Thais Freitas

Storytelling & Communications Strategy

2021: My year in review

Thais Freitas and sons in Montreal in December 2021

I really don’t feel like listing everything I learned this year like I did in 2019 and 2020, so in 2021 it’ll be a review instead.

2021 started as planned

I barely remember being on maternity leave when 2021 started, it feels like years ago. I was so determined to find a new job that I started the year looking for the perfect opportunity, applying to very specific jobs and attending interviews.I was hired by Ecojustice and started working in March, two months before the end of my leave.

Because I returned to work early, Kyle went to daycare when he was only nine months old. It felt very early at first, but he got used to it from day one and loved going – he even stood at the door every morning when it was time to go, like a puppy ready for his walk. It was the best decision for both of us: he had friends and a lot more fun at daycare, and I had the opportunity to take a break since I have absolutely no inclination to be a full-time mom, even though my kids are pretty adorable.

My partner had worked at a game studio in Burnaby for three years and was still working from home because of covid. My parents came to stay with us in November 2020 and returned home at the end of February.

Life was going smoothly, then it changed

Mom came down with covid a month after returning to Brazil, back when vaccines weren’t yet available. She had mild flu symptoms and stayed home in quarantine. Shortly thereafter, my 65-year-old father developed a fever that wouldn’t go away. He was hospitalized two days later and intubated the next morning. 90% of his lungs were damaged and his chances of survival were slim.

I was so distraught and scared that I started having panic attacks because my parents were sick in Brazil while I couldn’t return home or do anything to help. I couldn’t sleep or eat and had to rely on anxiolytics to function as a parent while a whirlwind wreaked havoc in my brain. It was absolutely terrifying, and right in my first few months at Ecojustice — I even wrote about my family’s experience with covid and the support from my new team.

Dad was in the hospital for over a month and miraculously survived without any major consequences, but the whole ordeal left us scarred. As an only child, my biggest fear was always losing my parents and being alone in the world. Covid made me realize that would happen eventually, and that thought is still terrifying now that I’m an adult with a family of my own. As a result, not only did I become much more attentive to my parents’ well-being, but I also realized that I needed to understand myself better, strengthen my resilience, and work on keeping my fears under control.

If there was anything good about my father’s brush with death, it was that now my parents are more careful with their health, more mindful of their choices, and more relaxed about fulfilling their desires – Now fully vaccinated, they even traveled to Europe in November, something they had wanted to do for years but kept putting off because it was too expensive, the time wasn’t right, the flight was too long, and many other excuses. They realized that life really can end at any moment and that, as a popular Brazilian saying goes, “a coffin has no drawers to take your money underground” (actually, I just found out that some coffins do, but you get my drift.)   

How my goals for 2021 turned out

I started 2021 with five goals:

  1. Get a meaningful job I loved
  2. Eat healthier and exercise at least three times a week
  3. Keep a daily free writing practice (non-work related)    
  4. Resume counselling sessions
  5. Save more money

My main goal was to get a new job, and I achieved that. I loved every minute of my work at Ecojustice, but unfortunately I had to quit in December to move to Montreal. This radical decision — which I explain here — was largely due to our total inability to meet goal #5 while living in British Columbia and paying for childcare for two.  

Goal #4 was somehow achieved, but differently than I had planned. Instead of regular counseling sessions, I participated in a program offered by the B.C. public health for the prevention of postpartum depression. The 10 sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy were great and helped me change negative thinking patterns to keep depression under control.

Goal #3 was only 20% accomplished, as I didn’t have enough time to write consistently while working full time, running the household, and taking care of overactive boys. Considering all these obstacles, I’m satisfied that I have at least managed to journal regularly and publish this essay I wanted to write as part of my healing process after a traumatic experience. I’ve also written some nice things for Ecojustice, like a blog about how petitions can help a cause.

