I had a lot of fun and good times in 2021. Personally, it’s been a much better year than 2020. A quick scroll through my camera roll fondly reminds me of this. I’m grateful for lots of things including the health and love of my friends and family, the presence of a stable job, and nature that never fails to ground me. This year has felt extremely long in hindsight, almost like the span of 2–3 years, which has made it hard to reflect on holistically. That being said, here’s a rough and haphazard attempt at my analysis of various moments from the past year.
Some Highlights (by no means an exhaustive list)
My birthday last year was very nice even though I literally didn’t do anything elaborate → really felt the love from my friends and fam through surprise cake delivered to my doorstep, Levain cookies, an assortment of other gifts, and beautiful handwritten cards.
Spending a weekend in Bethel, Maine with some friends this summer and chilling in a hot tub → was a very relaxing getaway and it makes me want to spend more time in cozy cabins tucked away in the northeast.
Making some new friends → mostly reconnecting with old ones and meeting friends of friends but it’s so refreshing to hang out with new people and hear new perspectives.
Desserts → one of my favorite parts of life. I really enjoyed making a handful of cakes this summer (throwback to earl grey mascarpone!) and eating them with my roommates & friends. Sugar is such a beautiful invention.
Taking weekend trips to NYC → enjoying the city’s energy never gets old for me, no matter the season. Brunch at Baar Baar, boating around Central Park’s Loeb Boathouse, karaoke in Koreatown for my friend’s birthday, and Bebe wine bar are some of my fave memories. And recently discovering my friend Lisa’s hidden talents for concocting creative cocktails such as matcha vodka refreshers and earl grey gin-infused spritzes.
Going on lots of peaceful walks along the Esplanade → whether I go alone or with a friend or with multiple, walks on the Esplanade will always be a really comforting activity and I look forward to many more. The Esplanade alone could probably convince me to move back to Boston in the future.
Visiting SLC, Utah, and Salt Flats → Especially experiencing the wonders of LiquidIV, doing a sunrise hike up in Arches National Park, and being in absolute awe of the vastness of Canyonlands; I miss traveling and Utah has an abundance of beautiful nature.
Exploring SF, Lands End, Santa Cruz, Half Moon Bay → I’ve really enjoyed spending time in the city with various friends. I’ve started noticing areas I like a lot and want to spend more time in.
Meeting a lot of pets → I’ve met many friends’ and coworkers’ cats and dogs.. and shamelessly said hi to so many strangers’ pets recently which is always the ultimate boost of serotonin. I’d honestly want my work to open up next year mainly so office dog culture can resume :)
Secret Santas → I was part of a couple of secret Santa gift exchanges recently and really love them. As someone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas traditionally, doing secret Santa's is such a fun way to get in the spirit.
Getting vaccinated and recently boosted against Covid-19 → I’m incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to be vaccinated and I don’t want to take that for granted. Most of what I have been able to do this year wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for becoming vaccinated.
Thinking I had Covid a couple of times and general pandemic anxiety/associated guilt from socializing.
As with most new years (and birthdays, since mine falls around the same time), I take stock of who’s in my life at this time. Obviously, this changes over the years but it’s always sad when people you are close to one year are no longer as prominent in your life.
Dealing with loneliness. Moving to a new place and also just entering the post-grad life can stir up feelings of loneliness. I really love being surrounded by people (whether that’s roommates, friends, family, colleagues, or even strangers), because it energizes me. The pandemic definitely gets in the way of this. But while we’re on the topic, I guess it’s also important to note that loneliness is a very shared feeling that everyone experiences from time to time!
There are multiple situations I can point back to over the year that I should have handled better.
I think many people regret the things they haven’t done, said, or taken action on. Between both my professional life and my personal one, my biggest regrets have to do with not being super honest all the time. Whether that’s with the specifics of my goals or feelings or reactions or frustrations, I’d like to work on communicating my true stance on things, instead of saying what I think people want to hear from me (e.g. “yes, I’d love to work on that” or “sure, I’m down to do X”). This works sometimes, but it’s not always fulfilling and I know I could do a better job of speaking what’s on my mind. I’m a passive and non-argumentative person, and sometimes I wish I could learn how to change that since it would enable me to live a more open and honest life.
Most frustrating moment?
Not a particular moment but I am most frustrated with the current state of the world and the fact that we’re soon entering the third calendar year of the Covid-19 pandemic. It feels helpless at times because as much as you can convince yourself to continue living your life (safely), a deadly virus still looms in the background making people all around the world sick.
3 things I’m proud of
- Replacing my imposter’s syndrome-related feelings at work with more confidence. I’m the only new grad TPM in my team and in my org of 280+ people (mostly talented engineers), which can be a bit overwhelming. But, I’ve trained my brain to focus on what I can absorb, learn, and how to contribute effectively; instead of areas of weakness. I’m aware of my strengths and what I can bring to the table, which is more productive than sitting in self-doubt. This shift in mindset alone has helped me become a stronger contributor and better teammate. Of course, I still have a ton to learn, but we’re all a work in progress, aren’t we?
- Reading more books. I haven’t read much since high school and college ended and didn’t even make an effort to read until June 2020 (something that I regret quite a bit). Since then I’ve read about 29 books (and am currently in the middle of 2–3).
- Moving to Cambridge for the summer and to the Bay Area from the fall onward. The best decision I made for myself in early spring 2021 was moving out of my house in NY and to Cambridge for the summer, getting to have a blast in a familiar city with a lot of people I really care about. Moving cross-coast was a large but necessary change in my life..and I’ll always be a fan of the east coast but experiencing the California sunshine is amazing and I’m admittedly starting to understand the “West coast Best coast” mentality.
I recently took a 4-hour mindfulness class at work called Search Inside Yourself, and the last 2 prompts come from that verbatim. A quick fun way to contextualize some of the things that are important to you.
When I feel the most alive
10 quick word associations, no particular order:
Beach | Dessert | Friends | Nature | Mountains | Wind | Breeze | Driving | Festivities | Water
At my best — 5 things
Connected | Supported | Social | Calm | Valued
I hope at least some of the above jumble of thoughts is relatable. Right now my motivation, productivity, and energy levels are all over the place. I guess this is the end-of-year burnout period but it’s funny how apparent it is on everyone’s faces. If you have a few extra minutes on hand, I’d encourage you to think about how the past year has been and how to make the next one better, given all the current worldly circumstances. I’m currently in the process of formulating some goals and intentions for next year.
I’m thankful for my lovely friends for keeping me sane, making me smile and laugh, listening to all the vents, being all-around amazing. It is much appreciated. Happy Holidays, thank you for being great, and here’s to a fantastic 2022 :)