How 2021 made me stronger: a year in review

As we approach the end of the year I find myself taking inventory of everything I have been through. And what I have found to be the common theme this year is strength and the value of time. I have always found writing to be cathartic, which is why I chose this platform over my Youtube channel to wrap up my year. If you make it to the end of this, just know that I got nothing but love for you.

Before I get into the worst of the year, I need to recognize and express gratitude for the good. Because of everything, my relationship with my fiance is stronger and I have so much confidence in us as we approach the final months of our engagement. And also, I’d like to think that I grew as an individual, in my convictions, my beliefs and my faith. More on that later.

But if I had to start somewhere it would be around Christmas 2020. In a matter of 30 days, I moved to Mississippi, got engaged and within three days of one of the biggest moments of my life, I lost my grandfather. The only grandfather I’ve ever known. The first example of a man in my life. And as the pandemic raged, my family navigated planning a funeral. Then an insurrection happened. And then I was afraid to get on a plane. So to summarize, I was flying into New York City for a funeral, during a pandemic (I had to take a COVID test and fill out a ton of forms to enter NYC) and at a vulnerable time in our country’s history. Anxiety was on a thousand.

And then all the normal funeral things happened. And when I came home to Jackson, Joe and I would be faced with more death. For the next two months we would experience 3 more deaths in the family.

This was my first time taking pictures after coming home from the funeral. I was struggling to smile until someone rode by in a car and yelled “WERRRKK BIHHHH” and it genuinely made me laugh.

Then in February we got hit with a snow storm. Not just any snow storm, but a storm that our new home state was not prepared for. So in a matter of days (possibly hours), we lost our heat, water and electricity. Oh, and a tree limb fell on our part of our house. We. Could. Not. Catch. A. Break. PS – we had to boil water (for cooking and bathing) for about 2 weeks. This specific event really helped me to count every single blessing. Even if it’s something as simple as running water.

I just finished making this coat just before the storm. I had high hopes to wear this on all the cute dates with Joe. Instead, it kept me warm when we lost heat. And there was also the surreal moment in the grocery store where I was wearing this as I tried to find non perishable food. The stares were hilarious.

All the while, I was trying to keep my head above water with my real life job, blogging, paid projects and adjusting to living together. I was not doing well with it at all, despite the pictures. I was on autopilot but I wasn’t happy. I was failing as an insurance agent (even though the people I worked with were cool), it seemed like my contacts over my paid projects were lacking sympathy over minor infractions (or just life in general) and I was growing inconsistent with my presence on IG. So something had to give.

We’re approaching a point of inflection. This is where I felt like I had to divorce my former self. Figuratively speaking. The old me would fight to keep up appearances no matter what was happening. I never wanted to explain or seem vulnerable. To me, a deadline was firm even if I made it up myself. That’s how I was about blogging, posting and all my goals in life. The new me was like forget the rule book. I was learning to give myself more grace and take time with myself.

It was April, I cut all my hair off (I was tired of the maintenance) and I had just wrapped a seemingly lucrative project. Except my contact for the project was an absolute nightmare and she showed her true colors during the Christmas holiday where she was insistent on meeting actionables (even through a family death) that weren’t due until the Spring. I bring this up only because it significantly changed the way that I started accepting projects. I’ll come to back to that in a little bit.

I went back to the tapered cut I had when I got my first big chop 4 years ago. I made the blouse a few weeks back just before we lost power in the snow storm.

So where was I? April. I started a new job. And I was ambivalent about it, because it meant that I would have less time to sew and I wasn’t sure that I would fit in at the new place. Spoiler alert: I fit in great. But at the time, the growing pains were real. And my brain was in a serious fog. I didn’t want to make anything new and unfortunately my last paid partnership completely turned me off to working with anyone. Sewing no longer made me happy, it gave me serious anxiety. So I decided that after I completed these last partnerships that I would decline any future collabs. I simply wanted to be left alone.

And then, I had a miscarriage. And it was painful. And it happened so fast. Medically speaking, it was a chemical pregnancy. We’re still in April now, but I forget a lot of the details. I was sad a lot. And confused a lot. And I was in this place that I was in in January, where I was envious and angry at how happy everyone seemed on the internet. So I checked out again. Posting what I was ONLY obligated to post, but nothing more.

We went to Memphis for a day trip in May. It was the first time in a long time that it seemed like we had some normalcy after having an eventful first four months of the year. I made this dress the night before we left.

