To be honest, I am not sure how I want to write this. Maybe that is the point about 2018, a year when I discovered I am no longer sure about anything. I was not even sure whether I wanted to write this, because I am beginning to believe life shouldn’t really be about stock-taking. I am also not sure if one could really like an accurate retrospective of the past 365 days when I can barely remember what happened last week. But I think it is interesting for me personally to read what I’ve written over the past few years partially as a form of amusement and to reflect how much I’ve changed. It is difficult to notice personal change as we go from day to day, but a snapshot taken once a year will usually yield interesting observations if not useful:
On physical health
I have a running theory that chronic inflammation (which is caused by stress, which is exacerbated by a compromised dysregulated nervous system) causes all my health problems so this year I doubled down on things that would reduce it, including:
I’m truly surprised I am still running because I am bad at keeping habits when it comes to my physical health. Case in point: I stopped meditating regularly but I run without anything in my ears so it replaces meditation somewhat. The core reason why I run is because it makes me feel a little bit more alive and calm. I don’t run when I travel, and I only run for 2km a day because I…
I eat in an eight hour window (again, except when I am travelling). I do this mainly to reverse insulin resistance and to prevent myself from becoming pre-diabetic. I run on a fasted state because eating prior to running makes me uncomfortable and sometimes it makes me feel faint.
Blood glucose testing
I believe in gathering data for health improvement, so I bought a blood glucose monitor, and my first reading made me feel faint too. I think knowing my blood glucose numbers made me much more committed to running and fasting because not wanting to be diabetic is a powerful motivator.
On my psyche
Entered therapy for the first time
It took me so long because I thought therapy was for the emotionally unaware and I thought of myself as otherwise. I was wrong. It is tremendously powerful and life-changing to have someone be a safe mirror to our selves. I wish I had the awareness to do it earlier because I would have saved myself all that unnecessary angst.
14 essays on Medium, 37 public journal entries, 3 Patreon posts, 0 tinyletters. I stopped publishing on Medium so frequently because I had a lot more convoluted feelings that I wanted to express, I am also not sure how I feel about platforms these days considering what Facebook has done, I also don’t want people having to dismiss ads and interstitials just to read my writing. The focus on my personal health also took me away from my experiments hence the miserly 3 Patreon posts. Since I was already almost baring it all on my public journal I stopped writing tinyletters. And the ones I really couldn’t publish publicly, I couldn’t find the energy in me to write them. I kept up with my habit of publishing something at least once a week. I would say this is the most grounding routine of my life. I may not have the sanity or energy to run, fast, read or do anything else, but somehow I always manage to write. I need to think about how I want to go about publishing my writing because now it feels like it is scattered all over the place.
Spent less time on social media
This is not consistent but overall I deliberately spent less time browsing Facebook and Twitter, choosing to read instead. I grew up loving social media and I will always be indebted to it, but I grew more interested in philosophy and inner-work and a lot less interested in tech and work as we know it. I think 2018 is the year I realised I am leaving my tribes, both online and offline.
Spent less time with people
Related to the point above. Apart from my partner and family I hardly hung out with anyone. Part of it is I don’t know who I am anymore. I just know I don’t want to be who I was. I also simply wasn’t interested in things most people are.
…on mostly zen/buddhism and psychotherapy. I wish I had read more fiction, but I needed a crutch while I sorted myself out. Reading about other people’s neuroses and existential confusion made me feel less alone; reading about how it is possible to manage and overcome them gave me hope.
Examined my psyche
Probably as a result of all that reading and introversion, I started to examine my self and my relationships, how ignorant I was, how much I don’t know, how much we’re driven by our primal fears, how much we’re not in control of our emotions and actions.
Again, related to the point above, I started to forgive a little — both people and myself. The process is early and hardly near complete, and I think forgiveness is a cycle we have to consciously repeat again and again. I am also more tolerant of bad actors in the system, because I think this system — whatever we have designed, is not set up to reward good behaviour or nurture goodness. We think it is with laws, moral codes, whatever, but it is not. We live in a system of blame and vicious cycles, of perpetuated traumas.
Became less binary
I lived in a world of rights and wrongs. That caused me immense suffering. It is very difficult to believe in absolutes when we just study a little of neuroscience, psychology, systems thinking, economics and politics.
Learned to be a better partner
I was a terrible person and partner when I was younger, mostly because I was just wallowing too much in my own pain to negotiate a relationship with healthy dynamics. I think one of the best outcomes of working on oneself is the transformation of our intimate relationships because we change the dynamics we express, and that in turn changes the dynamic of how people can possibly respond. I also think the media is at fault for brainwashing us with false narratives.
Moved into our own place
My partner and I bought a public flat in late 2017 because we reached the legal age to buy it under the Joint Singles Scheme (basically the age when the government has given up hope on us getting married and/or becoming heterosexual). We moved in May, and it has become a psychological haven for me. I’ve been moving since I was 19, so it is just nice to have a place where I don’t actually have to avoid buying physical books because I don’t want to be moving them every year or two (barring circumstances that will lead us to selling it).
Travelled a little more
One of the pacts we made was to travel more once we moved into our place because we would save considerably on rental and we should travel while we both can. It occurred to me a few years ago that I may have to become a caregiver one day, so I hope to experience more of the world out there before then.
Examined my life
This year, the question I keep asking myself is, “how do I want to live”? Upon hindsight I realised I spent too much energy seeking approval and validation from people, and/or trying to live up to some ideal image of myself. I don’t want to live that way anymore. It has been difficult because I am conditioned to feel afraid of rejection or alienation, but I have been mustering the strength to take a few baby steps here and there. The need for validation is an addiction but breaking free of it even by an inch feels liberating.
I would say 2018 is a year I truly focused on almost nothing but my personal health which includes the relationship I have with myself. I do think I am in a slightly better place than the past few years, but it wouldn’t be possible without the psychological sorting that took place in those years.
It is also a year where I tried harder to be less about doing and more about questioning. I stopped thinking that the solution to a fulfilled life is to do things I love (it was pretty sobering when I came to a stage where I discovered I loved nothing), but rather questioning what are the chronic unhealthy patterns that are in the way of living a full life? What do I even mean by a full life? Am I willing to put in the hard work to live fully even if I know what is sabotaging it? Am I willing to do it even if it means leaving my tribes and losing everything I have worked for?
I think I know the answers, and hopefully in 2019 I can try more at living them.