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Holiday season and year-end reflections | Stephanie's Dec 2023

2024, Cheers to the New Year! 

Before we fully wrap up 2023, let’s recap on how the past month went. I always enjoy sitting down to reflect and write, crazy how we’ve had this blogging tradition since 2020. While I’m posting this on the first Sunday of the month, I’m currently writing this at a cafe on a sunny afternoon of 1/1 so it feels even more time in place of welcoming the New Year. Stephanie

Lifestyle, Lows, Lessons: 

I feel like this month was a whole rainbow of emotions and events, paradoxically making it feel like both a short yet aging month. Do you ever feel like you’ve aged when you’ve gone through so many different events? Yet at the same time because you did so much, time flew? 

I started the month with some post-birthday celebrations and catch ups. Unexpectedly Jin’s birthday video gift got me reconnecting with Christina W and it was as if time never passed and we chatted for hours about both the past and present, anything and everything. Possibly may make this a monthly thing! This is your sign to reach out to check in on your friends because you never know what it may lead to.

Serendipitously, this was also a month of self-love. Serendipitous because I didn’t proactively plan it, but reflecting back I definitely saw a lot of efforts to improve myself. Maybe these actions were due to listening to my heart or a gut feeling in the moment type of thing. Last month I treated myself to a $150 haircut so I said I won’t treat myself for a while lol, yet this month I got myself the Dyson, a coach bag I was supposed to gift, and thigh high boots. So now I’m making a wishlist to reward myself after each win or milestone I accomplish to control my spending lol. Jokes aside, I spend easily on holiday gifting for friends, and without a thought for my family on anything -- yet when it comes for myself, I don’t know why I have to always think back and forth. I have the money to do things, but for some reason it feels harder to justify when it’s for myself vs for someone like my mom or aunt. This month I feel like I was truly treating myself first. Gifts aside, I noticed I started to suggest locations more during friendship invites to hangouts this month too, my schedule was packed in the early weeks of Dec and usually I just let my friends choose where to meet because I also genuinely do enjoy trying new places, but this month I noticed I started suggesting places too so it's convenient for me or we meet in the middle. I started to invest more both in my physical and mental health. Even though I liked speaking to my first therapist, I decided to give another therapist a try just to gain multiple POVs, I think this was so important because even though I’ve only met with two therapists, the atmosphere truly differs. I think with anything, it’s always good to give things different POVs and options, even when things are going good, because you never know if you only stick to one way of experiencing things. Physically, I was supposed to go to my first Pilates class with a friend, but she was late so I ended up going in myself and introduced myself to the instructor, and even took a spot closest to the middle where the instructor was and let her correct me (like a million times). Old me would’ve been to shy to go in alone and wait for my friend to be late together, and old me would’ve been self conscious about being corrected by the instructor and want to hide in the corner. I wonder if this comes with aging. All’s to say I won’t say no to Pilates but I think I’ll be sticking to other fitness classes loll. Then comes going to Zumba and Yoga class at work without my go-to colleague, I was also surprised that the zumba instructor remembers me :’). This class I actually do stand in the back because I really suck at choreo haha but I always have a fun time and good workout. 

Speaking of love -- I’ll save the full story for another setting, but I’ll leave off with after continuously talking with someone, someone who continued to ask questions and paragraphs -- one day just stopped out of the blue. I was surprised if anything, but not bitter. I don’t think I should be puzzling the what if’s or reasons, nor do I want to speak ill of anything because all in all I still think I had a good learning experience and empowered myself. Just like how things were with the person I was seeing in the summer, I’m happy that I got to experience different experiences and learn more about someone new and myself, see things through, and be open minded. While things didn’t work out, this is yet another growth opportunity compared to my old self who would shut things off before even meeting someone. Nothing is wasted. Funny enough that same week, I had a girls night out with Tammie, Tiana, and Tiana’s friend. I also invited Christina and then somehow we racked a whole girls crew, truly the more the merrier.

Every year, December is also the fastest month of work wise for me. This year was quite busy compared to previous years during the holiday season, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Tons of opportunities both in person and virtually to celebrate the holidays makes work feel less transactional. My Director especially, has been giving me much appreciated visibility and shout outs, she’s truly such a humble leader. Unexpectedly during one of the holiday kick off happy hours, I came to just show face and bond with my colleague -- but a Director from a different team joined us and I thought we would just have a brief chat and head home -- but even after my colleague left, she and I ended up chatting up for over an hour lol this was so unexpected but I enjoyed it nonetheless. It’s strange how sometimes there can be people I just meet who are twice my age, yet we can talk on and on. I’m not one to share much about myself at work, yet I ended up sharing about my personal life with her. I used to think I can carry a conversation with most people, but I think in this particular chat -- I have to give credit she was the one carrying, she must’ve made it a safe enough space for me to want to share. 

