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2022: Year in review

  • Life

It’s become a habit now; a yearly one, to look back on the year that has passed and reflect on what has gone well and what could’ve gone better (see: 2021, 2020). My writing is rusty now, with my non-rigour and letting my habit die off this year.

2022 has been a mixed bag of blessings and regrets, and of going on auto-pilot and letting things fall on the wayside.

What went well:

Fitness: This is separate from health, for reasons we’ll go into in the what could’ve gone better section 💀

This year, I got a gym membership in March, and then in July, a personal trainer. I ended up with 75 sessions in total, which comes up to around a session every 3.8 days. My main drive for going to the gym is to get stronger — something that is a little hard to do as I can’t consistently overload because of my Back Situation™.

I hit several PRs in the last two sessions of the year — made possible only because I ate at maintenance for these last two weeks; I’m in a deficit otherwise. PRs make me feel like I’m unlocking achievements, but I know it’s a really unpredictable road that I’m on, and I’m still learning how to accept my limitations.

My weakest exercises definitely have to do with my back and core, which are… important, you know, to the general anatomy.

But also: I meal prepped for the majority of the year, and was a little more consistent with my meal timings! I’ll take that as a W.

Finance: My savings rate dropped to 63% this year, from my target of 70%. Yet — I’m at peace with it, since I’m trading money for my health and fitness. The hugest chunk of money went to aforementioned personal training sessions, as well as physiotherapy sessions which was an unexpected expense, and insurance only covered a minuscule part of it.

I also finally upgraded my iPhone X to a 14 Pro! Other than that, I didn’t travel this year at all, and kept to my yearly budget in all other categories.

Relationships and connections: I got much closer to a few work-buddies-elevated-to-friends, and I’m glad to have forged these friendships as I surround myself with people who inspire me and push me to be better.

Hair: I got it cut!

What could’ve gone better:

Probably everything else.

Health: I have had back problems for a few years now, and in April I decided that I wanted to get a referral letter from my general practitioner so that I could go to a physio and go on my merry ways, with a few easy exercises that would fix it once and for all.

Except that’s not how it went. The visit to the doctor spawned a few radiography sessions, with X-rays and MRIs, and instead of a simple referral to a physio, I was referred to a neurosurgeon. Turns out, the back issue isn’t just bad posture and a lack of working out. Instead, I have spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis, which could have an even more significant decrease in my quality of life at some point.

Aside from that, in these last two weeks of the year, I got a cold that just wouldn’t go away, with a cough that I couldn’t manage at all. This cough would make my throat spasm uncontrollably, to the point of gagging and throwing up. A visit to the doctor (after two weeks of resisting it — I know, I know) brought up the hypothesis that my asthma is back — the last time was when I was 7, I think — and I’m going to have to monitor it and see how it goes.

And then, to top it all off — a trip to the dentist confirmed that my implant site (of my left bottom molar) has significant bone loss, and necessitates more visits to the specialist. I foresee this to be the budget killer in 2023.

Work: It’s not hyperbole to say that I over-indexed on work this year, and ended up making everybody else’s priorities my worry.

My work day generally starts around 8:30am, and on some days they end at 11pm. This is, as anyone would know, completely unsustainable. A lot of the late night meetings are because of the leadership program I’m in, and it definitely doesn’t feel like the outputs and outcomes match the amount of effort and time I put into it. I’m still trying to figure out how to properly balance this without me accelerating the burnout that I can see coming.

I also worked too many weekends, and even started dreaming about doing work — as in, Figma is open and I’m staring at a screen in my dream. The worst thing about this is that I’ll wake up and the work isn’t magically actually done.

There was also a lot of angst and anger around some things at work, and these are things out of my direct control. I got extremely reactive to things happening, and then that makes me even more annoyed and angry because theoretically I know that I am the only thing I can control, and I’m definitely not doing that.

Even in this last week of the year, while the office is closed down, I’m still logging hours and having to review work, send out emails, and still generally not being able to fully unplug. This is probably going to be extremely detrimental as I head back in next week, unrested, and I’m not looking forward to it.

Reading: Did I reach my reading challenge? Yes. Did I leave it til the last possible weeks to cram half of it in, despite the goal being halved from last year? Also yes.

