Man oh man, 2021… did you kick my butt! This time of year, I like to look back and recap the previous 12 months, share some stats, let you know where my head is at professionally and personally, and share some of my favorite content, so that’s what we’re going to get into in this look back at 2021.
Let’s start with the present and see where we end up… 2021 was a great year for Oui In France. I stayed busy and worked hard. But it was a disaster for my personal life and my hardest year yet.
This Christmas season marks a decade of living in France. WOW, TEN YEARS! This year was also the first year where I spent more than two weeks in the U.S. but for reasons I wish weren’t the reality. Since I moved abroad, Tom and I would visit family in the U.S. for a max of two weeks because we had to get back to work and Dagny and that’s how it was.
But this year, my mom’s cancer got progressively worse (as did another relative’s) and I wanted to be there for them and my family. I spent a month and a half in Florida in early summer and then again in early fall. Both relatives unfortunately passed away, my mom in October. I wouldn’t wish cancer on my worst enemy.
This whole time has been a whirlwind. The fog of grief is making it hard for me to think back before October when my whole world came crashing down. It’s like nothing else matters and nothing ever will.
Looking back on my time in Florida, I am so incredibly grateful my job and life situation allowed me to just pick up and leave. Twice. I’m devastated by the losses I’ve suffered this year but at the same time, it has brought me peace knowing I was able to be there when it mattered most. That was a gift I’ll never take for granted and a regret I’d probably never get over if I hadn’t been able to go.
My mom’s birthday is December 23. Was. I’m still celebrating it. Mine is New Year’s Eve. Christmas is in the middle and it’s going to be a difficult one. That’s how life goes…
I’m putting this stuff out in the open because I want to be real with you about what I’m going through. It also helps me heal to get my thoughts out of my physical body and into the universe, like a burden that’s lifted. But it’s scary to open up at the lowest, most difficult moment of my life. Regardless, grief is a real part of life and I hope you can’t relate — but maybe you can.
The side effects of grief have been surprising in some ways (I stupidly didn’t anticipate the physical ones!) and uncharted territory. I’m still discovering the way forward one day at a time and can’t do much beyond that. Still.
My grief is something I can’t expect anyone to understand unless they’ve gone through it themselves. Even if you’ve lost a parent, our relationships and experiences are still very different and unique to us. So no one really “gets” it and that’s isolating and frustrating.
I don’t feel like a victim. I don’t feel like, “Why me?” I don’t feel woe is me either. I feel sad and know I will for a while. No one should lose their mom in their 30s. I needed her here longer. I need her still. That said, I know I’m incredibly fortunate so I try to let that guide me even though the “now” is terrible.
A well-intentioned comment that I can’t fault anyone for making is, “So glad you’re doing better!” I’ve seen it a few times now in the comments of a video where I’m smiling and acting normal. I’m not going to show up crying my eyes out and baring my soul on video. No one signed up for that. But I understand the comment. You seem fine, so you are, right?
The truth is I’m not doing “better.” I put the word in quotes because I don’t even know what it means. I can get up, sure, get dressed, do my job, run my errands and act normal. But appearances can be deceiving. I can take an hour to film an upbeat YouTube video and forget about my grief for a bit, no problem.
But am I “better?” No way.
My mom is dead and will be for the rest of my life. You don’t get past that. You don’t move on or go back to normal. I’ve learned that you don’t move on from grief; you move forward with it. It’s a part of me now as I navigate whatever the rest of my life has in store for me. A life I’ll live without my mom. It’s devastating to me to think of that and it hits me all different ways about 10 times every. single. day.
A handful of friends I used to talk to regularly have been silent. Hurtfully so. “Busy” I guess. People I talk to regularly tiptoe around the elephant in the room. People don’t know what to say. Or if they should say anything. They say the wrong things. They say the right things. They have given me space although I haven’t asked for it and space is probably the least helpful thing.
Here’s a funny one. Someone my mom used to know saw something on FB after my mom died that made her think maybe my mom wasn’t doing well, so she left my mom a voice message “just checking in,” although they hadn’t connected in 6 years. I let her know my mom passed away via a text back, and despite seeing the read receipt on her iPhone, she never even replied or said anything at all after I confirmed the news. What in the actual f.
Other people said weird things. I’ve given them all the benefit of the doubt but in the days just after my mom passed, none of them felt good on the receiving end. Telling me I’m an orphan (uhm my dad is thankfully still here). That the grief never gets better. That it will always hurt. That at least I got to say goodbye.
I have so many emotions. I have so much to say. I have nothing left.
The most relatable and helpful book I’ve read, which I have mentioned before, is It’s OK that you’re not OK (thank you again, Kristin, for the rec). Author Megan Devine gets the whole grief thing in a way that makes me feel, dare I say it… better? I feel seen. Get it if you’re grieving or if someone close to you is. Really, it’s that on point.
