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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Prophecies

There’s this pattern in my life: whatever happens on New Year’s Eve sets a precedent or theme for the overall year to come.

On December 31, 2013, I drank so much at a coworker’s house party that I puked and passed out at around eleven o’clock. Pretty much all of 2014 was then spent partying, sometimes for a week straight. This in itself was only a minor uptick from what had already become my standard behavior. What was unusual and concerning was the frequency of my getting sick from it. I must have marked my territory in vomit all over downtown New York and outside every PATH station.

The end of that year, I slipped and fell on my coccyx while playing beer pong. While the injury was not severe, the ache lasted a full month into 2015. Some time after, I tripped while jogging outdoors and fell unfavorably on my left wrist. Again, the pain lasted an unexpectedly long time for something that didn’t require any actual medical treatment. I also wounded a knee on a separate occasion. These may not sound like much, but I had been a relatively sedentary creature in years prior.

I decided to take it easy for 2016. I stayed in and hosted my own New Year’s Eve house party with fewer than a dozen close friends, an assortment of snacks, and many bottles of beer and liquor that went largely untouched. I have since reconnected with several old friends and made some wonderful new ones. Though my drinking still went dangerously unbridled at times, I didn’t puke or get hurt nearly as much. And I enjoyed a greater variety of meaningful experiences that didn’t center around alcohol, from visiting a museum a month (my New Year’s resolution) to traveling.

Last Saturday, I found a key, a sock, and a ring that had been missing for weeks to months. I am thus anticipating 2017 to be a year of rediscovery and reaffirmation. Old questions answered. Loose ties resolved. A cleaned-up act, at last. I know what you’re thinking: Grouping events by year is astrological hocus-pocus. Hindsight is 20/20. The future is filled with self-fulfilling prophecies.

In fact, this is less of a superstitious matter and more of a mechanism for calibrating perspective and setting goals. Reviewing events within the framework of a day and a year provides a straightforward way for me to extract lessons from the past, and envision a future to work toward or against. As human beings, we naturally seek meaning and symbolism in everyday settings. Personal goals are essentially positive feedback loops.

My sicknesses, injuries, and (re)kindled friendships were, in all likelihood, cases of correlation without causation. But when I view them under this sort of inside-joke-with-myself lens of New Year’s Eve omens, I can then apply this same lens to formulate a guideline for the future.

This year, I’m striving to be more receptive to new ideas to fuel my rediscovery of writing and reaffirm the kind of person I want to be. Ray Bradbury came up with the short story “Skeleton” after his doctor’s appointment. Eminem wrote the song “Stan” after hearing the beat and chorus to Dido’s “Thank You.” We can find ideas, inspiration, and guidance wherever we open ourselves up to them.

Year-End Reflections

2016 was an active, exciting, productive, joyous year for the many amazing people I am fortunate to have around me. In this year alone, my friends, family and I stood by each other as we:

  • forged new friendships, ignited flames that burned brightly but briefly, and fell in love with someone who finally feels right
  • got brunch, went to museums, hiked, climbed rock walls, read, watched movies, stayed out late drinking, stayed up late playing board games, laughed, commiserated, and embarked on other adventures
  • landed new, fulfilling jobs
  • launched business ventures in different countries and from our own homes
  • hosted our own successful events and concerts
  • contributed to and promoted numerous causes and charities
  • traveled across the country and the world—trying new foods, marveling at breathtaking sights, gaining new perspectives, and interacting with so many kind and interesting people
  • got engaged and married
  • developed new passions and rediscovered old ones
  • poured heart and soul into art, music, writing, crafting, baking, building, and communities

If you think this post is about you, you’re probably right!

I don’t say this enough, but I am deeply proud and appreciative of everyone’s achievements, whether they may seem big or small. We all have so many different interests and work on so many cool things.

I have seen so many complaints and lamentations on social media this year. Celebrities, innovators, and influencers passed away. Human rights were violated domestically and internationally. Truth has become a matter of opinion, science has been dismissed as conspiracies, and personal entitlement has taken top priority.

It’s easy to get lost in the chaos and forget to embrace the positives. The Internet is a wondrous platform for education and awareness, but it can also lead to dangerous misinformation, a mob mentality, and an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness. Never forget to strive for progress and to be the best possible version of yourself.

Here’s to more hope, cool things, and fighting the good fight in 2017.