End of Year Review 2019

It’s time for my annual year end review, something I look forward to every year as a way to really absorb where I’ve been, what I’ve gone through, where I am now. I have done these every year since 2011. I amend the list of question to just the ones I want to answer or feel is relevant, and sometimes add a few that weren’t there last year. This year, I asked on Instagram what other questions I should answer, and I’ll slide in some suggestions I got from my friends. 

Please feel free to use these questions if you’d like. If you want to find my 2018 review, click here. Happy end of year and happy new calendar year pals 💞

Our grey cat Smudge (orange collar) on the left reaching out to boop his brother, our orange cat Sandy (blue collar), on the nose
they kees

What were my memorable events / moments this year?

  • 2 full years of more-or-less monthly therapy, and discernible change from where I was when I decided to start therapy
  • 3 years with my partner, with this most recent year full of many challenges, a renewed commitment to honesty and sitting with the hard stuff, to taking care of ourselves and supporting each other’s growth, to being tender
  • 2 years living in and maintaining a shared home
  • Getting to meet my regional colleagues at a monitoring and evaluation training in Bangkok
  • A solo Italian dinner on my last night of a UK work trip I didn’t want to go on (but am begrudgingly grateful for)
  • Sharing tarot offerings as a means to be connected — to myself, to my practice, to others: one hour tarot readings, mini pay-what-you-can tarot tour in and around KL, first tarot for beginners workshop with my co-brain
  • Attending, contributing to and/or hosting more regular get-togethers with my friends
  • Fish soup with jellyfish bits on low red stools in Ho Chi Minh with my love
  • One of the last pieces of family land finally being sold, which I thought was such a far off reality (the “land stuff” has been going on for more than a decade)
  • Being able to attend a regional convening that brought together a community I’d never gotten to share space with in that way before
  • Getting a hand-tapped tattoo from Eleanor
  • My 4th Feminist Internet convening, and this time it was specifically Southeast Asia focused! SEA squadddd
  • Getting invited to speak about the Feminist Principles of the Internet to students at a local university
  • Cooking a 5-dish lunch for 11 friends
  • Counting down to the final day of my full time job

What came to an end for me?  

  • One very nearly full year at aforementioned full time job, and the related stresses that came with it 🙏🏽
  • Some friendships and the possibility they still seemed to hold at the start of the year
  • Not interrogating my desire for external validation from authority / “influential” figures via mentorship and professional recognition, which I thought I needed to grow
  • Feeling obliged to follow a certain career trajectory, saying yes to opportunities because I feel I have to, acting from a place of fear
  • The configuration of our shared home, a dear relationship, some duties and rituals and confidences I shared with my now ex-housemate and still beloved friend
  • Living in my old room in the house! 
  • Using my family’s 19 year old car, kinda! I’m working on giving it back to my dad and then living a car-free life 2020 onwards 🤞🏽

What were my aspirations at the beginning of the year, and what’s the status on that now that the year is ending?  

  • LMAO THE GYM!!! This list is a riot to look back on in many ways but that one takes the cake
  • I’d say I achieved about half of these 9 aspirations. I feel very “There’s always next year!” about the rest of them. I really need to get my shit together about the SPF tho, jfc

What did I make that I was really proud of?  

  • It’s hard to feel now like I made anything at my day job. Because it was a difficult experience for me, everything just felt like survival and making it through. But I maintained a high level of professionalism and work quality throughout that was acknowledged and validated by my colleagues and the people we worked with, and I am proud of that
  • The Tarot for Beginners half day workshop, the content and flow of that was really fun to put together
  • 5 whole dishes (including dessert) for 11 people at my end of year lunch
  • Repainting and redecorating the new room I moved to (in the same house)
  • 1 newsletter every month since I started writing it in February!
  • Not a “make” per se, but at the Imagine a Feminist Internet SEA meeting, I convened a discussion on divisiveness and conflict within the women’s rights movement and it felt really needed for all of us who showed up for it. I feel very grateful for the people in that group and what they shared, but primarily for making me feel not alone
  • Sort of relatedly, the talk I gave about the Feminist Principles of the Internet went very smoothly; I felt like I knew what I was talking about while acknowledging the things I didn’t know that I was there to explore with them

From Liy: What were my top 5 cooking moments? 

