2020 Year-end Reflections

Well, here we are in 2021.

I know I’m not the only one to say that 2020 was soul-crushing. I also know I am extraordinarily privileged in some ways. Many, many people have had it far worse.

Nevertheless, it hasn’t been easy watching a toddler while working from home full-time. For most of the 4.5 months that we’ve had to keep him home from daycare, I have been working until midnight or later to make up the hours spent on childcare during the day. I was in a new, higher-visibility role at a new organization*, and my to-do list felt never-ending. When my kid takes a nap, my first impulse is (still, even during this long weekend) to head straight to my computer to do more work.

*I didn’t even get a quiet ramp period at a brand-new organization. My company was acquired, which meant we had to do our regular work plus figure out a bunch of changes. New business applications, integrations and migrations, where to look up details on our new paychecks and health plans, whom to contact with questions about expense reports, etc. etc. All while not being able to turn to a friendly office neighbor to ask a quick question face-to-face.

“I can’t wait until 2020 is over” is a sentiment I’ve heard echoed all around me. I get it—but in a literal, calendar-year sense, I really don’t want 2021 to begin. Not when the COVID cases are still rampant and we continue to feel our kid’s health could be at risk in daycare. The end of December meant a corporate slowdown when most people were out of office, almost no one was pinging me, and I was actually able to get larger chunks of thoughtful work done. The start of January means things will kick into high gear again, I’ll be back to working late nights, and I won’t be able to hang out with my husband… or anyone. At least, not much.

Here’s a fun game I’ll be playing by myself! Which will happen first: our state will go back to having fewer than 2,000 new cases of COVID per day, or I’ll collapse from stress and exhaustion?

It’s stupefying how the days blur together when all you do is entertain a toddler, work at a computer, and get six hours of sleep. I keep wanting to do some basic things every day, like eat multivitamins and do push-ups. Not being too hard on myself, right? Next thing I know, four days have gone by and I haven’t done any of it.

I missed my annual birthday/Thanksgiving tradition of sharing my reflections on the past year and hopes for the next. It makes me sad that I haven’t had time to write anything until now, more than a month later. My last post was over four months ago. Just as my body feels soft from infrequent exercise, the creative part of my brain feels soft from never writing anymore.

This might be crazy, but I think what I ultimately need to feel better about myself and this whole awful pandemic is more things on my to-do list. When Will Smith was preparing for his role in I Am Legend, he interviewed prisoners and learned that a fixed schedule was the key to surviving solitary confinement. I’m going to try sticking to specific times to take vitamins, do push-ups, and even try to write a little every single day. Maybe you’ll be hearing more from me here.

Here’s to the new year.

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Decade

Some scattered thoughts as we roll into 2020…

This year, I missed my annual tradition of reflecting on personal growth and goals around the week of my birthday and/or Thanksgiving. We were so preoccupied with the move, and our baby also contracted a viral infection that lasted over a week. Ordinarily, this sort of thing would bother me, but I didn’t even think about it until today. I am learning more and more to accept that things may not happen or get done when you want, and sometimes it’s not worth the effort to fight to make them happen.

My coworker reminded me that, this time twenty years ago, we were all anxious about our electronic devices failing and bringing on the apocalypse. Remember being instructed to shut them off before midnight? How laughable Y2K sounds now. We have made such incredible technological advances since. Yet we also have scarily growing populations rejecting reason and science—so progress is, as usual, some steps forward and some steps back.

Ten years ago, I was studying abroad in Europe. I don’t remember how I spent New Year’s Eve, but I know my winter break was in Italy. It feels like a separate life, someone else’s memories. I don’t have many photographs from that time. For years, I hated appearing in photos, especially with other people. I feared that they would look back on them and be annoyed at my presence, ruining the shot.

Each of my life stages feels like a different person’s life. The nerdy, lost, gloomy student. The awkward entry-level professional, still lost and trying too hard. The sloppy, alcoholic party animal. And then no longer caring or trying so hard, settling into my skin and onto a path, developing into what I finally feel comfortable calling my true self.

I can’t believe how much of my life was spent being fearful and self-deprecating. I can’t go back in time and tell my younger self to live free and bold (or my 25-year-old self to be a little less free and bold), but I can try to tell it to my kid as he grows up.

2019 was obviously a tremendous year for us with the arrival of our beautiful baby. There’s been so much learning: about raising a tiny human, lactating, resuming full-time work as a parent, and still making time for friends and each other among it all. Now that we have an eleven-month-old who loves to eat and laugh and roll everywhere, I can’t help but marvel at the veracity of the corny adage, “The days are long, but the years are short.”

Sometimes I wonder if it was right to bring a child into this world. I worry about climate change, running out of energy sources, a nuclear apocalypse, totalitarian regimes, and more. I imagine him having to fend for himself in the desolate ruins of a decimated society and feel guilty. But only sometimes.

I can’t wait to watch our baby continue to grow in the coming year. At work, we are expecting an acquisition to close, and then I’ll be employed by one of the most famous companies in the world. We are planning our first family vacation. What else might happen in our social circles, technology, literature, entertainment, politics, and the rest? I think we have a big year ahead. I’m also looking forward to the 2020s being bigger and better than the 2010s. There’s a lot one could worry about, but I am really excited, too. Happy New Year!

