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2020: Year in review

Oh, 2020. A year that started out promisingly, and subsequently veered off-course about fifty million times over.

I’m one of the lucky ones – holding the privilege to hold my job and not worry about money, not having to experience the tremendous loss and the grief the pandemic brought, and living in a country where the response hasn’t been just a real life depiction of my favorite gif.

So, I’m happy to see 2020 behind us.

What could’ve been better

Besides vague gestures in 2020’s general direction, I can break it down to two general buckets: physical autonomy, and mental fortitude.

Physical autonomy

In 2018, I injured my back, and it has never been the same ever since. I’ve gone to physical therapists and chiropractors, had scans done, and dutifully did my core exercises. Yet, nothing has helped that constant and consistent ache.

To exacerbate the problem, when I started working from home, I didn’t have a setup in place. I was using a kitchen chair, and sometimes when the pain of sitting up got to be too much, I would just lay down on my stomach. It worked – but at the expense of my neck (which cracks every time I turn it). Thankfully, my lovely friends1(and Michele!) got me an office chair for my birthday, which definitely helped.

My strength training has plummeted too: I used to be able to squat 50kg and deadlift 65kg at the gym with barbells and plates; now 20kg dumbbells are making me doubt myself. Every twinge makes me paranoid that my body will soon crumple onto the floor.

It wasn’t a squat or a deadlift that caused an injury in my hip (an area that had never really hurt before) at the end of November, but an innocent sounding one-arm row. I felt something on the left of my lower body shift in a way that it shouldn’t, and immediately I literally said out loud: oh fuck, before I shuffled awkwardly to my bed and laid down to assess the damage done.

So yeah, long story short: my core strength is currently close to non-existent, and it’s giving me a real backache on top of a hypothetical headache.

Mental fortitude

I got frustrated – a lot – at things out of my control. I found myself annoyed at other people’s behavior, even while I kept reminding myself of the principles of stoicism and repeating I am the one thing in life I can control in my head.

I lost patience at myself more times I can count, whether it’s because of my back acting up, which also led to me screwing up my nutrition because of the old “might as well” mindset.

A slight burnout happened, despite me pretending it didn’t. I started a new job in February, and between trying to prove myself with a new group of colleagues, having to navigate the working-from-home situation, and adapting to really fast paced work, I didn’t want to admit that I was taking on more than I could.

What went well

Fun fact2(If I had an editor, the editor’s note would read: fun for who?): I had to go hunting for my bullet journal, since I abandoned that in mid-October when I moved everything to Notion.

Meditating once a day

I started out with guided meditation, and now I’m just using the timer for 15 minutes every morning.

Save 65% of income

The numbers are officially in on this last day of the year, and it is: 69.4%! 🎉

Of course, this is helped massively by the fact that I didn’t go on holiday at all, and that’s a nice chunk saved up.

Work out twice a week

This was like a see-saw, and on weeks when I felt well enough to, I managed to do at least two workouts a week. Right now for the past 8 weeks, I’ve been doing it six times a week, just to get myself in that routine.

Read 52 books (58!)

I think I’ve talked about this enough. The bulk of it happened in the last quarter of the year, but from a pure numerical standpoint, I think it’s fair to say that I hit this goal!

🟧 5,000 steps/day

January and February went well, with an average of 5,000 steps… and then, of course, the rest of the year happened. I didn’t pick this up until October, going for a walk in the evening. Then, when I got the Fitbit, I’ve consistently done that daily.

🟧 Start and sustain a blog

This has layers:

  1. I had a financial independence blog, where I was writing under a pseudonym (just because I was giving real numbers), but I’ve let that go gently into the good night when the pandemic hit. I didn’t want to flaunt numbers at a time when people were struggling, but I guess the good thing is that I can consolidate the content that I would’ve written over there as part of posts here too.
  2. This blog, in which I wrote really inconsistently for the first quarter of the year, took a long break until October.

Huh, I guess October gave me a kick in the ass about my goals.


Then there are the things that happened as the year went by:

Playing the ukulele

My friend Tanisha gifted me one during the circuit breaker period, because I was trying to play my old guitar with steel strings that are really uncomfortable for my fingers. It’s gone well, and I’ve made it a habit to play at least one song every day.

Waking up earlier

This was a spur-of-a-moment thing, when I decided I wanted to track my sleep. So far, I’ve shifted my wake-up time from 8 AM to between 6:30 AM and 7 AM, which gives me ample time to work out, jog, and read!

Drinking 2.5l of water

I’ve been terrible with staying hydrated because I have a thing against public washrooms, but now that I’ve been at home for the majority of the year, I have no excuse. I usually front load my water intake to the first half of the day too.

Highlights from my gratitude journal

I note down one line every morning when I wake up, on Notion. It’s done plenty to shift my mindset to a more positive one.

  • Progress, however slow
  • Making my own bubble tea
  • Thinking it’s Sunday when it’s still Saturday
  • Spending time with my nephews (this is a recurring one!)
  • Amazing friends
  • Opportunities at work

A random list of media

And now, to cap it off, here’s a list of things I’ve enjoyed watching and listening to this year:

  • She-Ra: The Princesses of Power
  • Babysitters Club
  • Haunting of Bly Manor
  • #blackAF
  • Brie Larson’s YouTube channel
  • Among Us streamers (Pokimane, Valkyrae, Hafu, Fuslie, Sykkuno and others!)
  • Behind the Bastards
  • Chameleon: Hollywood Con Queen
  • You’re Wrong About

If you’re reading this, I hope you had at least a bearable 2020, and that 2021 would be much better for you and all of us. See you next year!

1 thought on “2020: Year in review”

  1. Pingback: On turning 33, and an update for my back problems – Jalyn Cai

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