2017 Year in Review
So 2017 didn’t quite end up being the step-function shift that 2016 brought, but was still a year to be proud of.
Journaling. I jumped on the journaling bandwagon in March and managed to find a routine that allowed me to mostly stick with it throughout the year. Here’s what worked for me:
- Finding a natural time for it in my daily life. I journal every weekday morning when I first get on the shuttle — it’s the first thing I do for the day, which I appreciate as it allows me to ease into my day. Having a set time to do this’s also helped me practice this on a regular basis and turn it into a bona-fide habit.
- Providing structure. I use the five minute journal morning structure — gratitudes, intentions, and affirmations. Having set prompts makes the experience feel less daunting for me, as opposed to wracking my brain for a place to start.
- Adding social accountability. When done, I share mine out with one of my best friends who does the same with hers — it both keeps us accountable to each other for doing it, but also allows us to stay in touch with what’s happening in each other’s lives.
This practice’s allowed me to be so much more in tune with myself, my emotions, my thoughts and helped me identify patterns in my own life, reflect on events holistically with a broader perspective, and understand myself better. When I go for awhile without journaling, I oftentimes start to lose sight of how I’m feeling internally. It’s so easy to let yourself get wrapped up and carried away in the chaos that is your everyday life and never find that time to understand how you’re really doing.
It’s also been such a great tool to work out my feelings, thoughts, especially when I find myself frustrated, angry, or sad. And when I’m feeling particularly in love with life, I try to scribble a few notes down too, trying to capture the essence of that moment, of that brief slice of time where everything feels just right. I couldn’t recommend it more.
Entertaining. I’ll tell you a secret: ever since childhood, I’ve always felt uneasy about the fact that I never had a close-knit group of friends — a squad if you would. I’d always watch on enviously as I saw people so easily hang out with their friend circles and go on extravagant trips together. This year, I decided that I was going to go for it and make it happen myself, as it seemed like what I wanted wasn’t going to happen organically by themselves. I’ve started forming micro-communities of friends that come together for specific activities — my Thursday night trivia crew, the somewhat unintentional Breakfast Club. I’m far from being done, but I like this start.
It wouldn’t be a proper post-mortem without lowlights, right?
Boy stress. I know, really? So cliche. Long story short, there was some lingering boy stress that carried over from the year before, consisting primarily of “will they / won’t they?” drama. So many wasted units of energy and time fretting over a fairly simple question at the end of the day. The most embarrassing bit was that much of this agony could have been vastly abbreviated with a frank conversation much earlier.
Housing stress. On the heels of Boy Stress Phase I followed a slow, but then extremely fast plunge into the housing despair that is finding an apartment in San Francisco on a deadline. There’s something incredibly fundamental about the security that comes from knowing you don’t have to worry about shelter or housing — I didn’t realize how much I took that for granted until it was called into question. Everything eventually worked out, but I distinctly remember being stressed out of my mind during those months of uncertainty.
Finding myself. I’ve been trying to be more deliberate about the way I spend my time this year. When I first moved to the city last year, I found myself wrapped up in the normal routine of brunch / lunch / dinner / shopping / random fitness class / random thing happening with friends — it felt like I spent all my free time running around from social engagement to social engagement. It’d be one thing if I enjoyed it, but instead, it felt like I was doing them out of obligation, out of the social expectations that this is what mid-twenties yuppies do. I’ve been trying to train myself out of that mindless sheep mentality this year, making intentional and deliberate decisions myself as opposed to being on autopilot and letting life happen to me.
It’s a slow and ever ongoing process, but I’m making progress. What’s been challenging about the process is that to some extent, I don’t think I have a good idea of what really fuels and excites me. Part of it’s not being able to separate my feelings about something with society’s feelings about something; part of it’s that it’s not obvious — I don’t feel like I’ve ever been that consumed by anything. In the meantime, I’m trying to take notice of all those little moments that I feel a spark. I distinctly remember two separate instances in Portland and New York this year when I got on a bike and instantly felt this zing of thrill race through my body. The journey continues on in 2018.