  • Getting paid in blueberries so I could make crumble for a friend who was intrigued by the concept of my blueberry crumble off one tweet from my best friend (who also got some of the crumble)
  • Bringing risotto my partner made (with my minimal help) as leftovers for lunch the next day, and having both the co-workers sitting next to me stop their work to comment, “What IS that it smells amazing”
  • This is the third time I’ll have mentioned it now, but having 11 of my friends surround our breakfast bar and piling their plates with the 5 dishes I researched, bought groceries for, planned, prepped, and made (with my partner’s help), was such a rush I almost didn’t need to eat
  • Some of my other fave recipes I tried this year: Grilled Potato Salad With Chiles and Basil  , Soy and Ginger Steamed FishLeek and Lemon PastaShrimp Scampi PastaSpicy Sweet Sambal Pork Noodles (you could try this with lamb or beef, maybe!) , Chicken and Rice Soup and Fideos with Chicken Thighs and Kale
  • I didn’t cook it but some other talented people did – for my babe’s birthday this year we went for dinner at Sitka with an amazing menu, and we still think about that beef tataki with mustard sauce
5 dishes minus 1 because the cobbler was in the oven!

Where did most of my money go (other than food) and what were the best things I bought?  

  • Truly, TRULY, I need to stop buying tarot decks in 2020, even though there are so many beautiful ones. This year I got Dark Goddess, Tarot of the North AtlanticApparition TarotHerbcraftersSpacious Tarot and Neo Tarot. I was also gifted the Seventh Sphere Lenormand 🙈
  • New furniture and furnishings! Got some new bits for the new room and after I handed in notice at my job, I channelled my energy into planning for a bit of a home office corner. Framed some prints, got a bunch of stuff for that – laptop stand, wireless keyboard, printer – during the 11/11 sale, got a new desk chair that I’m sitting in right now
  • A sewing machine! It’s so sleek and beautiful
  • Every Grab I ever took straight from home to the office on mornings where it felt like I would never convince myself to go to work otherwise
A row of tarot cards along the top of a table, on a gold shawl. Below the cards is (left to right) a gold singing bowl, a candle, an orange bowl with gems in it, and 2 tarot cards in a grey square dish)
The altar Liy and I set up for Aries season, with a row of Fool cards from every tarot deck we owned.

What were the best things I read?  

First of all, let’s be friends on Goodreads and also Pocket, where I share the books and articles I liked reading. Second of all, my list this year was so long (since I got better at keeping track and saving the things I’d want to share in the review) that I published it separately on my newsletter! It’s a good one, go read it!

Mel asked: What songs or albums got me through this year? 

Kind of a random year for me. I didn’t change my main playlist very much and this year, it especially felt like I didn’t emotionally connect with many songs, they were just pleasant and familiar to listen to while I had to pass time. When I look at some of these songs I think about the grey pavements of the 7 minute walk from the LRT to my office. Some of these are still bangers tho. 

  • Can I Kick It? by A Tribe Called Quest
  • Cornelia Street and Death by a Thousand Cuts by Taylor Swift
  • Dumb Blonde by Avril Lavigne (ft Nicki Minaj)
  • Father of the Bride by Vampire Weekend (specifically Sunflower, We Belong Together, Stranger, Married in a Gold Rush and Jerusalem, New York, Berlin)
  • Give Yourself a Try by The 1975
  • Heavyweight Season 4 (podcast), episodes: Becky & JoDr Muller and Elyse
  • HOMECOMING: The Live Album by Beyoncé (specifically Countdown, Mi Gente, Bow Down)
  • K.T.S.E by Teyana Taylor (specifically WTP, Hurry, 3Way and Issues/Hold On)
  • Lauv’s melancholy emo bops (i’m so tired…, fuck I’m lonely, Sad Forever lmao)
  • Money and Ho by Leikeli47
  • No Matter What from the Steven Universe movie
  • Pink in the Night by Mitski
  • Runnin’ from Creed II: The Album
  • Sabotage by Beastie Boys
  • Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse OST (specifically Start a Riot, What’s Up Danger, Elevate, and Save the Day)
  • Young Enough by Charly Bliss 

What did I love watching?  

