21 Things I Learned in 2021

  1. How to remember the time you wanted what you now have.  I’ll die on this gratitude hill because it is just so important!  There were times just a few years ago when I wanted some pretty big things but had no clue how to get there. Then, one day, I realized I just had it. Not sure if I can say I learned how to get what I want or if it just happened, but irregardless…
  2. How the toughest part of it all is that you have no proof. You just have to trust. I’m making “trust” a major theme for myself going into 2022. I realized this year just how difficult it is for me to trust that it’ll all just work out. After all, we’re taught to be agents of our own destinies, to achieve achieve achieve, and that we can do whatever we set our minds to. Sometimes it’s like, if I don’t have a 20-step action plan that I can point to right now, how do I really know I’ll get there? I guess the answer is just trusting that you will.
  3. How to make amazing friends post-college. I get asked this often and I think I’ve kind of cracked the code, so here it is: You want to make friends with super-connectors, a term I coined for people with two main characteristics: 1) they are strong extroverts, meaning they gain energy from socializing and they maintain a high level of socialization across multiple spheres in their life per week 2) they are self-motivated to mobilize events and happy to share friends. If they have 1) but not 2), they are more of a super-insulator (social but gatekeeping–I met a lot of these people in college), and if they have 2) and not 1), they’re more of a super-conductor (very friendly/inclusive but the magnitude of the social network isn’t as strong). Anyway, all that is to say that as an introvert, all you have to really do is keep an open mind, know when to recharge, and find 1-2 super-connectors. You can see it as outsourcing, but really what I’m saying is that all of the credit goes to these beautiful, beautiful people out there who are both social and generous–and I’m just happy to be there and be their friend!
There are boatloads of new friends out there, just waiting to be made!
  1. How everything is a coping mechanism. And that it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. A coping mechanism, if I were to define it, is anything that transports us away from the current moment. It’s astonishing to realize how most of our vices, and some of our supposed virtues too, are all just escape exits. Let me just list a bunch of them so you can feel personally attacked like I did. The usual vices: drinking, drugs, food, sleep, sex, partying. The virtuous: over-scheduling events on your calendar, overworking, overcommitting and saying “yes” to people all the time. The hobbies: gaming, reading, watching TV or movies, travel. Note that none of these activities that we use as coping mechanisms are inherently bad—it’s only when they become a significant crutch for us addressing and processing things that they become potentially limiting.
  2. How everything is about the ego. And that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Ever wondered why someone (perhaps yourself) can be so insecure but also so insanely full of confidence? It’s two sides of the same ego. I imagine the ego as a yolk-like substance inside of us that is jiggly and fragile, sliding back and forth inside some chest cavity or cabinet of the brain. They key is to not allow it to become too big or boss you around. Some may even advocate for ego death, which I am still learning about, but I think is a journey to decentralizing from the “I” (not everything is about you and this is a good thing) and moving closer to a middle ground (“I am no better than anyone else, but I am also no worse than anyone else”).
  3. How people really do throw away anything and everything in New York City. You know what I got this year for free because my neighbors didn’t want it? A West Elm couch, a live edge wooden bench, a media console, a bird of paradise plant, an olive tree, a writing desk…the list honestly goes on. Let’s just say my Facebook Marketplace rating is very good.
  4. How intellectualizing is not enough. You have to feel into your body. As a fastidious thinking type, I’ve lived in my brain all my life. I didn’t realize the sheer power of being able to quiet your mind and just breathe, cry, laugh, shout, jump, shiver, stretch, and grow. I’m convinced we are at least 50% monkeys in a meat suit at the end of the day. Mankind’s greatest folly may just be his hubris at being able to overcome nature through sheer thought, especially the young, whose bodies have not begun genuinely fighting us quite yet.
Yellowstone National Park, August 2021
  1. How to improve my relationship with food. I’m going to go out on a limb here and talk about something deeply personal, which is my relationship with food. 2021 was the year I finally started seeing a nutritionist and made progress I frankly didn’t think was possible. I realized that I had been at war with my body for so long that I didn’t even know how to listen to it or give it what it needed. Learning that the BMI is bullshit, health does not equal skinniness, and that dieting never works was such a radical paradigm shift for me.
  2. How dance parties are very necessary. This might sound wonky, but I think it’s very important for mental health to regularly dance or sing. Energy coaches call this feminine embodiment practice—if you don’t believe in that kind of stuff, basically just think about it as “dance around your room/in the shower and blast your favorite music a few times a week.” I’ve never been a dancer ever in my life, yet even I find that my mood improves when I let go and simply inhabit my body.
