2020 reflections

Spending more time with yourself is uncomfortable. You discover flaws that you never knew existed, catch yourself in real-time soliloquys, and sit in maelstroms of your own emotions—no distractions or flotation devices allowed. But solitude doesn’t have to mean loneliness: It can also be liberating. There’s extra time for indulging in hobbies, learning how to take care of yourself and others, and finding beauty in the mundane.

This year has been the most transformative year of my life. Though I’ve said this at the end of every year since sixth grade, I think 2020 will leave an impression that surpasses the next few years until I graduate.

Some Things I Did
  • Read 100 books (and counting), well-surpassing my Goodreads goal of 40 (see: 2020 favorites).
  • Started experimenting with food—mostly for myself, but occasionally I’ll treat my family to a dish or two (some of my favorite ingredients are sweet potatoes, kabocha squash, zucchini, shrimp, eggs, and eggplants).
  • Spent more time with nature and exploring my community.
  • Got into podcasts (see: 2020 favorites).
  • Started the 52 weeks of self-discovery journaling exercise.
  • Graduated from high school and got into and started college.
  • Filled up my 50-page drawing pad (colored pencil might be my new favorite medium).
2020 Favorites
  • Novels:
    • Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
    • The Dark Forest by Liu Cixin (translated by Joel Martinsen)
    • A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
  • Non-fiction books:
    • Uncanny Valley by Anna Wiener
    • What About the Rest of Your Life by Sung Yim
    • Why Fish Don’t Exist: A Story of Loss, Love, and the Hidden Order of Life by Lulu Miller
  • Personal essays:
  • Shows:
    • The Untamed (2019)
    • The Queen’s Gambit (2020)
  • Movies:
    • The Handmaiden (2016)
    • Farewell My Concubine (1993)
    • Inception (2010)
    • Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)
  • Podcasts:
Recent Life Updates
  • The end of a semester in college is different than in high school. Despite being entirely virtual, the knowledge that I may never see some of my classmates again leaves me slightly sentimental. Academically, I’m satisfied with my Fall 2020 semester but I wish I could have formed more lasting relationships with my classmates.
  • After countless hours spent browsing Coursicle and Georgetown’s Spring 2021 course catalog, I’ve finally chosen my classes for next semester: Calculus 2, Intermediate Micro, Third Level Chinese, Experiments in the Essay (I’m very excited for this), and a theology class. Being the second-to-last group to register was far too stressful for my own good and means some of my classes aren’t ideal, but I’ll just have to accept it.
  • I recently wrote an op-ed expressing my thoughts on a Georgetown Government/SFS Professor’s April 2020 opinion article about U.S.-China great power competition, and it’s by far the boldest piece I have ever written. Hopefully it won’t come back to bite me in the back during my next few years of college. (Shameless plug: I was awarded the Caravel’s Best New Writer Award for “Mexico’s Grande Crisis,” which details the background behind U.S.-Mexico water treaties.)
  • Since I will be moving to D.C. on the first of January, I’ve been seeking adulting/living alone advice. The longest I’ve lived away from my parents is seven weeks for debate camp, but living alone is a much more daunting experience. More advice is always needed welcome.
  • In the past few weeks, I’ve gotten closer to some of my college friends! I’m not an extrovert, but it’s a good feeling to know there are at least a few individuals that I can rant and gossip with.
  • Lately, I’ve been binge-reading Nina MacLaughin’s pieces in the Paris Review. I’ve started using Google Keep to track my personal essay reads, and I saved this excerpt from her essay, “Inhale the Darkness”:

What’s the start of the season for you? Is it: the first time you see your breath; the first potato-chip crisp of ice on a puddle; the first snow; tinsel; Menorah; mistletoe; mug of hot chocolate; when the river freezes; when you hear a Christmas carol in CVS; see a wreath on a neighbor’s door; a candy cane; a persimmon; a pomegranate; eggnog in the dairy aisle; scarf around your throat; a certain pair of socks; the changed quality of blaze in sunset sky? Is it a creeping spider of malaise? A vague and frightening fuzz-edged feeling of hopelessness when the sun starts to sink too soon, a bottom giving way beneath you? A shadow at the back of the brain that, if you find yourself in too quiet a moment, gives an electric sizzle of static you can almost hear? A snarled black nest of fear in your chest and the upped urge to have another drink? The first fire? The first frost?

Lessons Learned
  • Don’t announce good life updates until they are confirmed. Similarly, don’t get your hopes up because fate can do a 180 and the resulting disappointment hurts. This is difficult; during this stressful time, we drink up every drop of positivity we can get. But remember: The roller coaster isn’t month-long; it’s life-long. Don’t let cruel optimism ruin the ride. (See: 2021 goals)
  • Drawing with colored pencil is like discovering a person. Like one’s outer appearance, a graphite outline sketch is barely visible, colorless, and hardly relevant to the overall drawing. The first few layers of colored pencil look strange, and at first you want to scrap the entire drawing and return back to graphite. Similarly, initial interactions are shallow and not representative of a person’s disposition. Patience is key for building a relationship—between pigment and paper, and between two individuals. As the layers build, shadows begin to complement the colors, creating dimension. And as interactions grow in number and depth, you begin to see nuance and form shared memories.
  • I already knew that I’m an introvert, but the pandemic has maximized my introvertedness. I love spending time alone, and with Zoom fatigue (which saps far more energy than hanging out with friends), I need all the alone time I can get.
  • Meeting sustainability goals is hard. I shall retry in 2021.
2021 Goals

I used to write concrete goals at the beginning of the year and felt bad if I couldn’t cross them off. For 2021, instead of creating a checklist, I want to instead identify areas of self-development:

  • In light of the first lesson learned from above, I want to better compartmentalize my emotions. For instance, I don’t want my own academic stress to affect my mood while tutoring high schoolers. I want to keep my vainglory to myself, not excessively spamming my friends whenever something good happens.
  • I will keep working on my sustainability goals. I’m currently flexitarian (no red meat) but I might try going pescatarian or even vegetarian.
Artwork by Iris Peng

Honestly, that’s it. 2020, peace out.

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