Doom and gloom aside, what has helped me? Your support and kind words. It means so much to know that people out there care. Even if I couldn’t reply to your comment, know they were all seen and appreciated.
Also, my daily red light therapy has been amazing. I’m going to write more about that in the coming months but red light devices are SO good for improved sleep, skin health, inflammation, muscle soreness, and so much more. Game changer, I tell ya. I hard about it from my mom actually. This is a brand I recommend (5% off w/code Ouiinfrance if you’ve been in the market for one).
Despite it all, I’m hanging on. Things could of course be worse. But knowing that doesn’t make anything feel lighter. My fully vaccinated father got Covid just before Thanksgiving and spent Thanksgiving alone. I had moments of panic and extreme anxiety scared to death he would end up on a vent and die. Thank goodness that didn’t happen and he is ok, aside from still not being able to taste or smell.
Tom and I have not had Covid (yet) but it’s probably just a matter of time, as cases are on the rise in France. I got my booster last week and am crossing my fingers.
I find things to smile at. I smile at the good memories. Tom and Dagny make me happy. Talking to people I trust helps. I find solace in my workouts, as I always have. I’ll get through this. I have to believe that.
Anyway, enough about that. This isn’t turning into a grief blog, but my grief is a part of me and this is my personal blog. We’ll see what I feel like writing about as time goes on.
I honestly don’t remember what I did earlier this year. I’m going to keep writing and will check my phone for what I did before May and continue below.
Let’s shift gears.
On the blog
Normally, I do a recap of the top 10 most-read posts I published along with some stats, so since I’m a creature of habit, let’s stick to the plan.
This year, I published 37 posts. 51% of my readers were in the U.S. 66% of you are female. 28% of you are between 25 and 34 years old.
Here are the most-read posts on Oui In France published in 2021 (with 1 being the most popular):
10. 5 Tips for being vegetarian in France & what it’s taught me about French culture (guest post)
4. Galeries Lafayette rooftop: Best view in Paris?
3. Pros and cons of living in France that matter most to me
2. Coucou meaning in English: What to know about this informal hello
Then I put out some other posts that weren’t quite as popular but that were meaningful to me:
Why I’m turning my mom’s ashes into a diamond: No explanation needed why this one is at the top of my list.
The problematic “If you hate France, go home!” attitude: Feeling like I’m not alone is one of the best feelings I can have if I’m struggling. In this post, so many of you said you identified with what I wrote about and it’s something that felt good to write.
Are you a highly sensitive person too?: Many of you reached out to me privately to tell me how interesting you found this post. Some of you were even fellow HSPs who didn’t realize there was a term for those of us who feel deeply.
Don’t move to France if…: A real-talk post with practical advice and things to think about before making the big move.
Another thing I did this year was put out two eBooks. My first is all about lifestyle blogging for beginners and the second is 75 Beginner France travel tips for a standout trip.
I hope you’ll take a look at them both!
What does 2022 hold for the blog? More of sharing and connecting with you in the way the feels right to me. I’ll share a mix of personal posts with practical advice about life in France and visiting France and everything else that feels good to share.
Blogging has always felt right and is something I have always loved, so nothing has changed there.
This year was my busiest yet. My channel is at nearly 70k subscribers and I published 69 videos (including shorts) in 2021. Typing that feels crazy because until I actually counted, I didn’t realize it was that many.
As a creator, I’m super happy with the content I’ve put out this year. That said, YouTube is a hustle and a grind and I hate that aspect of it. I put a lot of pressure on myself to constantly create and it’s extremely stressful.
Unfortunately, the content I was the most proud of was not the content that performed well. It’s a mystery why certain videos do well and others don’t. Some of my content performed miserably, and sadly two of the videos I put the most time, effort, and money into were a flop.
I think the average YouTube consumer vastly underestimates the time that goes into producing videos. They see the 8-minute finished product and don’t realize all the work that goes on behind the scenes — even for simple-seeming videos. Especially when you do everything yourself for the most part and don’t have a team behind you.
To give you an idea of a “simple” talking head video workflow, there’s brainstorming, scripting, setting up the shot, filming the video, editing the video, creating the thumbnail and description, promotion and more.
In terms of volume, I put out a video a week (plus shorts) every single week this year, not even taking a break when my mom passed away. It’s been… exhausting. So come January, I‘m taking a vacation from YouTube to regroup and recharge. But I won’t be away for long I don’t think. 😉 I plan on taking a more relaxed approach to content creation in 2022. Spinning my wheels is not synonymous with working smart and I am not putting pressure on myself to create, especially when videos don’t perform like you’d hoped.
Top-performing videos in terms of views that I put out in 2021:
6. American habits I lost after moving abroad // 45k views
5. French language basics that don’t exist in English // 45k views
4. 23 Little things that are different in France // 58k views
3. Very normal French things that would never work in the USA // 105k views
2. 9 France faux pas to avoid! // 125k views
1. Culture shock: Going to the doctor in France // 950k views
Videos that I’m the most proud of as a creator:
My Beillevaire series: Although neither one performed very well, I’m so proud of the work I did here showing hard-working French folks who take pride in their jobs. It’s videos like these that make me feel fulfilled as a creator (let’s be real, I love busting out the drone too, come on). It’s content like this where I show French people doing their thing that feels authentically me and that I’m on the right path and keeps me going and energized.