Extrovert / Introvert. I told a friend earlier this year that I felt so extroverted sometimes that the very idea of being alone freaked me out. At that point, I loved spending time with other people, craved feeding off the energy I’d get from others. Yet I’ve been primarily alone this past week over the holiday season and I’ve loved almost every day of it — living inside my head, ruminating about different questions, listening to podcasts, enjoying the pace that I set for my life. I’ve come to realize that like other areas in my life, I’m not super great at this balance thing. I either 1) whole-heartedly enjoy the company of others, in which I’m super great at making conversation and banter and socializing, or 2) want to be a hermit, where hanging out with people feels unnatural and uncomfortable.
Health is wealth. I realized this year what it can feel like to be truly healthy: to eat right, be active. I didn’t intentionally set out to embark on a health journey actually — it started off with this Vox video that woke me up to the fact that it’s primarily diet (and not exercise) that has the largest effect on your weight. I started seeing a nutritionist, who didn’t necessarily tell me anything revolutionary, but was still extraordinarily instrumental in getting me on the right track. Once I got used to eating the right servings of vegetables regularly and being more mindful of my eating, it didn’t feel like a chore to make the right choices.
On exercise — although I’ve historically been more motivated by weight, I’ve found that there’s something exhilarating about feeling strong and capable. This year, I felt for the first time that I had as much confidence in my body as my mind. That is, I’ve always felt that I can tackle or learn anything as long as I put to my mind to it, but never felt the same way about my physical capabilities. I wasn’t great at PE or sports growing up — I just figured it wasn’t my thing. I’d write myself off from certain physical activities, figuring I wasn’t in shape enough to partake. It’s been empowering to question those long-held assumptions about myself and feeling like I’m up for anything I want to do.
Travel anxiety. I finally was able to put a term to the extreme unease I get when I travel, especially to a new, foreign place. When going to Taipei this past January with my sister, I felt it yet again: the fear that comes with the strange unknown, the sense of being overwhelmed with all these new cultural scripts (i.e. getting around, taking public transit, ordering food, interacting with people), the stress of having to figure it all out. Most people I know seem to find the process of acclimatizing to a new place exciting and exhilarating, yet I view it as a necessary evil and stressful chore. I find for me, most of it stems from my need to both be in and look in control of myself and my situation — I’m not comfortable making a fool of myself, looking stupid or incapable, which is generally inevitable when you’re in a new environment.
Go after what you want. You have complete power to make your life what you want it to be. It’s easy and tempting to find yourself fantasizing, dreaming about the life you want for yourself and all the more easier to let it stay just that: a dream. I suppose that’s for a variety of reasons: action is infinitely harder than non-action; it’s hard to figure out how to tackle big, ambitious goals; doing new things can be intimidating. Yet every time I’ve decided to go after what I want this year (i.e. in love, in my social life, at work), I’ve been glad for it. I’m tired of waiting for life to happen to me, for things to just fall in place on their own. Make your life what you want it to be. Start somewhere.
Do things that scare you. I tell myself this every time there’s something I really don’t want to do, but know I should do. As painful and scary and potentially frightening as these experiences can be, it’s one of the primary ways you grow and learn and develop as a human being. Most of the personal growth I’ve undergone this year’s from doing just this, over and over again, as hard as it is. I’ve gone to improv practice when I really didn’t want to (this is basically every time); I started to learn how to skateboard, despite the very probable odds of looking like an idiot; I’ve presented to fancy people at work; I’ve put my heart out there on the line. I can tell you that it’s been worth it, every time.
In the grand scheme that is my twenty-something years of life, I see this year as building on top of the foundation established from all of last year’s radical shifts and changes. Everything I’ve done this year wouldn’t have been possible, had I still been the terrified, socially anxious person I was pre-2016, still felt deep insecurity about my work, still clung onto previous, outdated notions of meeting people and making friends. And for that, I’m grateful.
Peace out, 2017. It’s been real ✌🏼