And by the Summer, everything began to look up. I was growing at my new job. Things really settled down for Joe and I, and we were in the thick of wedding planning. In the late Summer on the cusp of my bachelorette party, I ended a 10 year friendship with one of my bridesmaids. I was devastated. They say that you lose friends when you get married, but I wasn’t anticipating this. I miss her from time to time. And I wish her the best.

I made this dress for my bachelorette weekend. I was so excited to make it, wear it and ultimately be outside with my girls.

And as we approached Fall, I lost my sewjo for about a month. I blame grief (residual and newly found), exhaustion and down right not caring what anyone thought. I had to get back to basics. I loved sewing and engaging with the sewing community, but so much had happened and so much time had passed I wasn’t sure where I fit in anymore. So, I sketched. I took my time with sewing. I made mistakes. I had fun and pushed myself when I wanted to.

I shared these sketches on IG and it was really fun and exciting to see how many people really enjoyed the same hobby. These are some looks that I was experimenting with for our December cruise.
This jacket is my single Fall me make this year.

By September I was begging Joe to find time away from work so that we can get away for a few days. He was apprehensive at first because we’re planning a wedding and he didn’t want to divert our attention away from that. In my mind, I knew that if I didn’t have a break that I wouldn’t have the attention span needed to proceed with wedding planning. I convinced him that we needed a vacation and we booked a cruise. I knew that the trip would not only defibrillate my sewjo but also be a nice book end to a challenging year.

I was scared to share details of my trip with the sewing community -but I revealed my vacation looks little by little. It was a fine balancing act. But my anxiety was high. Our cruise was in December and even though we are both vaccinated, we still needed to provide negative tests within a narrow time period before our trip. I told my friends I wouldn’t exhale until I was on the boat.

I made this tunic style cover up for the cruise. I didn’t like it as much as time went on and ended up not bringing it.

The cruise was everything we needed. It was most definitely THE HIGHLIGHT of 2021. It was the first time Joe and I ever left the country TOGETHER. It was our first real vacation in over 2 years. And it was poetic justice considering that our April 2021 cruise was abruptly canceled in the Summer of 2020.

I made this caftan for the cruise. Deck 3 was the quietest deck on the entire cruise. What I loved most was being able to look out at the water and watch the sunset each day.

Going into 2022 I have a lot of ideas for what I want to do to make an impact in the sewing community. And God willing those ideas come to fruition.

Life has calmed down as we approach the new year. I’ve really gotten into the habit of thanking God in the peaks and (most importantly) the valleys. With the big and the small. I’ve learned to not take a lot of things for granted.

2021 has taught me to make time for what YOU want, say NO to whoever and whatever you want and stand your ground in what you know is right.

Until next time. Xo.

12 thoughts on “How 2021 made me stronger: a year in review

  1. Raven I applaud you for being so transparent. Many don’t realize what influencers go through behind the scenes. It really is an eye opener, how some collaborators just really don’t care about you, it’s the “deadline” they care about. May 2022 bring you and her future husband many blessings!
    Sis, thanks for your transparency!

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    1. Thank you so much for those kind words Jennifer! I pray blessings for you as well in 2022!

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  2. You are an Inspiration to many including Me. Nobody knew you were having all those feelings because you were the Boss of You!!! Continue. . . . Happy 2022 to You & Joe.

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    1. Thank you Neti 💕💕 Happy New Year to you too!

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  3. I’m so sorry about your losses! Glad that you are ending the year off in a better place all the way around. You made some incredible pieces despite all that you had going on.

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    1. Thank you Kesha for your kind words. Happy New year! 💕

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  4. Dear Sweet Raven, I am so sorry you had such a tough year. Thank you for sharing. We (your devoted followers) will understand your need to step back or away from time to time Take care of you.
    God bless you, Joe and your families.
    Peggy R.

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    1. Thank you for your endless support! God bless you Peggy! 💕

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  5. I admire your honesty in this post, sharing all your ups and downs, and I totally agree that you have to do what’s best for YOU first. Only then can you be of help to those around you. Thanks for sharing and all the best for 2022!

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    1. Hi Stuart thank you for reading! Thank you for the kind words. Wishing you all the best in 2022.

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  6. Wonderful year in review and what a year, plus more our world has gone through. So refreshing to hear you talk about your highs and lows. Loved the final sentences. May God continue to shine his light on you. I hope 2022 will be fruitful with many blessings. Take care x

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    1. Hi Vena, thank you for reading! I appreciate your kind words. Happy New Year and I hope 2022 brings you many blessings!

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