As 2018 comes to a close, I’d like a chance to reflect on the past 12 months. In my usual basketball-infused style, I’ll be drawing inspiration from Zach Lowe and his popular 10 things I like and don’t like basketball column. Rather than just sharing fresh insights from the world of basketball, I’ll be recounting some important, recurring themes that were important to me in 2018. Let’s dive in.
- Mental Health.
Okay, 2018 was a BIG year for my role in mental health. For those that don’t know, I’ve been working on a mental health initiative since September 2018 and recently received $1,000 to continue my efforts. Despite this flashy win, my interest in mental health is personal and it wasn’t until a heartbreaking week in March that I realized I had a role to play.
That week, a student had died by suicide at the University of Waterloo, marking the 10th incident since 2012. I was frustrated, deeply saddened and most of all confused. I didn’t know it at the time, but my outrage would lead me to becoming directly involved in the space. Since then, I’ve taken a mental health training course, have heard dozens of personal stories from friends and strangers alike, and now consider myself a mental health advocate.
To cap off an incredible 12 months, I’ll be attending the Jack Summit in March 2019 where 250 young leaders across Canada will gather together to advocate for better mental health. We’ve all had days, weeks even months where we don’t feel like ourselves and aren’t functioning at our best. Mental health is something that affects us all and the more we understand and bring light to this issue, the better off we’ll all be.
If you want to hear more about this topic, check out jack.org and this video of young leaders talking about mental health.
2. Creativity & Art.
Almost by accident, I stumbled upon the idea of decorating Starbucks cups and giving them to friends as gifts. In late 2017, I painted 1 cup for a manager at CIBC as part of a Secret Santa. Then I painted 2 cups for my sisters for Christmas. And so the journey began. Since then, I’ve painted ~20 cups for friends and it’s been a creative way to provide a customized gift and promote sustainability.
What started off as a spontaneous experiment transformed into a fun passion project. I’m nowhere near becoming a modern day Picasso, but small efforts like this go a long way in strengthening your confidence and expanding your creativity.
Growing up, I never saw myself as someone who was creative. I wouldn’t receive good marks in visual art class and as a result I thought my talents were limited to the disciplines of science and math. 2018 is when I continued to explore what it means to be an artist and a creative individual. I want to share with you a poetic speech on the topic of an artist’s role in society that’s helped me in my journey.
If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him. We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth. For poets, there is nothing worse for our trade than to be in style. In free society art is not a weapon and it does not belong to the spheres of polemic and ideology. The highest duty of the writer, the composer, the artist is to remain true to himself and to let the chips fall where they may.
~ JFK, 1963
3. Musical Repetoire
It’s no secret that I love listening to music (I clocked 60,016 minutes on Spotify for 2018). It stimulates my creativity and unlocks patterns in my brain I’ve never experienced before. Despite my musical obsession, my playlists would only consist of the most recent songs and artists. I’d ask myself, why am I not listening to older music?? 2018 was the 1st year I turned back the clock and decided to listen to some tunes from the 70s and 80s. Artists like Michael Jackson, Elton John, Queen. Growing up I was barely exposed to some celebrated classics so it’s actually the 1st time I’m hearing many of these songs.
If you’re curious of how my musical repertoire has evolved, check out my evolving playlist of pre-historic music on Spotify.
4. Basketball Obsession.
This year has also solidified my status as a superfan of Raptors basketball. I follow every game. I read every article. I listen to every podcast. My friends notice how my mood changes following a Raptors loss. The DeMar DeRozan-Kawhi Leonard trade on July 18th left me in pieces for weeks. I even bought my first basketball jersey and basketball book with this beauty of a quote:
Go back to grade school: Other than playing on the monkey bars, what was everyone doing? You could always find a group of kids playing basketball on the blacktop. So whether you played or just watched, we all grew up with it. Somehow it just becomes a part of everything. Of music, of movies, of television. Even when it isn’t the main focal part of what’s happening, it’s there somewhere. Maybe in the background or even behind the background. It’s there. Basketball is always there.
~ Basketball (and Other Things), Shea Serrano
Now more than ever, I relate basketball to many aspects of life. Like an experienced musician who hears instrumental melodies wherever he/she goes, basketball extends way beyond the court for me. If I cannot understand a concept in the world of business, I’ll turn to the world of basketball for clarification. If I cannot understand the actions of friends and coworkers, I’ll draw comparisons to players and managers in the NBA for insight. Add basketball to any equation or situation and everything suddenly becomes clear.
If for some reason you’re not already on the Pascal Siakam bandwagon to stardom, here is all the evidence you need.
5. Cultural Representation.
2018 was also a great year for increased cultural representation in media and society. Watching shows like Kim’s Convenience and Patriot Act helped me to better understand nuances of the immigrant experience and the unique challenges our families encounter. Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians took box offices by storm and showed the world how profitable, entertaining and important these films are.
Author/illustrator/polymath Jonny Sun is someone who inspires me and routinely talks about labels in society (and the frustration of trying to “fit in”). Waterloo alumni and Social Capital CEO Chamath Palihapitiya openly talks about his failures and a background that many would feel ashamed of.
Seeing figures in society who look like me, who come from similar life experiences and who are doing successful things gives me hope. Just how this 8 year old reacts when meeting Michelle Obama during the launch of her new book, I have come to appreciate the importance and power of cultural representation.
If you haven’t done so already, go watch Homecoming King. It’s the greatest 72 minute standup set that has touched the face of this planet.
Bonus: Traveling & Exploring
I also had the chance to visit San Francisco for 24 hours back in August 2018! Each summer, I strive to explore a totally new city — in 2017 it was Calgary and in 2016 it was Los Angeles. This year marked the 1st time I felt comfortable traveling on my own and I hope to continue this in 2019 and beyond.
That’s my 2018 year-in-review! 2019 with Godspeed.