The comes my holiday break. I feel very fortunate that my company has a week of shutdown, and I also took a couple days off in addition -- I feel blessed to have this time off to rest and spend time with family. This year, my family and I decided to go on a road trip to Sequoia National Park and then Las Vegas. Two hours into the drive, I stop by Dutch Bros and as I’m leaving Dutch Bros and over to McDonalds across the street (in a random suburban middle of nowhere California city) on a red light waiting for it to turn green for my turn left, suddenly out of nowhere my whole car shook and I jolted. It took me a sec to realize my car got hit by a trucker. My first car accident. While an unfortunate situation, I feel bad that my family had to be in the car with me, but at  the same time I feel fortunate that no one got hurt and that our car was driveable to continue on the road trip. In a selfish way, I thank life for giving me my dad and family — so if in the future there’s a day these situations happen, I will have the experience and strength to go it alone. From seeing my Dad handle the situation with the driver who hit us, calling the insurance company, making decisions -- I also learned a lot from him beyond just dealing with the logistics of the accident. He showed me how to have a positive outlook and how to still cherish the time we have together and the time we spent booking the trip to have quality family time. My mom wanted to turn back and she was quite anxious, and it was upon seeing my Dad  that I followed in his lead to have the strength to carry the situation, have the bravery to continue driving us (even though I kinda didn’t want to drive after that) and lighten my mood to cheer everyone up and continue bringing them along the trip. 

And despite it all, it was a good trip! Even the weather was on our side, Sequoia had the most breathtaking views and Las Vegas was much warmer than previous winters. There were storms before and after our stay, but during our stay the weather cleared up for us. We were able to show our parents new experiences, whether that’s introducing them to new restaurants, holiday festivities, or the absinthe show. I only want to continue showing them new experiences.

My pick of the month: Educated

After the family trip, I still had a couple days to myself which was great. Time to myself feels so rare these days and weekends are ever so short. With this extra time, I finally got to starting (and almost finishing) a book/memoir that’s been on my list for quite some time, Educated. I grew up so different than the author Tara Westover, but I felt all sorts of emotions while reading it, and continue to have so many takeaways. As I was reading it, it made me see how education is more than just learning core subjects or trying to get a college degree and securing financial stability or moving up the ladder. When I was younger, that is how I mostly saw education, a chance to learn, and obtain a better future than my parents and break socioeconomic barriers for my family. What I realized as I’m reading this book though, especially Tara’s upbringing -- is that school (while not perfect) gives us the opportunity to form our own opinions and decisions. It sounds simple but it isn’t, had I not gone to school I would think everything my parents told me at home was correct and a fact. While some of what they say has truth, it is going to school that exposed me to varying perspectives and ways of life -- and the ability to learn to form my own opinions, and how to challenge things brought to me and discover what truth is.

At the time I wasn’t sure why, but as I as reading this book, this quote especially left an impression on me: 

“The skill I was learning was a crucial one, the patience to read things I could not yet understand.” — Tara Westover

I think it stuck to me because in a way I find myself resonating with it in multiple ways. I think it is easy to give up and stop doing something when you do not understand or if you aren’t good at something. To be honest, I do this often when it comes to new hobbies. However I credit much of my academic and professional career success to the persistence of sticking with something I did not yet understand until I excelled. In a more lighthearted example, when I was in 5th grade(?) or so, I randomly came across this anime/manga called Nana, it’s rated R and it was outside my usual genres at the time. I’m not sure why I stuck with it to be honest lol the characters and plot were so unrelatable at my age and again my not my usual genre, but the more I read it the more I was drawn into it. At the time I was probably 11-12 years old, I think I just fell for the art and lifestyle of the main characters and the passionate love between the main couple. I didn’t truly understand the deeper meanings behind everything. It’s interesting because every few years after I would come back to it, and would uncover different meanings each time. I actually recently came back to it again, because the main character dressed up in Vivienne Westwood and I’ve been seeing Vivienne Westwood all over tiktok lol I digress -- but now the plot is so much more relatable. It’s about two women navigating life in their 20s, and it really hits different now that I’m re-reading it as a young adult  -- from understanding why I was so drawn into the plot and the relationships, from understanding the characters who were so ambitious for their career to hit off, from the characters who felt empty, the relationship dynamics between anxious and avoidant -- the author is truly so talented in writing this story, it depicts humans and relationships so realistically. But to tie it back to this quote -- at the time in 5th grade, Im glad I had the patience to read something I did not yet understand, because with this example and many more -- it gave me the power of curiosity to uncover the unknown and become more understanding of phenomena in this world. 

Alright somehow this went from a monthly reflection to writing about books lol I really can go on and on but back to the self-reflection…this month wasn’t the easiest but I don’t want to dwell on what didn’t go positively. I choose to be happy and think about what went well and also to be thankful for the past year. With December being the last month of the year, I always end up somewhat sentimental and introspective on how the year went and what I’m thankful for. I’m forever thankful for the people in my life, from family to friends -- truly genuine relationships are rare to have and I know I’m lucky to have mine. Career wise I think back on how I’ve truly shifted my mindset and not let it take up so much of my headspace, and at the same time how lucky I am to work at a place my younger self once dreamed of. A good company, moving back into tech, a decent salary and benefits, work-life balance, and a kind director, manager and team -- my old 2021 self really wanted all of this and I’ve been satisfied for the past year or so. But its funny the past 2 months -- from long conversations i didn’t expect to have (whether that’s with my therapist or the Director I met at happy hour), to getting back into creative hobbies in art and writing, to reading books that aren’t just fiction and for the plot, but a memoir on one’s life -- i found myself revisiting a variety of my interests. I joke but I had shared that marketing in technology was just one of my dreams. Back then I wanted to be a social sciences researcher (recently I discovered organizational psychologists who ran experiments at my company) , a writer, own a cafe -- the experiences this month may or may not have made me delulu to think that I might tackle reaching each of my dreams in every 10 year increments lol. Or I might just stay in my current profession haha who knows how the future will unfold. 

Here’s to designing our lives in 2024, may it be an even better year than the previous :). 

Chat soon in Feb,



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