Finally, goal #2 was a miserable flop. I didn’t exercise enough and ate a lot of sweets and junk food because I was too anxious, tired, and/or busy to cook. I felt my overall health deteriorate significantly: frequent migraines, multiple colds, a flu that felt like I’d been hit by a truck, and an ear, nose, and throat infection that lasted for weeks and caused my voice to disappear and my ears to bleed. It’s so hard to be a parent without a support network. You don’t have time or space to recover, and being exhausted all the time doesn’t help either.

All the good things that happened in 2021 

Despite the obstacles and the fact that I didn’t meet all my goals, I’m grateful for everything that happened in 2021. I know that most of what I went through were the consequences of my own actions, such as having my kids away from Brazil and thus not having a support network; deciding to have them only two years apart; going back to work earlier, etc. Knowing that I did all of these things for important reasons – e.g., to give my children more opportunities than they’d have in Brazil, to have them closer in age so they can be friends and keep each other company, and to pursue the career I want – makes it easier for me to endure the hardships. 

2021 highlights:

  • My kids grew like weeds and it was a lot of fun watching them develop their unique personalities, sense of humour and interests. They are getting closer day by day and it’s wonderful to witness – I’ve always wanted a sibling and I’m glad they can have that.
  • Getting our covid vaccines and beginning to see a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, even if Omicron is once again complicating things.
  • My experience in environmental communications and the direction it has given me for my next career moves.
  • Despite being way too busy, I’ve managed to read 22 books, take several online courses, and continue to study the topics that interest me, like permaculture, community building, and environmental education.
  • I finally turned our neglected balcony into a little green paradise with lots of plants, a hammock, flowers and bird feeders. I planted my little edible garden and we had a great time outdoors from spring to fall.
  • We sold our condo and moved to Montreal – I was even able to survive the cross-country move with two small children and a dog mostly unscathed. New house, new province, new life… it’s all very challenging, but also very exciting!   

My goals for 2022

What I want for the new year is pretty much the same as I wanted this year:

  1. To become fully proficient in French– I studied it for four years, but haven’t had many opportunities to practise. I’ll sign up for the Frenchization programme offered by the Quebec government so that I can work in French within the next two years.
  2. Get a meaningful job I love- I’ll also consider opportunities other than regular full-time employment, such as part-time jobs and interesting freelance projects.
  3. Eat healthy and exercise three times a week- For real this time! I’ll figure out meal planning and block time in my calendar to exercise.
  4. Write regularly- At least 30 minutes every day, focusing on the book idea I’ve been nurturing for years.
  5. Resume counselling sessions- I’ll attend regular counselling sessions this time around, in part to figure out why I have the same dreams about my childhood house every night.
  6. Save more money- Now that we don’t have to pay as much for childcare, it should be easier.

At the end of the day, my goals are almost always the same, but on a different path and with different implications each year. My favourite part is always how surprising, unplanned things happen and change everything – for example, when I started 2021, I never imagined it would end with us living in Montreal, but here we are. 

Let’s see what the new year will bring —- happy 2022, everyone!

And just so the tradition doesn’t die out completely, here are a few things I learned in 2021:

  • Every choice is also a sacrifice.
  • Friendly neighbours are a true gift and local communities are so important.
  • Working remotely is all kinds of wonderful.
  • The way immigration/exchange agencies sell B.C. to potential Brazilian immigrants is so misleading.
  • Gardening = pure joy
  • I can’t figure out religion and have no clue how to guide my children in spirituality.
  • Being a pet parent is just like parenting a child. It’s also completely different.
  • We buy and keep so much more than we need, it’s obscene. Everyone should move far away with limited baggage at least once to realize all the excess crap they own.
  • I need to take better care of my health if I want to stay functional.
  • The name and function of every construction vehicle in the universe – thanks to my machine-obsessed toddler and preschooler.
  • Everything is twice as hard (or more) with kids.
  • There are many wonderful people doing wonderful things around the world, and there’s reason for hope. 
  • Buy nothing groups are the coolest thing on the internet for so many reasons.
  • Sooner or later, we end up doing many of the things we said we’d never do as parents: What, letting myyyyy toddler use an iPad just so I can have some time to myself? Neeeever! 

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