I have done these every year since 2011. I’ve amended the list of question to just the ones I want to answer as always, and added a few that weren’t there last year. Please feel free to use them if you’d like (I lost the original links of where I first got them, although I do think they’ve spread around some). I’ve taken down past years’ reviews (although they are likely floating around somewhere online) but I always look forward to the time of the year where I get to spend time on this exercise and share it with friends and acquaintances and even strangers online. Happy new year, pals.
What did I do this year that a) I’d never done before b) made me happy and/or c) excited me?
- Going for monthly therapy starting in January. In last year’s review I said “I’m returning to my intent from a few years ago to seek professional help” Look at me following through.
- HAD MY LAST DAY AT MY OLD JOB!
- Supporting myself financially on freelancing alone, and freelancing in a way that made me much happier, more fulfilled, and less stressed than when I last did it full time in 2014.
- Earning a level of income that made me feel proud and satisfied, that also enabled me to continue building my savings, pay all my expenses and then some, travel for fun, and also finally open up an ASB account.
- Being featured in 2 magazines, which both included photoshoots that appealed to my Leo nature 😎
- Setting up an altar at home with my cobrain.
- Two career milestones: being invited abroad to facilitate a meeting (for Southeast Asian Arts Residencies) and to rapporteur a meeting (on campaigning against online gender based violence).
- Cooking a house meal nearly every week of the year! Plenty of hits, some misses, lots of levelling up in skills.
- Volunteering at Malaysia Design Archive (although that dropped off April onwards due to travel and work).
- Participating in a 4-session art writing workshop with art critic Weng Choy Lee, who I now know is very considerate, smart and sensitive and is a very good teacher.
- Participating in a supportive writing intensive with a friend, a friendly acquaintance, and a stranger-turned-friendly-acquaintance.
- Working on an amazing project with one of my favourite organizations, APC, on their Feminist Principles of the Internet online platform. The project ran for 8 months and included organizing and facilitating a local conversation in KL on the FPIs and an online knowledge gathering and sourcing campaign.
- Gardening and growing things I could use in my cooking!
- Decorating my room exactly as I wanted it, making a living space I really love.
- Joining a gym and like, actually regularly going to a gym (so far).
- Travelling to the Philippines, Cambodia, Medan, Nepal, and Perth for the first time.
- Planning one of those trips with my babe — our first trip abroad together!
- Yo also we celebrated two years together 💞
- Having my best friend living in the same country and city again!
- Getting professional head shots taken by a photographer friend for my website redesign, which turned out great.
- Participating in a sexual wellbeing workshop and articulating for the first time my journey of self discovery.
- Got hired for a full-time job (With health benefits! With a healthy salary! With EPF!) This was the thing I noted as something I was anxious about in last year’s review, and I am so looking forward to my first day in January.
- Colouring my hair a grey-ish blue-ish silver.
What were my stressful learning moments?
- Fighting with my partner through a couple months earlier in the year and learning to navigate our communications when we’re both hurting and raw. We’re much better now.
- Navigating rifts and disagreements and tensions in my circle of friends; learning what it means to show up, to let go, to hold space, to sit with the hard stuff and wait for the light.
- Our cat Sandy getting hit by a car the first time he went outside (losing sight in 1 eye and fracturing his jaw) and getting stuck under a concrete plant shelf at a neighbour’s house for 2 nights the second time he went out (3 paws and claws needed weeks to heal and are still a little janky, scars on his back took weeks to heal and those spots grew back white). Lesson: Sandy doesn’t leave the house anymore.
- Leaving my laptop on the plane after landing home from our Jakarta trip 😑
- Getting a cat tree for free through the Beli Nothing Project FB group, washing it with the garden hose not realizing these things are made of cardboard, coming outside an hour later to see the whole thing had collapsed 😑
- Having no free Saturdays in September.
