Personal Goals for 2021 + Reflection

Ups and Downs, ‘Uncertain Times’ Edition

It’s been a year since I created my personal goals for 2020 (I like to start early!). Looking back, I’m happy with what I accomplished—losing 20lbs, cooking solo, and managing my money well. Not on the list was moving to a new place, self-publishing a book, and interviewing for a new job. Those ended up being the big projects of the year.

To be real with you all, I made plenty of mistakes, too. They’re not things I’d like to broadcast to the world wide web, but rest assured, I made mistakes as big as my successes. Sometimes it feels like the bad outweighed the good, but these aren’t the facts. And sometimes unfortunate things happen that aren’t even failures. This year reminded me of the need for forgiveness, both for myself and for others.

Digital Minimalism: It’s Holistic

Six months into this endeavor, my series on digital minimalism fizzled out. That’s not to say I didn’t make any progress—I purged a lot of accounts and completely ended my LinkedIn habit, for example. But by that point, some painful things had occurred in the world and in my personal life. Glued to news outlets and social media, I effectively gave up trying to stop my internet addiction.

Why did this fail so majestically?

I see now that I was approaching a holistic problem from just a few angles. I certainly realized that a change in lifestyle was needed, but I didn’t have an action plan for enough aspects of my lifestyle. I focused too much on technology and routine-based changes. I didn’t have a plan for non-technology and non-routine (read: event or emotion-based) factors.

Digital maximalism—or maximalism in general—tends to point to multiple pieces of your life not working together for your benefit. Online advice usually points you to forming better habits and developing self-discipline. This works to some extent; I’ve taken a couple of social media breaks this year and felt better for it. What’s harder than routines, however, is actually improving mental health, so that you break your dependency on the dopamine rush the internet gives you.

Writing a Personal Statement

The other day I watched a lovely interview with YoungMin You, a Christian Korean pianist who creates amazing music videos. He mentioned that he has a personal statement which he reads to himself every morning—a series of reaffirmations (such as his faith and family) and reminders (“drink more water!”).

This, too, is yet another routine, but I’m intrigued. Everyday, we’re bombarded with advertising and messages of all kinds. How often do we take the time to think about what actually matters to us? Could this help me on those days I wake up feeling purposeless and disconnected?

I haven’t written a personal statement yet, but this is something I plan to try.

Goals for Next Year (but Starting Now)

These are some of my goals which I feel comfortable sharing online:

  • Diversify my income
    • This is a carry-over from last year. 2020 reminded me how you just can’t take your job for granted. I need to have a second stream of income, even if it’s just something small.
    • Action Plan: Do something. Literally…starting from zero here. 😆
  • Learn basic conversational Mandarin
    • There are sooo many languages I want to learn, but I’ve decided to focus on Mandarin Chinese. It is the most spoken native language in the world, and China is trending towards overtaking the US as the world’s biggest economy. This makes Chinese a very practical language, and it will also take more time for me to learn than, say, French. So I want to start now!
    • Action Plan: I’ve been using Duolingo since this summer, and I just added YouTube. There is definitely enough free material to get me where I want to be.
  • Reduce my digital footprint
    • This is separate from my digital minimalism goal. I’m increasingly weirded out by the intrusion of big tech. I wouldn’t say I’m especially “plugged in” compared to other people, but there’s always more I could do to reduce it.
    • Action Plan: Continue pruning or simplifying accounts, delete old data that I don’t need anymore.
  • Peace-focused living
    • Focus on what is good for me (Philippians 4:8) and avoid anything I know is problematic. Rediscover joy in technology. Keep a “brain dump”/no-stress journal to write and doodle in (one of my friends mentioned this and I love the idea). Blog more, scroll less.
    • Action Plan: Keep up good routines but tend to my inner life. Be kinder to myself. Drink more water. 😆 (Seriously though!)