  • Ad Astra was beautiful and quite good
  • At The Museum by MoMA on YouTube is so fun and so my jam, I wish they had 6 seasons and a movie
  • Baumgartner Restoration on YouTube is also my whole entire shit
  • Feels silly putting Bon Appetit’s YT channel here if only because I WATCH EVERY VIDEO LOVE MOST OF THEM IT’S A LIFESTYLE
  • Bojack Horseman season 6, part 1!!! I am CHAMPING AT THE BIT for part 2
  • The Crown season 3, I’m so mad I care about this show now
  • I think I started watching The Dragon Prince this year? It’s really fun. Shoutout also to She-Ra: Princesses of Power which is still good
  • I love scams, so the Fyre Festival documentaries were DELICIOUS
  • Godzilla: King of Monsters. KEN WATANABE IS MARRIED TO GODZILLA, UGAIZ
  • Knives Out was a goddamn DELIGHT
  • Mindhunter season 2. Pro-tip, it’s fun to sing “Mindhunter” the same way you would Goldfinger
  • Mitski LIVE 💖😭💖
  • Parasite is as good as everyone says it is!!! Run don’t walk if you haven’t watched it
  • Push opened my eyes to the layers within the issue of housing inequality
  • Russian Doll was so perfect and good
  • Steven Universe: The Movie. I go back to rewatch the Drift Away sequence every so often and it KILLS me
  • Tidying Up by Marie Kondo is not revolutionary in the least, but I would mainline more episodes of her organising people’s houses
  • The True Cost changed the way I think about clothes and lead to me buying the sewing machine finally
  • Watchmen season 1, omg this show blew my mind in very pleasurable ways
  • I was very moved and affected by To Which My Brother Laughed, a local production based on the caning of two women in Malaysia’s East Coast

What were my stressful learning moments?  

  • The first few months at my second ever full time job (first time with an international organisation), wondering what more I could do to make things work and be more motivated about the job I had. Dealing with the disappointment of things not turning out the way I thought it would, the way I hoped it would, the way I wanted. Overcoming my fears and insecurities re: what others would think of me, if I would appear weak or unprofessional, what I thought I was capable of. This answers one of the questions Liy asked me, What was the most humbling experience / moment of 2019? Sam asked, Do I feel satisfied that I gave an “institution” job a real try? Yes, and I wouldn’t say no to another “institution” job, just not so soon.
  • Dealing with some people projecting flimsy narratives onto me based on things I shared with them in good faith as their means of “understanding me” or connecting better with me, and slowly coming to terms with the fact that they were doing that for them, that it didn’t have to touch my understanding of myself at all, and that I could have empathy for their desire to connect or understand.
  • Figuring out how to hold space for my loved ones through their hardships and growing pains without undermining their agency and choices, confronting how I exercise my desire for control through projection, unkind choices and words, and jealousy. Confronting that supporting people has meant, to me, fixing them in some way, so their lives can be more in line with what I think is best, and working on dismantling that and replacing it with something better. In my last review, I mentioned a value I wanted future me to have, and that was radical acceptance. It’s still a struggle for me, and I am continuing to work on it.
  • Reckoning with the heavy sadness I was carrying all year (and still carry some measure of) related to the endings of some facets of or whole friendships, and how I needed to release that sadness by accepting that some things had ended, that I needed some things to end, even if I didn’t want them to, even if I was guilty that I needed them to end so I could let go of some difficult feelings. 
  • Kate asked, What about myself am I most proud of this year?

that i made it through this year fighting, stronger, tired, more ready, more strengthened in how i knew myself.

And what can I share from the things I’ve learned this year?  

  • Small projects and actions kept me afloat when I needed to distract myself from despair or feel connected to something that brought me joy. Doing tarot offerings for 3 months, decorating a new room, planning a trip, monthly meets with friends. It always helped to look at what else was around me, what else I could spend my attention on.
  • This year’s experience with work helped me solidify my boundaries and how I drew and stuck to them. I am grateful that the 9 to 5 office job taught me about what it means to clock out of work, because now I know how to apply that without a 9 to 5 office job for a hopefully more balanced freelancing work life. I told myself I wasn’t going to work beyond my contracted hours, that I would spend my non-work time answering to non-work things, that I didn’t need to maximise every in-between moment (like my commute) with work. I guarded those boundaries meticulously, I stuck to it. I negotiated with myself about how long I would give it a shot before deciding to quit. And that once I decided, I would accept that decision and not keep giving myself a hard time about it. It kept me sane, and it protected the rest of my abundant life.
  • Relatedly, I had to really learn what it meant to separate my worth from my job(s). To separate my identity, and how I saw myself, from the work I do that pays me, that I thought helped me professionally progress. The boundaries helped me see work as just work. A series of tasks, an activity, challenges, lessons, boredom, achievements. Not me. Not my value. Not my purpose. 
  • And connected to that, at my last therapy session for the year, I talked with my therapist about what it meant to look forward to doing less next year, doing “nothing” (wassup Jenny Odell). Something that she brings up a lot is how I’m prone to feeling, at any moment, in response to any situation near me, that I should be in some way contributing positively to it and that if I’m ever idle as whatever it was was ongoing, that meant I wasn’t doing enough. That to do nothing was bad, was indicative of something bad in me. A friend is going through a hard time? I need to do something about it! An acquaintance shares a situation they’re experiencing? Oh, I should look for some resources that could be helpful to them! Someone thought of me for an opportunity that I’m just ambivalent about? Oh but there’s potential there I could get excited about if I worked on it, and what if turning it down means disappointing the person / a community / a cause? Work isn’t going well because of various factors out of my control? I ask myself, what more could I be doing? What am I not doing that’s keeping it stuck? Does that sound exhausting, because it often was. That mindset would also sidestep the fact that often, I was already doing something the best way I knew how! And so it was enough. 
  • Being where I didn’t want to be helped me think about where I did want to be. I’m still piecing together the answer, but that window and the view it holds gets closer and closer to me the further away I get from what I know I don’t want. It’s helped me feel clearer about answering the calls that have been a long time coming, a long time shelved. I feel a bit like I’ve arrived to where I need to be a bit backwards. 