- CAN YOU BELIEVE MY SPOTIFY WRAPPED DIDN’T HAVE A ZODIAC FACT??? Lesson: Spotify hates me and me alone.
- Getting pushed out to sea in a kayak with a friend and not being able to paddle ourselves back (we got saved collectively by a kind stranger who saw us from the beach, the kayak hire guy, a friend we had just met 2 days before, and a boatful of chill Aussie blokes drinking beers, listening to music).
- I lived through all of this and it was stressful but also it was ultimately fine and if you’re reading this, yay us for making it to this point!
What were my goals at the beginning of the year, and what’s the status on that now that the year is ending?
- Of these I think I fully honoured (to my personal satisfaction) about 5 or 6 aspirations (lol at 30 books tho!! Who did I think I was???)
- I gave all 10 a good old college try; some I managed in fits and starts, others made way for other priorities. Nurturing healthier habits is a lifelong endeavour, I’m beginning to learn, and I’m working on it.
What cities and countries did I visit?
What date will remain etched upon my memory and why?
I don’t always answer this question every year, only when I have a good date and this year — well. It’s May 9 2018, the date of Malaysia’s 14th General Election and the day we voted out a party that’s been in power all 61 years of our independence.
What did I make that I was really proud of?
- The cardboard box fort I glue-gunned for our boys.
- So many meals. Highlights: ground beef tacos, sambal sotong, sambal terung, ginger cashew chicken curry, Taiwanese beef noodle soup, fish tacos with fixins’ AND homemade tortillas!, ayam percik, risotto with my babe, a blueberry ginger pie, sour cream doughnuts, makeshift pantry lunches, dahi toast (yes, I am a full blown Bon Appetit stan).
- Cultivating our back garden! I grew coriander from seed after about eleventy tries, grew basil, nurtured an eggplant sproutling (and valiantly tried to protect it from grasshoppers), grew a beautiful solitary sunflower from seed, kept succulents alive. Gardening really poked at my relationship with perfectionism and “failure” because if a plant dies it’s just a part of the cycle — the current monsoon season has claimed a lot of our plants, other times it’s been root rot or bugs. It all goes back to soil. There will always be seeds and the sun comes out another day. That said when I “fail” at cooking something the way I want I turn into a real maelstrom of emotion?? So they kinda uh cancel each other out lol.
- A shared altar space with Liy. I love collaborating with her on how to set it up, what elements we want for the intentions we’d like to set, setting dates to reset it on new and full moon nights, taking things from our garden to make fresh centerpieces.
- Our new government pledged in their manifesto a targeted 30% women’s representation in cabinet — which they did not reach. In the midst of our Prime Minister finalizing his cabinet picks, many Malaysians spoke out and advocated for this promised representation. My friends Juana, Liy and myself felt frustrated and helpless at the time and from that, an idea was born to get people to make vibrant eye-catching graphics out of the quotes of signatories to an open letter to the government. It was a positive action that made US feel positive, (despite the disappointing outcome) and I’m super proud of the 3 of us and everyone who participated.
- Redesigned my website in a major way (for me) — changed the layout, simplified how I featured my work, got profesh photos, set up my favourite page: Recommendations. There are still parts of it I’d like to work on more, but it’s no longer something nagging at me in the back of my head.
What came to an end for me?
- Being underpaid! Freelancing is hard shit, and I think it will always be hard shit, but I have so much more confidence about what my work and time is worth, and to ask for the amount that will make me genuinely happy to take a job (which means I am so much more comfortable saying no to things!). This year I was compensated fairly, compensated generously (in my view), and also underpaid, and all these experiences were valuable in their own ways.
- Being laissez-faire about my health. It’s probably because I turned 30 lol; I am definitely more aware of what it means and requires to maintain my body, my mind, and my happiness — and the consequences when I don’t.
- Using Tumblr at all RIP!!! I haven’t even been on the site this year but honestly I have a lot of jumbled feelings about the end of my time on there because it’s been the site of a lot of reflection, writing, and most importantly, connection and friendship (I’ve been on it since 2008!!) but I haven’t parsed it all.
