2021 has been a tumultuous year for us all. We jumped to unfounded hopeful conclusions that the troubles of 2020 would be left in the past, but they managed to slip through and follow us into another year. While I cannot speak for everyone on how their year was, and I am sure many had a tough one, be they with job losses, loss of income or livelihoods, mental health issues deriving from lockdowns, or even the loss of loved ones, I can speak for myself and I can say without doubt it has been a year of ups and downs. So I thought I would do a little recap of what I experienced in 2021, and the lessons I have learnt along the way.
The year started off expectedly – with more restrictions. But for me, it started with goals in mind for what I was hoping to achieve this year, and another article published on The Spectator Australia’s online platform Flat White. That was my second published piece. Little did I know that by the end of the year I would have a total of 36 published pieces, 17 for The Spectator and a further 19 for The Good Sauce, who I began writing for after the publication of my second piece in February. I am grateful to both publications taking a chance on a young writer with a penchant to bring back honest journalism.
In addition to writing, I began to branch out into the world of interviews, and I was privileged to take part in 5 interviews, three of which were live, the other two being pre-recorded before being published for the world to see. I was also excited to take on a new challenge in beginning my own show and was truly privileged to interview Isabel Brown from Turning Point USA. She was very generous to agree to an interview with someone just starting out in this field of media, something I will never forget. While that show will no longer continue to air on The Good Sauce, I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to have worked with them on it. I will continue to produce content for them in the form of articles throughout 2022.
However, although the show will no longer be produced by The Good Sauce, that does not mean it is over – far from it. It is only just beginning. And so it brings me the utmost excitement to announce that from January 2022 my show will return on my own platform, under a new name and with a whole range of guests. This is my next step on my journey in the media realm, and, although it will be a challenge, I am excited to see what it brings.
I was also elated to see my articles for both The Spectator and The Good Sauce in the “Most Popular” lists for each site. Several of my pieces hit number 1 and for that I must thank everyone who has taken the time to read what I write. I could not do it without the readers. Without you these articles would not be seen, let alone make it to the top articles of the day. So thank you for reading my pieces this year, and I hope you will continue to do so in 2022.
I have also continued to write pieces for my blog JJ’s Outlook, which has seen a few changes this year in design and layout. I began writing a few blog series,’ including Uncovering Christianity – Exploring The Roots Of The West and Spirit & Truth, each of which focused on aspects of religion and society. It is my hope that these have helped others in their own lives, particularly in a spiritual sense. Although I have not written any more pieces for these series for a while, I hope to continue them sporadically in 2022 and beyond. And while we are on the topic of my blog, I just want to thank each and every one of you who has visited the site and read pieces published there throughout the year. You don’t see it but there has been an increase in traffic to the site this year, which means more people are swinging by to check it out. I hope you will continue to do so in the new year, and I hope to see more people visiting throughout 2022.
Before I move on to some more person stuff, I must make note of a few people who have been on my writing and media journey with me this year. Alexandra Marshall, who also writes for The Spectator Australia and The Good Sauce among other publications took me under her wing and brought me into the fold at The Good Sauce, as well as guiding me in my writing as a political commentator/independent writer throughout the year. She also brought me on as a guest on her show, which was my first experience of an interview format, and I am grateful for that opportunity which launched me into a new part of the media realm. I must also thank Dave Pellowe, the editor of The Good Sauce, who welcomed me into the fold and included me in a number of interviews, as well as taking a chance on me with my own show on his platform. I’m also grateful to Dia Beltran, who invited me onto her show and gave me my first experience of a live interview. And finally, I am grateful to Christian Kerr, editor of The Spectator Australia’s Flat White, who took a chance on me as a young writer for a well-known publication and gave me a start in my writing career. Unfortunately Christian tragically and unexpectedly passed away in November, and so I want to take this chance to express my condolences to his family and friends, and to say that I will always remember that he was the first person to publish one of my pieces.
Now onto personal stuff. I think the last year has again brought to light what matters most in our lives and has taught us what we should value above all else. For me, despite the chaos of life, lockdowns, and restrictions, I was able to continue to grow in my faith, which has kept me going throughout the most difficult of times. I was glad to be able to attend Masses at my Parish, especially at Easter and Christmas, and to help in providing a nice farewell to our parish priest, who has now retired. During the times of lockdowns when churches were closed, I was grateful to be able to tune into online Masses with Fr. Rob Galea (his homilies are really something special).
Many of you know I also teach Scripture in state primary schools, a ministry I became involved with in the latter part of 2018. I began this year with 36 Year 6 students, a pretty big number for one teacher to handle on their own. The class ended up being split in two after a few weeks, and I ended up with around 18 students to guide in the faith. I must say, although it is nerve-wracking to teach a class of students, given you become responsible for them actually learning – you have to prepare lessons that are fruitful and help them to engage with the subject – it is an enriching experience that I would highly recommend to anyone wanting to continue in the deepening of their own faith. You learn from the kids just as much as they learn from you. Unfortunately, I only got two terms with my students before Gladys decided to lock us all down again, and we never returned to Scripture for the remainder of the year. Although I did not get to teach them all I had hoped to teach them, nor wish them all the best in their future endeavours, I hope that from the little time we got to spend together they were able to grow in their faith and that they will continue to do so as they start this next chapter of their lives in high school.
