I guess I’ll start out by saying I 110% failed at writing here for 2017. Setting a 52 week challenge was…a challenge (for me). Either way, looking back on the (sad number of) posts I wrote, it was refreshing to have it here to read and look back on what I was doing and feeling, so that’s what I’m going to do. What a difference 365 days makes.
I was lucky to enter into 2018 with some closure that’s been swirling in my mind for the past year. Loose ends tied up (for the most part). A good financial year of being self employed. Having solid goals to work towards – personally (creating an actual plan for budgeting, student loans, retirement, etc, buying a place [what?]) and career wise (what do I want to continue to do, where do I see things going, how do I get there). A clearer path in general.
At the same time I find myself trying not to get too comfortable. I think the hardest part for me being self employed isn’t putting in the work every day without a boss or company overseeing me, it’s challenging myself. Not setting too out-of-reach goals or goals that are easily attainable. Finding that “sweet spot.” If you don’t have a manager whose able to guide you and the only person to do that is yourself, it’s hard to determine where the middle is. You have to learn to push yourself, but also not push too hard (and forgive yourself if you do). You have to learn to say yes to the right things that scare you and no to things that can cause you to burn out. They say it only takes time and to trust your gut. I’m still figuring it out, and making mistakes as I go.
Saying goodbye to 2017 has been such a relief and also…sad (now that I think of it). Lots of good things happened and I find myself still holding on to these pockets of happiness a little longer before things change and new things fill in those spaces. A lot of things also happened in the world that makes me look forward to taking with me all of the knowledge I learned last year into a new year. I’m hoping to be more mindful of what’s happening on this beautiful planet, believing kindness is always needed, and figuring out where I stand in all of this chaos.
To close it off, in the old blogging days (of my teenage years) it was “the” thing to include what music you were listening to at the end of your posts, so, for my future self: dvsn – you do. The feeling of their entire album really encapsulated the way I felt for a good portion of the end of my 2017 (also, her – every kind of way).
I managed to keep succulents we planted during the holidays (and one air plant) alive. Had a few close calls, but they haven’t died and that’s all I can ask for! These were initially in terrariums, but they weren’t getting the water and drainage they needed to survive, so I repotted them. Hopefully it’s not too late!
I’m also halfway through this book, “Eating Animals,” that I received from my sis for Christmas. It’s been a difficult and informational read. Difficult, not because it’s a bad book, but because the more I read it the more I realize how twisted the food industry has become. I am a meat eater, so I’m not attempting to turn people vegetarian/vegan (though I’ve cut off beef for about half a year now) but this book has definitely made me more conscious of what I put into my mouth. Growing up in a Chinese household food is such a huge part of my culture it seems almost impossible to give up meat without feeling like I’m giving up tradition that’s been instilled in me since I was born. However, also being an American and knowing that these are not the same food conditions my parents grew up with does shift my perspective. I personally suggest reading Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Polan if you haven’t dived into reading about the food industry before and want to get started, however, the two books are on opposite playing fields.
I guess this wasn’t so much a “recap” of the entire month as I hoped. My mind has been all over the place since this weekend with what’s happening around the world (hell, it’s been all over the place for the past couple months). I’m sure I’m not the only one. I can’t seem to articulate my thoughts into writing. Even so, I wanted to make a point to create an end of the month post regardless, so hopefully this counts. I’ve attempted to write something for the past week and failed to do so (along with writing a post once a week as part of my 52 week challenges), but I’m moving on! There is next month, and I’m grateful for that.
Not in any particular order, here’s my top 5 books I read within the last year or two that has made me better at evaluating my actions (why I do something, why I react a certain way, and so forth) and how I can continually work to be better for myself and in turn for my family and friends. Each book touches on something different – our job, our personality, our choices, the world we live in, and our daily lives.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
By: Susan Cain
This book I actually bought for my sister and later borrowed, now I wish I have my own copy. Being a textbook introvert myself this book spoke to me, sang to me, if you will. I always thought there was something wrong with me being shy at a young age and even after graduating college I still felt being quiet was something I needed to grow out of or that I needed to change. Lo and behold this book happened, it opened me up to finally embracing who I was. I became more aware of how and (more importantly) why I felt a certain way and what I needed to do to be better. Even if you yourself are not an introvert, what about your girl/boyfriend, family member, or friend? This book helps a great deal in how to approach and understand introverts in your life and/or work space.
