What a year, 2018.
Since I was in 7th grade, I’ve always written some kind of a list or letter to myself at the end of the year reflecting on all of the lessons I’ve learned.
This year isn’t any different, but I wanted to make these inner thoughts public this time around. Hopefully, you can take away some sort of wisdom, inspiration, or lesson from my ridiculous slew of experiences. Or at the very least, you’ll be able to understand a bit more about my life or what goes on in my anxiety-ridden dreamer mind.
So…what did I learn from 2018?
You will get what you believe you deserve.
I started off 2018 by deciding to break up with a guy while being literally in the midst of recruitment season & 2 weeks before Valentine’s Day. I was very unhappy for the longest time, but I didn’t want to break up because just like when it comes to everything else in my life, I’m not someone who likes to give up easily just because things get difficult. But there’s a difference between giving up because it was “hard” versus letting go of what no longer contributed to my happiness or growth. It took a long time for me to realize that unless I learned to speak up for myself, communicate my thoughts and needs, and have the courage to go after it is what I truly wanted, the status quo will never change. There is no one to blame for my unhappiness but myself.
So, if you find yourself feeling unhappy, you can choose to fix your reaction to the situation or remove yourself from it. And trust me, you deserve more than you think you do. Know your value. When you don’t know your value, people will bargain your worth. Your time is too valuable to spend it with anyone that doesn’t value you or fulfill you.
Everything does really happen for a reason…
But I also want to add something to it. Everything does really happen for a reason, but we have to let go of the vision that we planned for ourselves in order to be able to embrace the future that is in store.
If I were to be completely honest, I only considered getting an internship in Seattle this year because I was in an LDR and he lived in Seattle. Even though I broke up with him shortly after I received my internship offer, I still decided to pursue the opportunity anyways because it was in the field and industry that I wanted to pursue. And I’m so glad that I made that decision, because I grew so much personally and professionally during my time at Hulu, and I built so many strong relationships with so many amazing mentors and met my now lifelong ride-or-die friends whom I most likely would have never met if I had not decided to chase this opportunity.
I never would have seen the purpose that these weird twist of events served in my life at the moment. However, having the right mindset certainly helped place me in the best position to receive & take advantage of the opportunities that came my way. Life is weird sometimes, but it actually all works out in the end.
With that being said…
In the face of uncertainty, focus on the opportunities that provide you with the most growth and experience.
There were so many opportunities in 2018 that just so happened to be during my exam season. I could have chosen to stay in my dorm and study for my really important exams coming up… but I made a personal choice to pursue these once-in-a-lifetime opportunities instead. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. I took my midterms on the plane ride to Atlanta and pulled an all-nighter in NYC to study for my final. I spent an entire weekend flying to NYC and filming for the TED & Cartier’s commercial, flew back, and had to take a CS final at 8 AM the next day…all while I was sick.
Some of the best experiences, opportunities, and memories I’ve made were the result of a spontaneous decision to just say yes to something new, intriguing, and perhaps non-conventional. Everyone will be faced with at least one of these amazing opportunities in their lives, and I really hope you choose to pursue it.
And with all of the opportunities that you’re given in life, don’t forget that:
You’re never too big to be humbled by life.
Upon coming back from an amazing weekend in NYC with TED & Cartier, I received news that my mother was diagnosed with endometrial (aka uterine) cancer. It was devastating news for our family, but this experience has taught us so much. I’ve realized that life can hit you any day and often, you’ll never see it coming — so it’s important to always remain grounded and humble. However, even tough times hit, don’t let life make you lose sight of what is still beautiful in the world today. Don’t get bitter, get better. And now that you know better, keep working to do better in your life.
Once you overcome it, it’s important to not write the next chapter of your life while reading the past.
***For those of you who may be concerned, my mother had her surgery in the spring and is recovering well now — don’t worry :)
On top of that, in the midst of my mother’s cancer prognosis, I also learned one important thing:
If you fail to express, you will suppress.
Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve always felt a tremendous duty to my family and provide for my mother and grandmother. I didn’t open up to very many people about what I was going through, not because I didn’t want to… but I also just didn’t know if I could handle other people’s reactions to my situations. I wanted to deal with this matter privately with my family during this difficult time. During this time, I somehow became very numb to whatever it is that was my reality. It was my only way to deal with school, work, and everything else that was going on in my life.
But what I’ve learned is that there’s a more effective way to deal with these emotions. I think society raises us to believe that there are certain emotions that we shouldn’t be allowed to feel in certain situations, such as “Oh, I shouldn’t feel this. I’m not going to address or acknowledge it and hopefully, it will go away.” The truth is, it doesn’t go away because that’s not how life works. That’s not how humans work. We aren’t computers or machines where we can turn on/off our emotions or input/output certain emotions.
If we repress our emotions, what happens is that it simply “leaks” or bleeds into other aspects of our lives, or causes us to break down at some point when our pain points are triggered, which could be more harmful than dealing with it. Trust me, I’ve dealt with way too many of these in 2018.