Unfortunately, given the absolutely nonsensical mandates on those teaching in schools, I will not be permitted to go back to Scripture teaching in 2022 due to my choice not to take the vaccine. This is extremely disappointing, and I have voiced this disappointment to coordinators of Special Religious Education (SRE), including the head of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD), who is in charge of SRE across the Diocese. The only response I received was that they were following the orders of the Department of Education to “keep people safe.” It is regrettable that Christians would not do more to stick up for their fellow Christians. It is something I have noticed increasingly over the last year, and I must say that I do not think Jesus would have excluded people because of their vaccination status. I hope things may change in 2022, but I do not expect them to, and as someone who liked having that routine of helping students each week, I will miss it in 2022. I hope Christians will stop letting the government dictate their faith lives and support each other better.
This year was also a year of loss for me in other ways. My great aunt suddenly passed away earlier in the year, and it left the family in a bit of a shock. Aunty Agnes was much loved by her extended family, and we will always remember her for being such a kind soul. Her curry puffs will forever be missed at family gatherings, as will her bright spirit and her many stories of her travels and her fondness for languages.
In August, we got to see my nan in Queensland over Zoom to wish her a happy birthday. It was so nice to see her face again, to have a bit of a chat. But things can really change in an instant, and that afternoon she was taken to hospital. It seemed that she was picking up and would return to the aged care facility she resided in toward the end of the following week, yet tragically things took a turn for the worse and she began rapidly declining. Even more heartbreaking was that most of the family is located in either NSW or Victoria, meaning we could not be by her side to say goodbye. Only one of her six children lived nearby, my Uncle Mark, and we are so grateful for all he did looking after her and being there with her in her final days, as well as speaking on the family’s behalf at the funeral which we were only able to attend via video link. We will all miss nan very much. I will always remember her every time a new Compare The Meerkat ad comes on the television. She loved those little guys.
I think it is poignant to note on this that there is something truly cruel about keeping family apart in the darkest of hours. I cannot imagine how many others have had to go through this same thing over the past two years. I had to say goodbye to my nan, someone who I was close with and cared for very much, over a video call on a mobile phone. I would not wish what happened to my family on anyone, not even my worst enemy. But I want to say this to the government and politicians and health bureaucrats that imposed the absurd rules that kept my family apart when my nan was coming to the end of her life: I will never forget what you have done to people in this country. You are cruel, you are heartless, and you have no shame. What you have done, what you continue to do, is truly evil. People do not forget things like that easily. Shame on each and every one of you who allow these atrocities to continue to be brought upon good people.
In the midst of everything that went on this year, I completed another year of study at university, bringing me closer to finishing my degree. Given I have been going nonstop for around twelve to fifteen months, I decided to take a short break for one study period and will resume my studies in March for my final year. At this stage, I am likely to finish my degree around February 2023. I have enjoyed the last year of study, learning a lot more about the mediasphere, and gaining knowledge on media law. I also have some exciting writing prospects coming up which I will talk a bit more about in the new year.
As for work, I have continued to work my job as a groundskeeper, a job I have been fortunate to have for over 7 years now, and which I still enjoy. I also had the opportunity to do some work for DPF Sales Australia and was grateful to do so. In terms of job prospects for the new year, those tie in with writing prospects, so I will leave those for discussion in 2022.
And just a quick mental health update (given I have been pretty open about this aspect of my life over the past couple of years), I have found myself doing quite well throughout 2021. Although there have been a number of ups and downs, I can say that I am in a better place now than I was in 2019 and 2020. By no means does that mean I am cured, but I’m doing better and that’s what matters.
There is so much more I could say, but I don’t want to make this too long. So I’ll wrap this up by providing a few final thoughts for the year. 2021 has taught us that we cannot take anything for granted. We only have a limited time on this Earth, and so we must choose to use it wisely and use it well. We must also search out those things that are most valuable and learn to value them deeply. It may be something as simple as family or friends, or something as complex as happiness or love. Over the last month in particular, I have borne witness to people around me in states of pure joy which in turn have brought a smile to my face and my heart. Just imagine how much better this world could be if we were all able to experience this and help others to do the same, rather than falling victim to the corruption of division.
There is an old saying – if you’re going through hell, keep going. I used to be confused by this phrase. I used to think “if someone is going through hell, why would they want to stay there? Why would they want to keep going through it? Wouldn’t they want to escape?” But now I understand. Our personal hells shape us into better people. They help us to learn and to grow. After all, diamonds are made under pressure. And there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You just have to keep going to get there.
The last two years have been chaotic and hellish for many, but we have to keep going if we are every going to get through this. And along the way, we must stop to appreciate the small beauties in life. I can say from personal experience that although these last couple of years have been challenging, there have been moments in which I have found joy lighting up my heart. Whether it be a beautiful sunset, seeing people happy together, seeing your dog do something very adorable, or whatever else may bring even a moment of joy to your life, take hold of it. Live in the moment. Because that will re-energise you and help you to continue on your way through this insane journey we call life.
Thanks for all the support in 2021, especially to all my family and friends, and may God Bless you all with a safe and happy New Year in 2022.