'There are only two forces in the world, the sword and the spirit. In the long run the sword will always be conquered by the spirit," said Napoleon Bonaparte. At least, he is supposed to have said it - who really knows, right?
But the words capture the essence of what has happened in many parts of the world in 2011, especially in the Arab World, where all the bottled-up frustration finally exploded and the spirit revolted after decades of living under the shadow of the sword.
It was also the year of the woman that saw the Yemeni activist Tawakkol Karman, share the Nobel Peace Prize with two other women, both from Liberia. Ms Karman, the first Arab woman to win the prize, represented the voices of protesting women from all walks of life that braved the streets.
A less-talked about milestone for women was Brazil's first female president Dilma Rousseff becoming the first woman to open the UN General Assembly. Women's voices have finally been heard in the powerful venues traditionally dominated by men.
There isn't enough space to recap all of the news of 2011, from the death of Osama bin Laden to the gruesome end of Libya's Muammar Qaddafi, the end of the US military presence in Iraq, natural disasters and the euro crisis, and perhaps the most fluffy news story of year, the royal marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton. The growing power of Twitter and the role of social media networks in writing history were also themes for the year.
But all the social media, in my opinion, has got out of control and I'm not surprised by studies showing that frequent users are often suffering from depression and loneliness.
Enough has been written on the "Arab Spring", but clearly there is a summer of hardship that will be felt before we see new hope blooming in the region. From what I have heard from family and friends that live in or have connections to the countries in turmoil, many are suffering in some way or another, particularly financially amid the economic crisis.
"After 50 years, the baker downstairs closed down his bakery, declaring bankruptcy," my Lebanese grandmother told me the other day. I used to visit that bakery to say hello and get a free bag of kaak, or Syrian breadsticks.
It was symbolic of how everything we knew and took for granted has changed. Perhaps if it had been a more gradual change, we wouldn't be so worried about what may come.
"Hold on to whatever you have right now, for it may change tomorrow," advises my grandmother.
We have become used to a predictable way of life, good for some and bad for others. In so many ways, 2011 broke down that old order.
In March, I was waiting to board a plane at Dubai airport to visit Japan, my first trip there, when my father called to tell me about the earthquake and tsunami. My trip for work was actually supposed to include a tour of nuclear power plants. The journalist in me still wanted to go, but something had changed in my personal life. I have to be more responsible and take care of my family struggling with illness this year.
Like many, I have had to change my priorities. It is like a bubble has burst and reality has finally caught up with me. I have to put "me" and my adventures on hold. We have to grow up and take responsibility for our lives.
There is another saying attributed to Napoleon: "Soldiers generally win battles; generals get credit for them." It will be interesting to see in the coming months and years who ends up getting the credit - or blame - for all of the changes of 2011.