few more specific things to add to my goals for the upcoming year.
1. Update My Wardrobe: This past year saw me doing a serious overhaul of my closet and storage bin, gifting or donating a ton of clothes that I no longer wore or outgrew- and leaving me with pretty much the bare necessities for work and leisure. It’s been minimal and easy, sure- but a little boring- and I’ve found myself wanting to refresh my style and my wardrobe again with new pieces, updated accessories and unique patterns/textures.
I’ve recently enlisted the help of a stylist to assist me in this endeavor- and she’s got an eye for both flashy AND classy stuff- so I’m really excited to see what her and I can come up with that’s within my budget!
I’m sure I’ll be showing things off in my OOTD/Outfit of The Day posts in 2022!
2. Get More Involved in My Community: I’ve been living in the Pioneer Valley for over two years now, with a significant portion of it spent in isolation due to COVID-19. With things open and events taking place again (for now, anyway)– I’d really like to do more within my community and the neighboring towns- be it helping those in need, participating in some of the gatherings and celebrations we occasionally have, supporting more local businesses and experiencing more of the art/performances from those who have continued to create during the pandemic.
I live in a breathtakingly beautiful part of New England and in 2022 I really want to experience it to the fullest!
3. Pay Down Loans/Bills/Etc.: I received a promotion at my full-time job this year, and it’s been crucial in not only keeping my bills paid and putting food in my apartment- but giving me the freedom to travel more, buy my friends and family nice things and so on. I’m beyond grateful- especially considering so many people have lost so much during the pandemic- and I strive to continue to do my job well in 2022.
I’m also aiming to pay down remaining loans I have this coming year now that I have more of the means to do so. My student loan (yuck!), car payment and the remaining balances on a couple of credit cards I’ve had over the past 2-3 years? I’m hoping to say goodbye to them by the time we reach 2023!
4. Scratch a Few More Places Off My Travel “To-Do” List: 2021 saw me traveling way more than I ever thought I would- to new and familiar places alike-and I’m really hoping I can keep that going in 2022. I have a list of destinations I want to visit in the next few years, and I’m aiming to scratch a few more places off of that list in the months ahead.
Disneyland? Dollywood? New Orleans? I’ve been prepping and planning and keeping an eye on any restrictions/rules/regulation changes so that I know when and where I can go when the time is right- and I look forward to writing all about it!
And that is that- 2021- a year to remember! This review has taken me weeks to put together, but I’ve really enjoyed looking back (with the exception of the less-fun-to-write-about stories, of course) on this past year and reflecting on how the world has changed, how I’ve grown and evolved in what feels like such a short amount of time- and making plans for the future- even if the future can feel a little uncertain these days.
I’m going to be taking the next few days off, and returning mid-next week with a recap of my New Year’s Eve/Day/Weekend and (hopefully) plenty of photos from my stay in Stockbridge!
I hope that each and every single one of you have a wonderful New Year’s and that despite the ongoing pandemic- you’re able to do something fun, or relaxing, or silly- or maybe a little bit of all three if that’s your preference. Stay safe out there and look after one another.
Much love to you all, and I’ll see you in 2022!
– Ashley –