Annika asked, In what ways was I lucky this year? What ways was I unlucky? How do I feel about the concept of luck? How do I bring luck to myself, how do I smash it away?

  • I was lucky to have made a decision that wasn’t right and lived to learn from it with no ill effects to my material existence. I was lucky that as I ran out the clock on that decision, I was paid well, I had health insurance (plus dental!), and the team I worked with were patient and understanding and supportive. I was lucky to have money to quit without a job lined up. I was lucky that family land sold and added to that money. I was lucky to be in good health the whole year, save for a tough cold or two. I am lucky I could pay for mental health support all year and have a therapist listen to my work related and other grievances for an hour plus every other month. I am lucky to have a loving and supportive partner, housemates, friends and family, who kept me from feeling alone or helpless or afraid. I am lucky that beyond the haze, which I could afford to buy some protections for, my home and neighbourhood have been safe from any environmental dangers. I am lucky that this year I was not persecuted by the state, that my life was largely untouched by violence, that I mostly take my physical security for granted in my day to day life in a way so many others right now around the world, in Hong Kong, in India, in East Turkistan (to name a few), cannot. 
  • Annika mentioned in the email she sent this question in how when she thinks about luck, she thinks about the way her privilege plays into her idea of it. I feel exactly the same. And when I list all my “luck”, my privileges, the concept of unluckiness ceases to seem plausible. All lives have bad timing, mistakes, a decision fuelled by certainty that leads us astray, shame-based regret, embarrassments. I am not unlucky. Not by any meaningful measure. 
  • I’ve always felt that I’m being looked after. With all those privileges yes, with a little of my own know-how also, but also in a bit of a spiritual sense. Is it my dead mom? Is it the monotheistic Abrahamic god I don’t believe in any more? Is it divinity, despite all my attempts to repel it? All I know is it’s a feeling. I call it in by being vulnerable, by sitting with the parts of me that hurt the most, that feel the angriest, the most jealous, the most entitled, the most aggrieved, and extending to them (to me) compassion (hard) instead of revulsion (too easy). I smash it away by being facetious, by thinking I’m too clever to get hurt or make a mistake, that I’m not going to learn anything from whatever is giving me grief, that others don’t see me, that it’s not on me to work harder to see them, and that if I perform enough arrogance, I will scare away the unknown, so it may never know how scared I am of it. 

Vlada asked me this last year, and I want to answer it again: Where do I see my life going from here? How would I describe the future I would really like to have?

Once my therapist asked me to draw my state of mind and emotions. It was a depressive period for me because of work, so I started with a tangle of brown in the middle, the lines getting thicker and thicker as I kept drawing loops on loops on loops. Then I drew a little blue square in the distance, and I drew yellow beams around it like the sun. I drew green leafing vines around the border, creeping patiently towards that blue square.

I told my therapist, the blue isn’t just the end of the year, the end of this job, but the things I now feel called to do — the stories I had backburnered for years and were ringing my doorbell, the time I want to gather for myself. It’s our garden, and cooking, and learning to sew. It is my tarot cards, and my altar, and filling our home with presence. It is writing, and getting reaquainted. I am pressed against the window, I have crawled into it, it has become a door whose handle I am turning, it has become a big room, a bigger room, a house, a building, a city, a forest, the whole whole sky. I do not think of it as a start (although it might well be), but a continuation 🌱