Stumbling on Happiness
By: Daniel Gilbert
As the title states, this book is focused on our obsession for achieving “happiness” and what that really means. It’s sectioned into six parts with a total of 11 chapters. This book goes in depth on each idea, but does it in a fun way paired with relatable graphs/charts/drawings that have made me chuckle a number of times. Another thing I found fun to read were the real life experiments they conducted. I did find I read this a bit slower than The Power of Habit (below), and not to suggest it was less interesting or boring, it just took me more time to take in all the information in each chapter. I also started to go back and add post-it notes to passages I enjoyed. It’s one of those books you can come back to to refresh your thinking without feeling like you need to re-read the entire book again.
I jumped on the bullet journaling bandwagon last month and surprisingly I liked it! I have quite a few weekly/monthly notepads and notebooks (probably too many) and I always seem to fall off in less than a month. However, bullet journaling worked well for me for December and I really enjoyed how flexible (and fun) it was to create and update. I didn’t feel obligated to fill in pages or guilty that I wasted a pretty spread since it’s all written in my chicken scratch anyway.
Okay, this post wasn’t meant to be about bullet journaling, but it led me to this! I decided to create this fun calendar as a free printable for anyone who might find it helpful to keep them organized (whether or not you bullet journal). Seemed like a good idea with the new year and I’m hoping to create them for the rest of the year if people use them, so let me know or tag me if you use it!
January 2017 Calendar
The design is letter size (8.5 x 11″), so you can print this out on plain printer paper or you can size it down to fit inside your notebook/journal! Pictured above I scaled mine down to 60% (you can do this in your print settings) to fit inside my bullet journal or you can also easily hang it up at its full size with washi tape. Tada!
January 2017 Calendar
I usually feel nostalgic towards the end of the year, but right now I’m looking forward to starting the new year. Not necessarily because 2016 was a bad year, it was actually one of my favorite, but because it was a hard one.
At the end of the year I usually determine how good or bad it was by what I’ve accomplished career-wise, but 2016 was (for the first time) a challenge in both my personal and career life. Although I feel I haven’t gone as far as I hoped in my work I’m also trying really hard not to compare myself to other people’s lives or equate it with how much money I made. A lot of my post-college life revolved around what I wanted to do with my life, not that that’s a horrible thing, but I realize it’s made me a bit (or a lot?) removed from the personal relationships I have.
The beginning of this year I went to visit my mom’s family in Kolkata, India for the first time and it put a lot of things into perspective. It was also when I said goodbye to some of the best people I’ve worked with and grown with at my full time job. This trip made me feel determined, grateful, and excited to come home to start freelancing again. But it also made me feel lost as I tried to figure out how to balance every day life (bills, relationships, money, family) and work (clients, getting jobs, maintaining side projects) again (my second time going freelance, but it felt like I was starting from square one).
Then, the end of this year shook me, hard. Aside from all the already horrible, hateful things that were happening in the world I started to piece together that it was going to affect my own life. Sounds selfish, but that’s how life works sometimes (not that it’s an excuse). No one cares or pays attention until it affects them or a loved one (for instance when someone close to you gets diagnosed with cancer or uncovers a health problem).
However, if you’re fortunate enough, in most bad situations good things surface and we find the silver linings. One thing that I always try to remind myself is, you can’t control other people’s actions, you can only control how you react to them. It’s sort of been my motto lately. Whenever I start to feel angry or sad or frustrated I remind myself that what I do next matters the most. I can choose to feel helpless or I can get out of bed and do something. Whether that’s exercise, read a book, or draw, I’m doing my best to hold myself accountable.