Shutdown 2: Spring Will Come Again

This morning, we in WA learned we’re going back into shutdown for a month. Not quite the extensiveness of the initial shutdown, but close. I won’t go into all my thoughts on the topic. In short, I think the governor made the right decision here, while hoping that financial assistance for those who need it will soon follow, either from local government or a second stimulus.

I’ve been feeling pretty down recently, so efforts at positivity continue. Some things I’m grateful for, right now:

  • Family and friends, y’all are the best
  • Hobbies to keep me busy
  • Completing two interviews for a job I really want. It was a great experience whether I get it or not.
  • Cozy rainy days
  • Health, both mine and my family’s
  • Everyone who’s shown me kindness this year
  • That I was able to take a three-day weekend and actually get some rest.

I watched a number of grounding documentaries, about people with real existential hardships, and created a playlist called Perspective. There’s only two videos so far, but I’ll be adding more as I come across them.

This is my favorite song right now, “Spring Day” by BTS. It takes me back to bittersweet times in life, just like right now, when you feel like you want to be happy again. Then you realize it just takes time, and a little bit of hope.

Good Things of 2020 So Far

Fanda at Fanda Classiclit wrote a lovely post about the positive things she’s experienced this year, in spite of its challenges. This inspired me to do the same thing. 🙂 In no particular order…

Reading

Surprise, surprise… Reading is always a good thing. This year I’ve been doing my usual personal reading, but also weekly read-alongs with one of my friends and various book clubs/meetups. It’s opened my mind to new authors and helps me notice things I wouldn’t have noticed on my own.

Talking (More)

Thanks to Unprecedented Times, this year brought me some really meaningful conversations with family and friends, near & far. And though I wasn’t able to attend any in-person meetups, I did meet some cool new people online! It sure beats attending the Friend Convention…

Growing Closer to Family

Not gonna lie… when shutdown started, I was a little concerned. My family is very close as it is, but two weeks—later months—of all being at home, all day long, sounded mildly alarming. 😂 Fortunately, we got along well and spent many good times watching movies or going on walks together. It actually brought out the best in all of us. Experiencing shutdown with my family was, honestly, one of the best experiences of my life.

Finding Tons of New Music

Every year, I create a playlist of music of songs I discover or rediscover. So far, 2020 has yielded over 100 songs! Call it quarantine, or quarter-life crisis, but I’ve really gotten into (clean) rap and K-pop this year, to my complete surprise. More on that later, maybe… For now, here’s “Goodbye Road” by iKON, which in spite of its tragic lyrics is a warm and cozy song, haha.

Moving

Shutdown showed me everything I took for granted before, as far as being able to go places and do things. I realized I’d been kind of sitting around and hoping my life would magically change in various ways. So I felt motivated to take a next step towards getting a house, which has been a dream of mine for several years. I’m not there yet but I’m much closer.

One Month Update – Cooking Chronicles

Since my first cooking post in late August, I’ve kept practicing cooking and limiting purchased meals. I’ve also been journaling my progress in this book I got from Daiso (a Japanese $1.50 store and one of my favorite places on earrrth). This journal, by the way, always reminds me of Alice in Wonderland and Mary Poppins. 🙂

As you can see, there is no particular diet or health plan, except to keep an eye on quantity, calories, and carbs, and also to stay flexitarian, only eating meat if it happens to be on the menu at my mom’s kitchen (which it usually is 😀 ).

Here are some of the things I’ve made:

broccoli & tomato salad – This was super
quick curry – This was using Kroger’s butter chicken curry sauce. Much better than their coconut curry sauce!
salsa & cheese tortilla wraps – Eh
cocktail meatballs (using Gardein meatless meatballs) – I used a jelly & ketchup recipe which was… edible but peculiar. Next time I will just use barbecue sauce, which I finally have in the fridge.
tortilla casseroleMy mom’s recipe! I used a little too much liquid this time, but otherwise it turned out really good.

This may not seem like much for a month, but being single, I eat most of these dishes for days. 😆

As far as purchased meals, I discovered Domino’s pizza freezes very well, so their 2-for-$5.99 special gives me 8 meals at about $1.60 each. Can hardly do better than that!