What were the best places I spent time in?
- Our garden and kitchen.
- OUR HOUSE in general.
- Cuddling with my babe 🥰
- Neck deep in applications and essays and articles and work with my cobrain, so that we could both make whatever we were working on sharper.
- Hanging out in the same room with my best friend again.
- In all the rooms I had the privilege of being in for the express purpose of working with women, feminists, activists, queer people, writers — people who were enthusiastic and curious and driven and vulgar and tender and motivated to make the world better somehow.
Where did most of my money go and what were the best things I bought?
- Eating out, ordering in and groceries 🤦🏽♀️ Also WAY too much money on in-game purchases 🤦🏽♀️
- A rug for my room, books by friends, toys and accessories for the cats, cooking and baking ingredients, anything Liy and I bought for the altar, new herbs and seeds, new clothes and underwear and sports bras.
Here are my favourite moments of love from this year.
- Being in Perth with 4 of my 6 high school best friends. It’s so rare for us now to be able to do big group gatherings, with us scattered across the world, so this holiday together was so so precious. Nadia tweeted during the trip “I’m upstairs in my room getting dressed & my friends are downstairs in the living room hanging out & talking & every time I hear them laugh it’s the best sound in the world” and that’s the Ultimate Vibe, pals. I’ll always cherish it (scary kayak incident included!!!)
- Any time I surprise my babe at work and their face cracks open like it’s the most unexpected, happiest thing to happen ever.
- Being with one of my best friends on the day she got engaged, witnessing her step into this whole new part of her life.
- Reading tarot for strangers and friends and watching how the words I say land in soft places within them, open up something within them, how grateful they are for the words and the space to hear and feel them, how grateful I am to be there with them.
- Being part of the active and collective care in our house — caring for the house, the cats, each other, ourselves.
- Visiting Sandy at the vet after his accident 💔
- Me and my housemates sprawled on our big couch watching TV for hours together, heckling the screen.
- Getting good feedback about the work I do from people I admire and respect; feeling seen and acknowledged and believed in by them.
- My loved ones enjoying the things I cook for them.
- Hangs with friends I don’t see a lot, and spending half the time going “Same! Omg, me too.”
- Seeing something sprouting or blooming in the garden.
- Every date night, every meal cooked together, every moment holding on to each other’s hands, every time we come back together after a fight, every relationship milestone shared, every dreaming about the future.
- Having a couple hours to myself, with my music, in my room, sprawled on the bed looking out at the bright sky and stirring houses outside my window.
What were the best things I read?
- Why Ugliness Is Vital in the Age of Social Media, an interview with Mia Mingus by ALOK
- Pretty much anything Helena Fitzgerald writes for her newsletter griefbacon
- What Your Thinness Has Taken From You by Your Fat Friend
- My Favourite Dress by Nadia Mohd Rasidi
- Tavi Gevinson’s last editor letter for Rookie Magazine
- There is No Dalit Cuisine by Sharanya Deepak
- Close Proximity by Deborah Germaine Augustin
- A Girl Called Abang by Hali Munan
- Creatures of Near Kingdoms by Zedeck Siew and illustrated by Sharon Chin (book)
- The Altar of the Only World & The High Priestess Never Marries by Sharanya Manivannan (book)
- Tumblr’s Porn Ban Is The Middle Of The End Of The Old Internet by Katie Notopoulos
- How Britney Spears Built a Billion-Dollar Business Without Selling a Single Record by Rachel Syme
- Everybody. Offline. We Need to Talk. by Nadine Moawad
- How a Woman Becomes a Lake by Jia Tolentino
- Pussy by Gwen Benaway
- Friends With Secrets
- White is for Witching by Helen Oyememi (book)
What sounds did I keep clicking play on?
- Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer
- Paramore’s After Laughter
- Poskad by Pandoras
- Love Supreme by Nao
- APESHIT by The Carters
- BagBak by Vince Staples
- Us (feat Rocky Rivera, Klassy, Faith Santilla) by Ruby Ibarra
- Washing Machine Heart by Mitski
- Wonder Woman by Kacey Musgraves
- If You’re Over Me & Lucky Escape by Years & Years
- Pills by St. Vincent
- goodnight n go by Ariana Grande
- Superhero by Lauv
- Shallow & Always Remember Us This Way by Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper
- Heavyweight (podcast). Specifically these episodes: Jesse, Christina, Skye, and Soraya
What did I love watching?
- Bojack Horseman
- Bon Appetit’s YouTube channel
- Avatar: The Last Airbender
- Grace and Frankie
- The Good Place
- Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat
- Wild Wild Country
- Videos on this and this channel about small, stylishly designed living spaces (tip: on the Chinese channel, videos from up to one year ago have English subs, but the rest don’t)
- Old YouTube standbys: soapmaking, woodworking, house makeovers
- Black Panther, obvs
- Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse
- Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts
- She-Ra: Princess of Power
- Queer Eye
- A Star Is Born
- The Ice episode of Dogs on Netflix!!!! NO I HAVE NOT WATCHED THE SYRIAN EPISODE I CAN’T DO IT
- Old constants: Great British Bake-Off, Brooklyn 99 & Steven Universe
What were my favourite items of clothing in 2018? Did I have a personal fashion concept?
- Items: Ankle length patterned pants from Uniqlo, mock-turtleneck sleeveless crop tops, batik print cardigans, pinstripe jumpsuit, floral shirts with a deep-v, denim short shorts. sports bras as outerwear and swim wear, not wearing a bra otherwise.
- Concept: Jewel tones, prints and patterns, make it andro! *throws a short sleeved collared button-down/shirt on over whatever*, show skin (arms! thighs! belly!)
What did I do for my birthday, and how old did I turn?
I turned 30 and I booked myself a massage and a mani-pedi, which were great decisions. I went out for 3 birthday meals: crabs and fried mantou with my crew at Lala Cheong, Isabel with ze babe, and Rakuzen with my oldest friends. Then I topped it off with a babes trip to Medan and then Jakarta to see my Plant Mom Jaeger.
What are tips I can share from things I’ve learned this year?
- Oil is good for cleaning off some glues stuck to your skin/body.
- If you’ve never kayaked, definitely don’t do it for the first time in the ocean without someone experienced with you, and don’t do it when the weather’s not super duper clear.
- As a novice gardener: if a plant looks totally wilted out of nowhere, don’t panic yet — water it and wait to see if it perks up. The first time this happened to me, I truly despaired and then the plant recovered hours later.
- As a novice home cook: have patience when seasoning while cooking. For sauces, add a bit at a time, stir, then taste, and repeat as many times as necessary. Try different flavour profiles (don’t just keep adding salt, for example — maybe the sauce needs like more tomato paste or sesame oil or lemon juice or even a lil sugar).
- When a friend tells you about an irrational thought they may be having that’s causing them anxiety, sometimes the best thing is to really listen to them, validate them, and then remind them of your love and support — not tell them, “That’s not rational!” They know, and that’s why it sucks even more.
- Last one! Sometimes when you and a loved one disagree, and it seems you can’t get on the same page about the thing you disagree on no matter what you do, take a step back and a breather and really think about what your goals are in this interaction, how important it is to you for you both to have the exact same understanding of a situation, and to remind yourself that no matter what, how you are viewed and perceived by others is out of your control, but how you feel about yourself and the choices you have for how you invest your energy is something you have total agency over.
What experience from this year would I love to have all over again?
- Any period of time where I wasn’t working (and could afford to not do that) and just hung out.
- Revisiting the meetings I got to attend with awesome people but only if I’m not rapporteuring or facilitating lol
What’s a valuable life lesson I learned this year?
