Looking back over the last twelve months, it can be hard to sift through the rubble to find the good. Most notable events didn’t lean that way: Russia invading Ukraine, volatile political shifts and reduced personal freedom in many countries, record-breaking heatwaves and droughts around the world, devastating floods in Pakistan, and the collapse of the Conger ice shelf in East Antarctica, a 450-square-mile chunk of ice in a part of the continent that was previously thought to be less vulnerable to climate change.
Many pop culture moments were also marred by unpleasantness of one kind or another. An award-winning actor slapped a comedian onstage at the Oscars. A billionaire rapper continued his years-long meltdown and lost most of his fortune. An NBA All-Star was sanctioned for persistent antisemitism. Even the Queen died. And yet, there were some bright spots. Instagram is still full of dog reels. Brittney Griner was finally released after ten months of Russian detainment. The world discovered Wordle.
The Rare Bird team—we call ourselves the Flock—enjoyed many movies (The Northman; The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent; Everything Everywhere All at Once; Top Gun: Maverick), TV shows (Better Call Saul, Only Murders in the Building, Andor, Limitless with Chris Hemsworth), and podcasts (Smartless, among many others). And who would guess that so many of us would read and enjoy Dave Grohl’s The Storyteller?
Year-end articles that tried to take a more positive spin had to focus on individuals to convey narratives about human generosity, achievement, or redemption, such as figure skater Nathan Chen winning gold at the Winter Olympics, or the viral GoFundMe campaign—which eventually raised more than $400,000—for a man who had not missed a Burger King shift in 27 years.
Such articles reveal one truth: When the state of the world makes you uneasy, you need a different approach. Try looking beyond the immediate strife and focus on the Big Picture. How remarkable are the jaw-dropping images of deep space delivered by the James Webb Space Telescope? Or the fact that more than one private company is sending civilians into orbit? NASA’s planetary defense prototype, DART, redirected an asteroid almost seven million miles away from Earth. Space-related advancements happen so fast that it’s easy to forget—and thus take for granted—that Perseverance is still roving around Mars, at least until its battery dies.
Once you look beyond our world for inspiration, the next move might be to look more deeply within, to keep close those small moments of joy and to focus on lessons learned amid the ceaseless hum of daily life.
In that spirit, we asked the Flock to share what they’ve learned this year. What follows is a lightly edited version of their sage, ambitious, and sometimes silly advice.
At the crossroads of change, consult directions (a pro/con list) and then just hit the gas (rely on intuition).—Nichole
I learned how to drywall, how to lay tile, how to vent a bathroom fan out your roof, and how to change a circuit breaker. I also learned that I don’t enjoy those first two things, but don’t mind the second two.—Brad
This year I learned that :pinched_fingers::skin-tone-3: is my favorite emoji and can be used in almost any message.—Kyle
I learned the importance of accepting help and leaning on others when needed. As someone who has always been so many things to so many people, I’ve found it difficult to delegate tasks so that I can practice self-care. But after having surgery earlier this year, I realized that I could not do it all by myself and that it was okay to lean on the people who were there to help me through my recovery—my family and my Rare Bird team.—Kimberly
I learned to take time to slow down and let life hit me, rather than always rushing forward to escape confronting the rigors of everyday existence. Peace can be found in letting the full weight of life wash over you and still trusting that everything is going to be okay.—Josiah
It’s never too late to start over.—Andrew
I learned that neomycin (Neosporin) was Allergen of the Year in 2010, and that 10% of the population is allergic—including me. I was poisoning myself for two months before figuring out what was causing my massive, uncomfortable skin rash.—Tom
No plan survives contact with the enemy.—Jim
I learned how to grow jalapeños, and how not to grow tomatoes.—Pete
Even if you can’t follow trail signs, as long as you keep walking, you’ll always end up where you’re heading.—Justin
I learned that the world needs to pay more attention to mental health.—Ashley
As Bette Davis once said: Getting old ain’t for sissies. I’m trying to take life a little bit easier as I ease into my golden years, and to truly appreciate the ones you love and the ones who love you.—Sarah
I was reminded not to put things off for too long. If there’s something you really want to do, do it. If you wait too long, you may never get the chance.—Troy
This year I learned how to better communicate/translate research and data to clients who are not as knowledgeable on the subject.—Kyle
I learned to appreciate even more the value of hard work, and I continue to learn that no work is inherently better than another; rather, any and all hard work should be appreciated, regardless.—Doug
Nothing lasts forever. Things will always change no matter how long they last. For better or worse, the change itself should not define you or your mood. It’s all in your hands. Look up. If you have life, you have a chance to make something awesome happen.—Robert
There’s always someone who can do it better, faster, and with more confidence. Find your way into their orbit, admire them, and practice what you learned in your next challenge.—Nichole
Find people who see the real you; walk away from those who refuse to even look.—Andrew