2017 Year-end Reflections

I kicked off this year with the ambitious goal of writing at least one thing, in any format, per week. A few months in, I realized this was putting too much pressure on myself. I also started to think more seriously about writing a novel, and I wanted to focus on it exclusively.

Two concept pivots later, the novel unfortunately took a backseat to a soul-crushing, five-month job hunt. My discontent with my day job reached a point where I was crying every Sunday night about having to go back to work in the morning, hopelessly pessimistic about my career trajectory, and constantly angry. I submitted over 50 applications, reformatted my resume twice, e-mailed one faceless recruiter after another, had innumerable phone calls, had 10 video or on-site interviews, and received 21 rejections.

I learned New York is full of shiny start-ups “disrupting” the way you make financial investments, order food, reserve physical storage space, manage retail inventory, continue education, and get someone to clean your apartment—all online, mostly from your phone. The “Uber” of this, the “Facebook” of that.

In November, shortly after I tendered my resignation without a solid contingency plan—goes to show how unbearably toxic that environment had become for me—I received an official offer of employment. It was from an up-and-coming company that actually seems to be doing something real, has a robust and amazing product, and has tremendous potential for further growth. I accepted immediately, with the most excitement and optimism I’ve ever felt about my career. I am no longer working in the same role as I did for the past five years, which is somewhat scary, but hopefully I won’t ever be turning back.

2017 was an exciting and gratifying year in other ways, too. Friends had birthday parties, got engaged, completed graduate studies, got promotions and new jobs, and launched new initiatives. I had the honor of attending not one, but two vibrant, exuberant Indian weddings. I did my first (and only, for the foreseeable future) short story reading at a Brooklyn bookstore. I joined an amateur orchestra that will be performing at Carnegie Hall next year. I heard amazing musical performances by Yuja Wang and the New York Philharmonic, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and Hans Zimmer. I stopped using paper tissues and switched to handkerchiefs. I traveled to Colorado, Dallas, Cleveland, Chicago, Los Angeles, Olympic National Park, Cherry Springs State Park, Hong Kong, Singapore, Mexico City, and Mumbai. And I got engaged!

I made a more earnest effort than ever to seek out new stories and characters, especially from people of color and other marginalized voices—something I plan to continue in 2018 and beyond. These were in the form of wondrous, awe-inspiring books:

  • The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories, by Ken Liu
  • The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy
  • Sour Heart: Stories, by Jenny Zhang
  • The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth’s Past), by Liu Cixin
  • Her Body and Other Parties: Stories, by Carmen Maria Machado

thought-provoking independent theater productions:

  • In Full Color
  • Blackout
  • Say Something Bunny!

and fascinating exhibits at the:

  • Guggenheim (NYC)
  • National Videogame Museum (Dallas)
  • American Writers Museum (Chicago)
  • Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago)
  • Museum of Broken Relationships (Los Angeles)
  • Future of Storytelling Festival (Staten Island)
  • art museum in Mexico City whose name I’ve sadly forgotten.

Next year, I want to be better and more proactive about maintaining friendships. I want to keep growing and learning, and help others do the same. I need to get back into writing (again). And I want to tick off some not-so-fun items that have been on my to-do list for an embarrassing amount of time, such as deep-cleaning areas of my apartment. Happy New Year, everyone! Let’s make it a great one.

2016 Year-end Reflections

2016 was an active, exciting, productive, joyous year for the many amazing people I am fortunate to have around me. In this year alone, my friends, family and I stood by each other as we:

  • forged new friendships, ignited flames that burned brightly but briefly, and fell in love with someone who finally feels right
  • got brunch, went to museums, hiked, climbed rock walls, read, watched movies, stayed out late drinking, stayed up late playing board games, laughed, commiserated, and embarked on other adventures
  • landed new, fulfilling jobs
  • launched business ventures in different countries and from our own homes
  • hosted our own successful events and concerts
  • contributed to and promoted numerous causes and charities
  • traveled across the country and the world—trying new foods, marveling at breathtaking sights, gaining new perspectives, and interacting with so many kind and interesting people
  • got engaged and married
  • developed new passions and rediscovered old ones
  • poured heart and soul into art, music, writing, crafting, baking, building, and communities

If you think this post is about you, you’re probably right! I don’t say this enough, but I am deeply proud and appreciative of everyone’s achievements, whether they may seem big or small. We all have so many different interests and work on so many cool things.

I have seen many complaints and lamentations on social media this year. Celebrities, innovators, and influencers passed away. Human rights were violated domestically and internationally. Truth has become a matter of opinion, science has been dismissed as conspiracies, and personal entitlement has taken top priority.

It’s easy to get lost in the chaos and forget to embrace the positives. The Internet is a wondrous platform for education and awareness, but it can also lead to dangerous misinformation, a mob mentality, and an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness.

Never forget to strive for progress and to be the best possible version of yourself. Here’s to more hope, cool things, and fighting the good fight in 2017.