My next big plan is to make bánh mì, which is a traditional Vietnamese sandwich. It won’t be authentic of course; I’m looking at this recipe which substitutes egg for the meat. I don’t like eggs (worst luck for a vegetarian), but eventually I want to learn how to prepare tofu and use that instead. For now maybe I will just make it with the vegetables. Cheese (and dairy) is not really a thing in Vietnamese cuisine, so I don’t want to just throw in some feta, as tempting at that might be.

I also have some gnocchi that I plan to make soup with. It’s that time of year!

Fire in the Forest

When I was a kid, there was a game some of us would play called “Fire in the Forest!” A quick Google search revealed only one reference to this game—apparently it is supposed to be “slyly” educational, led by an adult mentor, to teach children about animals. Happily, we were spared any mentorship, and I don’t remember any animals. I can only see a bunch of kids standing on the edge of the field and some boy—the Fire—bellowing “fire in the forest!” and the thrill of us running herd-style across the grass, hoping not to get shoved or tagged by anybody and becoming a Tree.

The phrase suddenly came back to me, because we have been having some deadly fires on the West Coast. The closest large fire is… uncomfortably close. For a while this past week, I was genuinely afraid. Windstorms, hot temperatures, and arsons (witnessed) in random places in the area made the possibility of a personal disaster very real. As it is, some people’s homes were lost and some of my relatives had to evacuate as a precaution. It’s surreal and horribly unexpected; we don’t typically get large fires in Western Washington.

Thankfully, the winds calmed and the last two days have been much cooler. The large fire is gradually coming under control, and evacuation orders are being lifted. The air here is still pretty terrible—it looks like a heavy fog, but it’s actually smoke, both from local fires and from fires in Oregon and elsewhere.

Needless to say, I am taking nothing for granted now. I had been hoping for some peace of mind in September (sigh). That said, I am so grateful that my family is safe and am praying for all of the West Coast where the devastation continues.

A Day by the Sea – Ebey’s Landing, WA

Last week, my family and I took a day trip to Whidbey Island on the Puget Sound. This region is a hodpodge of islands, peninsulas, and waterways, extending south and also far north of Seattle. There’s so much to explore, and we’d never been to this particular spot on the island before. I was over the moon at the prospect of an ocean hike—and was not disappointed!

Ebey’s Landing was named after Isaac Ebey (1818–1857), an Ohioan who settled on the island in the 1850s. According to Wikipedia, he owned 640 acres, farmed numerous crops, and participated in local government. He was murdered by a group of natives, as revenge for an earlier attack by the US government. His cabin and blockhouse (a tiny fort used as a place of defense) have been preserved, and you can see them on the first part of the hike. Unfortunately they were closed on the day we visited, but the outside is quite impressive.

There is a lot of beautiful farmland still on Whidbey Island. There are also views of two mountains, Mt. Baker and its more famous sibling, Mt. Rainier.

Baker
Rainier— BARELY visible in this picture

Of course, my favorite part was the ocean. You take a narrow footpath along the cliffside and through the woods, and then it zigzags down the side of the cliff until you’re on the beach. It is one of the easier hikes I’ve been on, but so rewarding in terms of views.

It was a wonderful day. It seems odd that a place which was the scene of violence could bring someone else so much joy over a hundred years later. I guess that’s life. Either way, I felt so much better after this trip and reconnected with the beauty that I love about my state.

Stripped by Faouzia – EP Review

One of the best things to happen this (terrible) year was the August release of Faouzia‘s first EP, Stripped. Not only did it come as a complete surprise to me, but it was exactly what I would’ve hoped for—a selection of her old and new songs, “stripped” down to an acoustic setting complimenting her powerful vocals and thoughtful lyrics. Even better, she filmed videos for all of them, so I can share them in this post!

Continue reading “Stripped by Faouzia – EP Review”