Courtesy of my therapist, she literally tells me this like every session: I have no obligation to react to, respond to, or troubleshoot any feeling that I feel. My feelings are not an indication of my “goodness” or “badness”, I do not benefit from judging myself for having any of my feelings, even the ugliest, scariest ones. It is okay to simply acknowledge my feelings, feel them / share space with them, and be patient with myself and my feelings during their stay.
Where do I see my life going from here? How would I describe the future I would really like to have?
- This and the following question are from my friend, Vlada
- I have never felt more present in my life than I did this year. What I want to have is here, it’s arrived, it’s unfolding, it’s now. When I look at what might be ahead, I feel excited, capable, and curious. My life could go in unfathomable directions and that doesn’t make me as anxious as it used to. So I don’t know how to answer this question, but I know at this moment that I’m a stronger more confident person with PLANS and the BELIEF that I have what it takes to work towards those plans and make them happen while also continuing to making space to DREAM and that sounds like a really rad future to me.
Who is the future me that I would like to become? What qualities and values does that person have that matter to me?
- Today (18/12) in therapy I outlined my priorities for the coming year — at the very least the coming 6 months — very clearly:
- Continuing to take good care of my mental, physical and emotional health
- Getting acclimated to my new job, new work environment, new people, new systems and leaning into the commitment I made to prove something to myself, namely that I am up for this challenge, that I will try my best to excel in this position, that I will work hard to invest in my professional and financial future
- Maintaining the rituals and spaces that ground me: cooking, gardening, home life, our altar, tarot. These have been small, strong anchors for me all throughout this year, private open breathing spaces that I cherish very fully and want to continue nurturing
- Continuing to love, support, and connect with the people I love, so that we may continue growing and navigating life together
- My therapist challenged me to look at those priorities and derive what my values are right now, and for some reason I find this the hardest thing to articulate? But let me try:
- The groundedness I have achieved and continue striving for requires just, unrelenting honesty. I’ve not been able to look some things in my life in the face, even as they’ve begged me to. I have been pushing myself through fear since around 2016 (Saturn Return babyyyy) and it’s been that — being honest about my fears and everything I’m afraid of — that’s opened up so much for me. It’s fuckin’ WORK and some days I don’t show up to it. But I show up to it more than I have, and I can feel where it sits inside my body, when I face something ugly and bristling and yearning.
- I surprised myself with how quickly the priorities I listed out came to me, and I think they’re a product of letting go. Control is something I’ve always desired, and that’s been the root of a lot of my fears and insecurities. Losing control, power, connection, respect, relationships — when my grip is tightest, I feel no ownership over anything. Letting go, seeing more clearly what I had to work with and what didn’t serve me (as much as I wanted it to), what I truly really wanted, meant I could finally have a life and a self I could really feel was mine. Radical acceptance with no caveats — of myself, of others, of where I am — is what I desire now. I want more forgiveness in 2019.
- In Nepal, at a meeting where we discussed the politics of self care and the emotional work of trying to unravel oppressive structures, jac kee (one of the smartest people I know) talked about something she’d heard of from a project seeking to record and archive oral histories — how maybe we need to think of change at the pace of plants. More and more I place value in constancy, consistency, and the cumulative and granular value of our actions, our time, our lives, over quicker gratification, boastable achievements, an impressive facade. I want to be as expansive, as rooted, as long-lasting, and as resilient as a forest.
My last note is: I felt as I was writing this that I was focusing less on other people than I did in previous years’ reviews and I felt it necessary to say: every good thing that I had the privilege of experiencing or having this year is built on the deep-rooted foundation of amazing support from friends and community, old and new, and I feel my greatest responsibility is to honour that love, trust and time and multiply it whenever and however I can, to show up and fight alongside them, with them, for them, and that gift and that challenge is so much of my life and I’m so grateful for that.