Hello thoughtful humans!
A new year is upon us. Have you thought back to the past year and thought to yourself: what just happened? 🤔
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.
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.
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:
- My new definition of success
- 12 lessons i’ve learned from 25 newsletters
- On renegotiating your identity
- Idea sex & digital gardens
- How tools shape us & then change us
✨ 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.