It’s okay to feel what you feel. You don’t need to care about whether it’s right or wrong to feel the way you do. You’re human and that’s okay. The thing is to process it at the right time in the appropriate place.
For example, if I’m angry at someone or something, but if I don’t feel like it’s the right time or place to process or express these feelings, I will designate time or a place or environment to deal with it effectively, whether directly or indirectly. If it’s with someone else, I’ll process it on my own first and then initiate the conversation with that individual to talk about how I felt & resolve the situation itself. It doesn’t really matter how I deal with it, just that I do process my emotions on this at some point. It gets easier with practice.
If you think you’re bad at conversations, start working on it in 2019.
In 2019, I’m working on developing my public speaking skills (l’ve lowkey had a huge fear of public speaking ever since I was young), but I’m pretty proud of the progress I’ve made in 2018 in terms of my conversational and communication skills. Literally a year ago, I don’t think I was able to hold a conversation that well let alone strike one up with a random stranger. Nowadays, if I want to, I feel like I can easily strike up and hold a conversation with a stranger anywhere, anytime.
I started improving my conversational and communication skills by having more phone calls with people rather than texting/Snapping. With phone calls, you can get more things said in less time (the average person can speak 125–150 wpm, but they can only type approximately 40 wpm), have higher quality conversations with people in less time, AND learn how to listen and ask better questions to engage the people you’re talking with. It’s truly a #triplewin and your friends will love you more for it!
On the topic of people, one of the most important things I really want people to understand is:
Don’t put people on a pedestal. Social media lies to everyone.
I say this for all aspects of life, whether it be that Instagram influencer you see on your feed or the cute boy in your class. As successful or amazing someone might portray themselves to be on social media…at the end of the day, everyone’s human. And you don’t know their story or what goes on behind the scenes. I say this from a practical standpoint having actually met the people who seemed so cool in the news or on social media, some of them being my dear friends (still love you guys). There were also a lot of people that I met whom, to be frank, weren’t as cool or as successful as I thought they portrayed themselves to be on social media —especially as I researched further into the truth. I realized that sometimes it comes down to the fact that they’re simply good at controlling the media, making themselves look good, or hyping themselves up. No shade or tea; that’s just the truth.
Thus, don’t look at yourself any less than anyone else because someone else “appears” to be more successful or greater than you. The simple truth is that great things take time. The people who are doing legitimate things are the ones who are actually the ones who are actually the most humble & not as active on social media. And if you’re focused on chasing the clout and superficial benefits of your work, you miss out on the opportunities to create something real and hone your craft.
Simply focus on your work/craft and being a better you than the person you were yesterday. Patience combined with talent and hard work always wins the game.
Here’s another lesson that I learned:
Finesse. Think outside-the-box. And persist.
I mean it. Don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo. One of the more hilarious stories I heard in 2018 was at Forbes over some drinks where a friend was able to talk with Richard Branson by taking the elevator up to the rooftop of a building and climbing through the air vents to the floor of the room Richard was in. This is more of an extreme scenario (and idk if I would recommend this to anyone tbh), but my point is that I think that a lot of people need to be more creative about the ways they want to accomplish whatever it is that they want to do. The future changemakers and leaders of our generation are no different from us except in the way they approach a problem and persist in the face of adversity. You can start shifting your mindset by simply asking yourself when facing a problem: Is there a more efficient or strategical way to get to the end result? Get creative! And follow the law, please.
Lastly, probably the most important lesson I’ve learned in 2018:
If people don’t like you, it’s because they don’t have enough context to understand the real you. So be who you are, fearlessly.
I’ll admit it. I’m a huge people pleaser. It used to be really bad up until…like December ‘18, but I’ve been actively working on it. By the end of 2018, I’ve come to terms with just understanding that it’s not worth worrying about anymore. Most people don’t know my daily life and they don’t have enough context to understand me and who I am. Those who do — they love & respect me, and they’re all I need.
The reality is: Most people leave, but the right people stay. You don’t need everyone’s approval. You just need the ones of those who love and care for you, and if their love is genuine and real, it’ll make you feel invincible against everyone else. Shoutout to the people who have been my A1’s and ride-or-dies since the beginning as well as the amazing new friendships I’ve made this year.
I really recommend you guys to also write down a similar list of lessons you learned for yourself this year (and share it with me if you want!) It is so much fun to look back on it, and it’s also an amazing self-awareness exercise.
I feel like I say this every year, but I felt like 2018 was just different. I’m feeling truly grateful for all of the events, people, and experiences that I’ve been so fortunate to have encountered throughout the course of 2018.
There’s a lot of things that I still don’t know or have figured out yet, but what I do know for sure is that I’m going to keep figuring out ways to grow, change, and evolve to become an even better version of myself tomorrow and beyond.
2018: thank u, next.
2019, I’m coming for ya!
Keep growin’ & glowin’,