  3. How everyone is on a different timeline, and that really is okay. Ah, comparison, you old and familiar poison. It is without a doubt one of the things that makes me feel the worst about myself, and it is entirely unhelpful, I know. Much easier said than done, but here’s something cute my mom sent me this year that I think actually helped bring home the point that you’re not late or behind (and yes, it’s a pixellated WeChat poem that I screenshotted):
  1. How people might be cool on the internet, but it’s still just the internet. The “metaverse” is vastly overrated, and at some point there really is an inverse correlation to how active/happy someone is online and how active/happy they are IRL. Trust, it’s much cooler to be cool in real life.
  2. How to continue to create. I know maybe I assign too much importance to self-identity, but truly, I can’t help but think how central the joy of creation is to my life. Every time I create something new, it feels like a leap of faith, and in that rush I’ve always found inherent value. This year, I created more videos, shot more film (going on a decade strong of just analog!), started a UX design certificate, and oh, randomly started writing a novel/screenplay. So yes, now I will finally be that insufferable New Yorker that’s always talking about my unfinished screenplay. Ha!
  3. How nothing in life is linear. But to that point, how weird is it that I basically didn’t pick up the pen for three years, and then all of a sudden, inspiration struck in the form of 43,000 words in a month? Maybe I absolutely suck at being consistent, but then again, is my life meant to be mechanical, consistent? And just because we can’t see it, does that mean there isn’t a pattern? Perhaps I am less like a straight line in the sand and more like the oscillating waves of a lunar tide.
  4. How New York City is freaking awesome. Sometimes it only takes a multi-year pandemic to realize how great your city is. Safe to say, I am fully drinking the NYC Kool-Aid now. I love the subway, I love little walks in my neighborhood, I love my community farm, I love the farmer’s markets, I love the world-class shopping and thrifting, I love how there’s always more to explore and stumble across, and I love showing my friends from out of town around.
  1. How deeply I cherish my best friends. I celebrated a decade of friendship with my high school best friends this year. There’s something so special about bonds that have persisted through the trials of different stages of life. I love how we’re all such different people and even closer because of it, and I’m so proud to have had the privilege to watch each of them grow into the women they are today. If you’re reading this, hi, I love you!
  2. “Don’t be sad it’s over, smile because it happened.” Yikes, this one is so cheesy, but again, very representative of my year! Some of the things that make you the happiest aren’t meant to last forever, and that’s okay.
  3. How taking care of other living things is hard. This year, I fostered two adorable puppies, Hoki and Fido, and damn, I didn’t realize how much work having a pet actually was (oh, how my parents had a field day when I told them that). I’m talking about being woken at 2 am because Hoki had diarrhea so violent that he developed a fear of going outside afterwards. I’m talking about Fido peeing in every corner of my room, and also pooping a few times in the hallway. I’m talking about tugging 24/7 on a leash, and being scared of all of the following: men, kids, subway noises, cars, etc. Fido also broke off his leash in front of a potential adopter and I had to chase him through the streets. As you can tell, I am getting wartime flashbacks. So yeah, dogs are super cute, but maybe not “I want one of my own right now” cute.
Fido and the puppy dog eyes
  1. How to invest in myself. A random character arc in my early twenties has been my relationship with money. It’s hard for me to justify spending money on “nicer” things for myself, especially as a brand and marketing person and as someone who was raised with an immigrant mindset towards material goods. But this year I’ve taken a much more maximalist approach to money, simply because I think that we are our best asset, and there are some areas that are worth strategically investing into.
  2. How to finally buy shares of the S&P 500. Speaking of investing money. It may have taken me a few years, but I finally moved my money from my savings account, where it was simply languishing and collecting like 5 cents in interest per year, into some stocks. Or whatever. You know what I mean. This is slightly embarrassing, especially when I think about how many years of compound interest I’ve lost, but hey, better late than never.
  3. How it’s important to be humble. I sometimes have a habit of jumping to conclusions like an Olympic hurdler. Fortunately, when we’re too simplistically reductive, life has a way of humbling us. My adversaries will be happy to hear that I have been proven wrong multiple times this year, on topics such as the following: New Jersey, San Francisco, TikTok, K-pop, (some) anime, and drill bits.
  4. Something incredibly powerful my friend texted me the other day: “Nobody wants to be the villain of another person’s story. But if we betray our own hero, then we become the villain in ours. Better a villain to that somebody else than a villain to yourself.”

Here’s to 2022!

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