These past few days, I have been reflecting on the past year and the upcoming year.

How 2020 has been both good and bad, illuminating and uncertain. How 2021 is projected to be the year that saves us all–but how can an abstract concept like a year on a calendar save us from another abstract year that destroyed us, separated us, brought us closer together?

I guess we just need something on which to blame pain and salvation.

As I’ve been reflecting on my experiences this year and the experiences I want to have in the upcoming year, I wanted this post to focus on the importance of reflecting on the past in order to value the present and envision the future.

Yet, as I sit here at my computer desk, I’m wary of how to start this. So, kind of jokingly and kind of not, I ask my brother (who has been chilling on my bed for the past 20 minutes) what I should write about.

A few seconds pass. Then he says, “Turtles.”

Then he says I should put this:

“Turtles so green, but then again not so clean.

They swallow our straws, and that’s why we’re losing them all.”

Courtesy of my brother–this brilliant rhyme to rival that of Shakespeare.

We laugh it off, of course. It’s just another day of silliness for us.

But really, I started thinking about how turtles can be an apt metaphor for seeing the old year part and the new year arrive.

I thought of a book I read earlier this year–Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline–and how one of the two orphan girls spotlighted in the book used turtles as a metaphor to relate to her situation of constantly having to move in and out of foster homes.

Turtles carry everything they need in their shells, she believes. She carries everything in her own shell, the very few personal belongings and memories that travel with her from home to home.

I think, in a way, we are all turtles with our own shells.

2020 has given us a lot of baggage, to say the least. For some of us, all the baggage is bad. For some of us, it’s both bad and good.

More than likely, we will stuff all the baggage into our shells, carrying memories and belongings and burdens into the new year, where we will collect more baggage to carry into the following year.

This is why it is so important to take time at the end of each year to reflect.

Reflect on the memories, the moods, the people, the experiences, the seasons, the likes, the dislikes, the food, the culture, the good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly.

What has 2020 brought you?

So far, I have written down in my journal 52 things 2020 has brought me. These include peaceful memories, beautiful moments, and negative experiences. Things I want to continue and things I want to change.

I see which baggage I want to keep in my shell and carry over with me to next year, and I see which baggage I want to dump and leave behind in 2020.

After you reflect on the past, then reflect on the future and what baggage you want to carry with you. Reflect on the habits, experiences, memories, feelings, and moods you want to keep in 2021. What do you desire to see in 2021?

I wrote down 19 things that I want to continue in 2021. I want to draw nearer to God. I want to grow more. I want to see a happier me–a me who treasures growth and the present moment.

Reflecting is a difficult process, just like carrying baggage around in our shells is a difficult process. Reflecting does not have to be a chore, though, just as baggage does not have to be a negative term.

Reflecting can be a process that leaves you feeling whole and cleansed. Baggage can be feelings of positivity and memories that we carry around.

So, fellow turtle . . . what will you carry in your shell into 2021?

Reflecting and cleaning out my shell,

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