Hello thoughtful humans!

A new year is upon us. Have you thought back to the past year and thought to yourself: what just happened? 🤔

(Fran Rodriguez)

Like an amorphous entity, memories and milestones poke through, but are blunted by the heavy cloud of uncertainty that characterized the year. We struggle to weave our life narratives into a timeline of sequential cause and effect. Instead they mingle and blend with one other so completely that they efface the seam that joined them, never to be found again.

As I sat down to do my annual review this past weekend, my mind was drawing blanks.

All I knew was that everything was different.

So on a Saturday morning - I rolled up my sleeves, poured a heaping cup of coffee, and meticulously read through 350 journal entries.

For each month I recorded:

  • 👀 What objectively happened?
  • 📸 A photo that represented that month
  • ✨ What gave me energy? What drained my energy?
  • ❤️ What was painful? (The good stuff and wellspring of growth 🌱!)
  • 2-3 themes that characterized the month
  • 🔮 and lastly, a mini letter to my future self that summarized the learnings for that month

What unfolded was the processing of a multi-month emotional backlog. In a few hours, a beautiful tapestry of learnings unraveled.

You can create your own annual review by copying my template here

2020 in review

There were 3 major themes that came up for me: Creation, Alignment, and Openness.

Theme #1: Creation

Unable to control the outside world, I turned towards what I could control: the ability to create.

📚 Resources

At the beginning of the pandemic, I created The Ultimate COVID Job Resource Stack for many who were experiencing lay-offs. Which prompted me to follow-up with The Wellness Wisdom Stack - a collection of my favorite wellness resources.

🗞 Newsletters

I then began to interview my friends on their wellness stacks, and shared them in the newsletter you’re reading now. A newfound interest in newsletters led me to building Newsletter Stack and a newsletter reader called FlowBox. I also started an art newsletter, to get more in touch with my right hemisphere.

A sampling of popular issues:

Side projects in meditation and food

I learned react native, webflow, and figma to hack together things quickly - enabling fun projects like Subtle Asian Food and a meditation app called MindStreaks.

☕️ Weekend product studio

Eventually I created Welldom Studio, an open invitation for others to collaborate with me on wellness projects.

I didn’t set out to build anything at the beginning of the year. Instead I started with the smallest unit of creation - putting together resources in a google sheet. Through following my bliss and curiosity, the projects and skills to realize them came as an afterthought.

By starting laughably small, I found that, like interest, momentum compounds vulnerability into self-ability.

Theme #2: Alignment

Peace is when what we do, say, and think are aligned.

2020 was about getting aligned in many areas of my life.

🎓 Applying to grad school

Towards the end of 2019, I was going through a lot of change and convinced myself that it would be a good idea to apply to grad school. In reality, I was just a bit lost.

Throughout the application process it became apparent that the values and goals of grad school were increasingly misaligned to my current definition of success.

Ultimately, I went though with the application and interview process but decided to defer and not attend. This took a lot of ego-wrestling - as I was battling the desires of former selves and what society sells about higher ed.

Nonetheless, the essay-writing process was invaluable in helping me take inventory of my life to date and figure out what I wanted next.

💼 Changing jobs

Afterwards, it felt like a huge weight had been lifted off of me. I could work on whatever I wanted to with all the freed up opportunity cost.

My side projects in wellness helped me realize my desire to shift industries. Eventually, I quit Stitch Fix and found a new product role at Calm. I’ve never felt more aligned in my career than I do now.

That didn’t happen over night though, as it took me 6+ months of tinkering & reflection to realize it was time for a change.

I have a lot of admiration for people who are able to pivot quickly when they feel misalignment. The ability to rip off an old band-aid, despite sunk costs, is a skill I hope to increasingly improve in.

Theme #3: Openness

Ironically having a stronger sense of self, enabled me to more courageously explore new experiences, ideas, and people.

🌳 Moving to Eucalyptus

I moved into a lovely 15-person community called Eucalyptus in SF. From founders to creatives who hail from places like Morocco, Turkey, France, and Korea - my diverse roommates expanded my world views and challenged me to live slowly, embrace art & poetry, and question societal beliefs around gender, culture, and what it means to “live a good life”. They’ve taught me so much about both the past and present.

🌴 Moving to Tulum

Spending a month here taught me a lot about the future - as we explored future realities and the products that could vessel these visions. I was surrounded by people who had hopped off the traditional career ladder to chart new terrains into entrepreneurship. It was an invigorating month for my imagination.

📚 Books as travel

Because of travel restrictions, I dived into the world of books to understand new ideas and meet new people. 2020 was a phenomenal year for my inner book worm.

My favorite ones are starred below 👇

Some other themes and lessons that came up in my reflections:

  • Surrender. The moment you surrender the outcome is the moment that the universe can truly get to work.
  • Non-duality. It’s okay to mentally hold two contractions at the same time. As we are multi-faceted, so are the beliefs we hold.
  • Intuition. Always trust that small quiet voice deep down.
  • Being present. Focusing too much on the future, takes the joy out of today.
  • Live in day-tight compartments. Instead of thinking about what will make you happy in a year. Think about what will make you happy today, this hour, this exact moment.
  • Finding your why. What makes you the most angry? What magnifies your soul? go towards that.
  • Resilience. “One who knows their why, can bear any how”

Overall, 2020 was generous in its learnings and humbling in its unraveling. I have a feeling I’ll be reaping the epiphanies of its fruits for many decades to come.

I haven’t started thinking about 2021 yet but self-care (in all its forms below 👇) continues to be top of mind for me.

Wishing you a fruitful reflection in the weeks ahead.