I seriously contemplated that I should aim for 90 books in 2023, since I was going to cram with whatever I target.

My friends do not think it’s funny.

Writing: It’s been an abysmal year, both writing on this blog, and also writing fiction in general. Of all the habits and priorities, I have definitely let this slide the most. I’m hopeful that 2023 will allow me the time and grace to pick this back up again in a more consistent fashion.

I also want to write more long-form content, both around my craft specialties (UX and product design, leadership amongst others), as well as more helpful and actionable content for my non-work interests, like productivity and minimalism.

Hobbies and skills: Sadly to say, I didn’t pick up anything new in 2022.

I did continue my habits of daily meditating and daily journaling, and continued with playing poker, and actually downloading apps for Sudoku and Chinese chess towards the later part of the year.

Other than that, I abandoned learning/refreshing my Javascript skills pretty early.

Themes from my gratitude journal:

  • Great food with great friends
  • Opportunities to try things
  • Having time to rest / weekends / days off
  • Agency to do what I want, to some degree
  • Ability to do hard work
  • My nephews expressing their affections / witnessing my nephews playing with dogs
  • Projects ending 💀

I’ve also neglected this gratitude journal and left it blank more often than not. That’s something I really want to improve on.

What I want to do next year:

I’m just going to list things down, and maybe in a year’s time we’ll see how accountable I’ve held myself with these:

  • Expand my music listening so I’m not listening to the same 20 songs all year round
  • Take learning programming more seriously
    • Change my tech stack for my portfolio and blog — they’re running on WordPress now, which is too chunky for what I want it to do. I want to see if I can run it off Notion as a database, but my knowledge and expertise isn’t at a level where I can do that easily
  • Take my MBA dream more seriously and see if it’s worth it + prepare for it if it is
  • Make more mentor relationships
  • Learn driving?
  • Finally learn guitar for real?

As always, I hope the next 364 days ahead are safe and happy for everyone.

Permission for anger

  • Work

A respected mentor of mine linked me to this piece when I had expressed, possibly for the first time, how absolutely angry I was/am. I would quote more paragraphs, but I might end up just copying the whole piece, so here goes.

Dalglish Chew:

The selfless impulse to take responsibility and to repair is a marvel to behold. Under the right circumstances, it is a precious gift that has the power to change lives and heal a broken world into wholeness. But without anger to remind us where we end and others begin, we have no way of knowing whether we’re using our gifts out of choice or compulsion.

on the cyclical nature of my own unbecoming

Needless to say, it’s been a whole month since the last post, and things haven’t improved.

Actually, it’s been worse — I’ve been stuck in a cycle of being angry, being angry at myself for being angry, and wishing I could take all the lessons of stoicism and Taoism and let it go like water’s off a duck’s back. Instead, I replay conversations and interactions, over-think as I am wont to do, and end up feeling more indignant and helpless than moments before.

To wit: I think the burnout is super real, y’all.

I’m also not sure what is fun for me, anymore. More to figure out when I have some free time, I think.

Either way. I want to be better and I want to do better by myself. Using my own personal laptop for the first time in the past month should hopefully help. Then the week comes by, and I find myself staring at my work laptop screen from 8 in the morning til midnight, and if the ‘work async, not ASAP’ sticker that I keep as a reminder had eyes, it would be my favorite monkey puppet meme.

Becoming less of a work-bot

  • Work

If you looked up the definition of sheepish, you’ll probably find my face right there. Mostly due to the fact that I have been neglecting this journaling habit, which was something I held quite proudly of for last year.

2021: never missing a week!

2022: does ‘a week’ mean anything, actually? what is this archaic concept of time we hold ourselves to? why have we shackled ourselves—

Etc, etc.

This entire second half of the year has been a test that I have been consistently failing, I think. I find myself buried with work, and burying myself with more of it. My free thoughts are fleeting, consumed by the things for work I’m wasting time not doing right now and the things I should be doing, but I don’t have the mind space to sit down for them right now. It’s pretty dire, and in no way strategic.

Or any good for my mental health, that I know for sure.

I talk about putting guard rails a lot, but I also kick them down on my own volition. There are things I know I need to be better at:

Better at saying no.

Better at managing my expectations.

Better at putting myself first.

Which, yikes, sounds kind of like a humble brag, no?