2017 Year-End Reflections

I kicked off this year with the ambitious goal of writing at least one thing, in any format, per week. A few months in, I realized this was putting too much pressure on myself. I also started to think more seriously about writing a novel, and I wanted to focus on it exclusively.

Two concept pivots later, the novel unfortunately took a backseat to a soul-crushing, five-month job hunt. My discontent with my day job reached a point where I was crying every Sunday night about having to go back to work in the morning, hopelessly pessimistic about my career trajectory, and constantly angry. I submitted over 50 applications, reformatted my resume twice, e-mailed one faceless recruiter after another, had innumerable phone calls, had 10 video or on-site interviews, and received 21 rejections. I learned New York is full of shiny start-ups “disrupting” the way you make financial investments, order food, reserve physical storage space, manage retail inventory, continue education, and get someone to clean your apartment—all online, mostly from your phone. The “Uber” of this, the “Facebook” of that.

In November, shortly after I tendered my resignation without a solid contingency plan—goes to show how unbearably toxic that environment had become for me—I received an official offer of employment. It was from an up-and-coming company that actually seems to be doing something real, has a robust and amazing product, and has tremendous potential for further growth. I accepted immediately, with the most excitement and optimism I’ve ever felt about my career. I am no longer working in the same role as I did for the past five years, which is somewhat scary, but hopefully I won’t ever be turning back.

2017 was an exciting and gratifying year in other ways, too. Friends had birthday parties, got engaged, completed graduate studies, got promotions and new jobs, and launched new initiatives. I had the honor of attending not one, but two vibrant, exuberant Indian weddings. I did my first (and only, for the foreseeable future) short story reading at a Brooklyn bookstore. I joined an amateur orchestra that will be performing at Carnegie Hall next year. I heard amazing musical performances by Yuja Wang and the New York Philharmonic, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and Hans Zimmer. I stopped using paper tissues and switched to handkerchiefs. I traveled to Colorado, Dallas, Cleveland, Chicago, Los Angeles, Olympic National Park, Cherry Springs State Park, Hong Kong, Singapore, Mexico City, and Mumbai. And I got engaged!

I made a more earnest effort than ever to seek out new stories and characters, especially from people of color and other marginalized voices—something I plan to  continue in 2018 and beyond. These were in the form of wondrous, awe-inspiring books:

  • The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories, by Ken Liu
  • The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy
  • Sour Heart: Stories, by Jenny Zhang
  • The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth’s Past), by Liu Cixin
  • Her Body and Other Parties: Stories, by Carmen Maria Machado

thought-provoking independent theater productions:

  • In Full Color
  • Blackout
  • Say Something Bunny!

and fascinating exhibits at the:

  • Guggenheim (NYC)
  • National Videogame Museum (Dallas)
  • American Writers Museum (Chicago)
  • Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago)
  • Museum of Broken Relationships (Los Angeles)
  • Future of Storytelling Festival (Staten Island)
  • art museum in Mexico City whose name I’ve sadly forgotten.

Next year, I want to be better and more proactive about maintaining friendships. I want to keep growing and learning, and help others do the same. I need to get back into writing (again). And I want to tick off some not-so-fun items that have been on my to-do list for an embarrassing amount of time, such as deep-cleaning areas of my apartment.

Happy New Year, everyone! Let’s make it a great one.

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Mortality

Last year was an especially bad time for my dust and pollen allergies. Every morning, I would wake up exhausted from a night of grabbing tissues for my alternately stuffy and runny nose. I would feel as if I hadn’t had a sip of water in days, even when I’d had a full glass right before going to bed. My throat was constantly sore, and my skin itched and peeled all over. I tried running extra laundry cycles, scrubbing and rescrubbing my floors and surfaces, installing an air filter, and adjusting my diet—all of which only marginally helped. When I finally went to the doctor, she told me it was “just allergies” and to take allergy medicine every morning. Almost immediately, my symptoms stopped.

The most bewildering part of all this, and the reason I didn’t try taking allergy medicine sooner, was that this was happening in March. Allergies were nothing new to me, but typically they weren’t triggered when greenery was still struggling to reemerge from the last grey clutches of frost. This is my life now, I thought dully as I continued to pop my daily Zyrtec well into October. As with the onset of puberty, something in my body had changed forever and I simply had to deal with it.

Two days ago, I went to the doctor again for an annual checkup. “There are some abnormalities in your blood work,” she said in greeting as she entered the room and took a seat before me. I was taken aback. I had in fact noticed some minor issues or changes, but dismissed them as inevitable side effects of aging. In the two seconds before her next sentence, my mind fluttered frantically from one conjecture to another. It’s cancer. I’m a mutant. It’s Zika. The lab couldn’t even identify my sample as human blood. Then she said, “You have hypothyroidism,” and the pieces clicked into place. That explained the variation in bowel movements, feeling of dryness, and struggle to lose weight despite cutting my caloric intake and going to the gym five days a week. Now I have to take medication for this every morning for the next three months, and then follow up more blood work and another doctor’s visit to see if my thyroid gland has gotten any better. If not, this will be yet another uncooperative corporeal component to deal with for the rest of my days.

This is the beginning of the end, I thought during the drive home. As human beings, we are naturally concerned about mortality and tend to say this about a lot of things that make us feel old. When we stop running around, jumping, and skinning our knees with reckless abandon, and instead start calculating odds and assessing risk before acting. When we can no longer drink all night and wake up energetic and hangover-free the following morning. When a childhood friend has a baby, gets a divorce, or passes away from a heart attack. When friends and family move away, lose touch, and move on. When kids born in the year 2000 can drive. Hypothyroidism is hardly cause for doom and despair—especially when it’s as mild as mine appears to be—but it means more pills, restrictions, and yet another speed bump on the great slowdown.

Yet these days I find myself able to reflect on beginnings of ends with a lot less bitterness and franticness, and more serene acceptance. It helps to recognize and remember all the positive changes that have transpired among the negative ones. I’m no longer perpetually depressive, anxious, angry, self-hating, or meek in the face of bullshit. I’m much more confident and focused on achieving personal goals, which I never used to have at all. Most importantly, I don’t dwell on regrets for hours a day. If this is what approaching mortality means, it’s not necessarily so bad.