But truth be told, when videos don’t perform well, it makes it harder for me to make content like that for you because it’s just too expensive, in terms of actual money and also my energy and time. I made a whopping $19 from the first video in this series and that wouldn’t even cover the gas for me to drive there. I realize that I’m preaching to the choir because if you’re reading this, you’re probably someone who watched the videos and is a fan of what I do, so just know I appreciate it.
French pharmacy behind-the-scenes: This video also didn’t perform super well but I am so happy with it. I love the interviews, the products, everything. It was fulfilling as a creator to make something that shows French pharmacy culture in a way the average consumer doesn’t often see.
Fun fact: Do you notice that my faves here aren’t just me talking to the camera and were videos where you don’t see much of me at all? That’s not a coincidence. Despite the fact that I’ve been on YouTube awhile, I still am super uncomfortable talking to the camera for talking head style videos. I think I always will be. It gets easier but it’s hard to put yourself out there in video form, making yourself vulnerable and opening yourself up to criticism from all angles. What’s funny is that my top 6 best-performing videos this year (except for 1), were all talking head videos where it was me talking to the camera.
If you’ve enjoyed any of the content I’ve put out, it would mean everything to me if you shared it with someone who might love it too. Emailing or texting the link to a friend, hitting the share button on social media really does help me. So as an early birthday present to me, would you help me out in that department? Here’s more on why your support is so important and ways to support bloggers you love without spending a cent.
The earlier part of 2021
As I write this, I’m looking back at my Instagram feed to see how the year started off. Seriously could not recall.
Okkkkk, now I remember.
I did a virtual photo shoot with one of my closest friends who is also a fabulous photographer. Carolina photographed our wedding too. Anyway, from your smartphone, she can shoot amazing shots at a distance anywhere in the world. It makes an awesome and affordable last-minute gift as well. She does singles, couples, families, whatever and will direct you every step of the way.
Then Tom, Dagny, and I went to Pornic on the Atlantic Coast for a weekend away. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. 😉
Later in the year, in between my two trips to Florida, we got away to Brittany, stopping first in Vannes and heading up Dinard, one of my favorite places.
Midyear, I started experimenting with reels on Instagram. The jury is still out. Do you like them? Not sure if they’re cool or a waste of time.
And one of the best memories I have, although I celebrated from afar, was Dagny’s 10th birthday party. She had a “pawty” and was thoroughly spoiled with a meat and vegetable “cake” that my father-in-law lovingly prepared.
What does the last part of 2021 hold? I’m staying put and just trying to take it day by day. Thinking of what I’m doing even past just tomorrow seems overwhelming.
Here’s something totally random. This stuff makes me happy so I’m sharing. I’ve been meaning to tell you about this (and plan to do a full review in January) but life has gotten in the way. Anyway, let me introduce you to these indestructible tights from Sheertex. I got my first pair last year and just wore them the other day in an upcoming video (it’s a sweet video that I hope you love).
Basically, Sheertex hosiery will not run, rip, or become unwearable in any way. Really. You can pull them up with superhuman force and thy won’t rip. No, they aren’t cheap, but costs add up when you get two wears out of cheaper tights that end up in the trash a few times each season. I would go through 5 or 6 pairs or regular tights every season due to my nails going through them or snagging them on something. If you wear tights or hosiery of any kind more than once a month, you need these in your wardrobe.
Sheertex tights come in an extensive range of sizes and styles to suit every body and taste. Sheertex for the win, ladies. You get a $20 discount with my link here. They’re based in Montreal but offer free worldwide shipping.
Also, do any of you out there save your nice things for a special occasion or refuse to wear your nice clothes/shoes/jewelry because you’re afraid to mess them up?
So they stay in your closet or in a drawer, never seeing the light of day? I have this problem and my dad is the same way so I probably learned it over the years. I have beautiful clothes and boots and other things I don’t wear or haven’t even taken the tags off of because I’m too afraid I’ll drop some oily food on that nice sweater, or step in dog poop, or mess up in some way.
With you as my witness, I’m making an honest effort to change that this year. Life is meant to be lived and I’m going to bust out my nice things. The hell with oily food and dog poop. And I plan on wearing more jewelry, like my mom did, to be more like her. My neighbors aren’t going to recognize me hahaha.
OK, this 2021 recap is coming in at over 3,000 words, so let me leave it there. If you made it this far, thank you. I’m wishing you and your loved ones the very best this holiday season and always. Whether you’re a longtime reader or this is the first post of mine you’ve read, I appreciate you being here. Merci!
Previous year-end wrap-ups: