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🔙 Looking back at five events that shaped my year

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Full Voiceover for 🔙 Letter 142: Looking back at five events that shaped my year

So last year in my 2021 Annual Review, I shared peak memories and troughs that happened throughout the year. They were seamless to come up with, ranging from my near-death experience (NDE) nearly drowning at the MakaPu’u tide pools, to joyous ones like the day that I randomly met my soul sister while surfing who then invited me to move in with her (and out of the hostel).

This time around I’m spicing things up, because why not?!

I tend to think of situations in terms of polar opposites. This event is either “good” or “bad”. If I want to change the way that I think, starting with the way I write is a baby step in that direction. So instead of using binary words like “peak” and  “rose” or ”trough” and  “thorn”, I’m experimenting with more descriptive words.

I acknowledge this may be a bit tricky for you to follow along with in the grey zone, but regardless, here we goooo.

5️⃣ Key impactful events from 2022

  1. Job rejections
  2. Inventing my own job
  3. Breaking new ground with backpacking
  4. Anxiety diagnosis
  5. Six-ish months of sobriety

❌ Job rejections

Well, there’s no easy way to put this, I was rejected multiple times last year. Specifically with jobs, when I ended my sabbatical and needed to start making money again at the start of this year. The three companies that I was dreaming about working for were Write of Passage, Building a Second Brain, and Shopify. I spent days, which added up to weeks, on those applications, thoughtfully reaching out for references, and prepping for interviews. They never came to anything.

At first glance, you could quickly think that all of that was a waste. In actuality, when I applied to these jobs, I was taking a snapshot of one part of myself, and trying to prove that that one small part of myself was the perfect-fitting piece of the puzzle they are trying to fill.

Rather than these experiences being sunk costs, I now view them as journeys where I learned what excited me, got introspective, and learned to creatively craft a story of why I’d fit the bill. In other words: how to effectively pitch myself.

Don’t get me wrong, it definitely is frustrating, and humiliating, and was a hit to my self-esteem as I moped around like a sad sack. These rejections definitely did a jab to my heart. It made me feel incompetent and worthless for a while. Like a hammer who didn’t have a home to build. But then I switched the script.

I figured it was their loss, it wasn’t meant to be. With time, that anger sizzled out into acceptance and peace. I still joined cohort 9 of Write of Passage and do not regret that at all. Seven cohorts in a row showing up for this intensive cohort-based course. Thanks to all that commitment, I’m coming up on three years of weekly writing in a couple of months. I’m so grateful for the connections and curiosity that the community has unleashed within me. It gave me confidence that I could find a job on the Internet if I really needed to. I even tried to invent my own project of creating a community yearbook for the course. Alas, that didn't work out either, as I made the scope too big, became overwhelmed with a lack of resources, and dropped the ball. But I'm still glad I gave it a shot and know I'll be better off because of it.

What did I learn from these rejections?

Shoot your shot. You never know what might come from it.

If I want to live a courageous life, then rejection will undoubtedly be a part of it. I need to get used to it. Since I’m a writer, all these feelings inspired My Letter to Rejection.

💼 Inventing my own job

On February 1, 2022, Bronson Chang reached out to me on Twitter. He knew a friend of mine that I met online during the summer of 2020. I met up with Bronson to connect at Foster Botanical Gardens in Honolulu, HI, and then again at Wa’ahila Ridge State park to meditate together.

We both valued the same things being gungho about the intersections of journaling, community, and education. It was serendipitous at the time that he was growing his team and saw a gap in his company. I was more than ready to jump in and run alongside him.

Upon reflection on my previous job rejections, I took them as a sign that instead of looking for a global Internet job, I can pivot my search.

I realized that if I was open to looking for something locally, the right job could find me. I was craving that human connection, learning more about where I lived, and giving back to the community I’ve learned to love. This led to my meeting the whole entire ohana (family) during my onboarding into the small business, HOPA (House of Pure Aloha), before I began my role wearing many hats across being a project manager, operator, and community lead.

🎒 Backpacking for the first time

On May 8, 2022, I flew from O’ahu to Big Island, Hawaii along with eight others from my Zen center in the Palalo Valley outside of Honolulu. It was for my first-ever silent meditation retreat called Hele Malie Sesshin, and my first time backpacking as well. It was also my first time taking a break from daily journaling since I started in 2019, so that I wouldn’t break the Zen protocol. A heck lot of first times.

I ended up crying in the circle the first night when I was among strangers about to go into the wilderness and sit silently with them. I cried every night of this trip too.

I was terrified. I already left my phone behind but I was so tempted to go find service somehow and book a flight to leave. I came head-on with my fear of forgetting. I was in a foreign place, without my typical way of processing life through writing or speech. I vividly remember witnessing the beauty of the stars lighting up the whole sky, the shock of my bee sting, the stabbing of my period cramps, and the magical feeling of bathing myself naked in the ocean.

Before this trip, I never realized how quiet I could get my mind by merely focusing my attention on counting my steps or my breath for hours a day. I didn’t have a watch, but my estimate is that about 40 hours of those five days were meditating. So a whole working week. Two hours after waking to the conch horn at 4:30 am, a session after lunch, walking meditation in the afternoon, and two hours each evening after dinner.

My past self would think this is so foolish to take an unpaid holiday to go be silent in the wilderness. My present self is in awe. This is definitely one of the most challenging experiences I’ve ever lived. Physically with 35 lbs on my back, spiritually in silence, and emotionally feeling silently alone and in pain while on my period, this was wild.

I felt empowered knowing I could carry everything I needed to survive on my back. Despite my fear of getting lost, I led the group on the fourth day after having a giddy sense of peace during my morning zazen when I dreaded the chime that ended the sitting. I now choose to journal because I want to, not because I need to.

Oddly enough, I cannot wait to do it again this year and chip away at my practice as I find my way.

The only photographic proof of this trip. My Zen teacher Michael is the smiley fella on the front left. I’m the nerd in the back left in my dad’s Indiana Jones hat.

😓 Anxiety diagnosis

On June 30, 2022, I was diagnosed by a healthcare professional with anxiety. Two days prior, I had a panic attack. June 28 is a date that holds a bit more pressure for me as it’s the day I moved to Hawaii in 2021. On top of some covid hysteria, work pressure, and the story swirling in my head that no time had passed in the past year, I lost control.

It felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. As if I was fainting my vision became pixelated with black and white cubes like I just drove off the road playing Mario Kart, except that this was no fun game at all. I emailed my boss about missing the next Zoom meeting, called my dad, took half a Benadryl, got an ice pack, and laid down. I was 99% sure that I must have asthma because my chest previously felt like it was imploding while paddling out on the surf.

After the doctor told me (and shocked me), I had no idea what to do with this new discovery. I already had a plane booked to fly 26 hours across the world to the Netherlands to see my cousin get married. I wasn’t missing that.

I’d already quit drinking coffee during my dry January apart from decaf Thursdays, and with this news, I became even more hyper-aware of how caffeine negatively affects me, even with earl grey tea.

Thankfully, I had chosen my main theme for the year to be patience, so I started to take things more slowly and be more thoughtful with experiments. I made sure to more consciously get sunlight, take my sleep more seriously, and journal more actively about what was going on in my body. One of my favorite prompts became: “what is worrying me right now?'“ I listened to 4000 Weeks by Oliver Burkeman to navigate a healthier relationship with time. On Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings, I sat at the Zen Center searching for peace. I shifted recording my daily vlogs to be more mindful moments where I checked in with myself.

It’s still all a work in progress.

It is a goal of mine to start seeing a therapist again this year to figure this out further.

🧃Six(ish) months of sobriety

For the past five years, I have completed a dry January. It started the year after college as a way to prove to myself that I wasn’t an alcoholic. I really was not sure. After lying to the doctor, due to shame about my drinking behavior a few too many times, I decided I needed to suss this out for myself.

This past year after January, I started to make rules for myself to be sober-curious and mindfully drink. For instance, I wouldn’t spontaneously drink anymore — only if I planned 24 hours beforehand. I’d bring a case of beer for the crew on the sailboat on Friday nights, but I’d also bring seltzers for myself to drink. I was sick of guys wanting to buy me drinks on dates, so I stopped dating and deleted Hinge. Instead, I focused on deepening the friendships I already had, specifically around friends with that I never felt pressure to drink. I learned to be my playful self and let my guard down without needing an inebriant.

Over the summer, I gave in and drank more regularly while I was in the Netherlands. I tend to do that as a chameleon shapeshifting to my environment. On my road trip across the Dutch roaming farmlands in a cobalt blue Mini cooper, I had my last stop with my cousin Joos in Amsterdam. I was too intrigued to say no to the drop shots (black licorice-flavored liquor that I oddly really enjoyed). I had 24 hours in one of my favorite cities in the world and I was semi-hungover. Huh?

This shame-filled feeling happened yet again as I could only have fun learning to Zydeco dance in New Orleans while drinking. I still thought that I would need alcohol to have fun. It was all in my head and fake signals from society of what I was expected to do.

After these experiences, I moved from being sober-curious when I wrote 🍹Letter 107: Thoughts from a Former Binge Drinker to someone who put up the self-imposed rule to say no to drinking every single time in 🚱 Letter 128: My Breakup with Booze. I’m proud that I went to five weddings with open bars this past year and was stone sober at four of them.

The lesson I learned from this?

Be aware of the environment you are in — it impacts your behavior whether you are consciously (or unconsciously) aware of it. I grant you permission to redefine what fun means for you. Be kind to yourself because changing your behaviors is shifting your identity, which comes with a shedding of who you used to be.

All in all, rather than addition, a lot of elimination happened this past year.

Originally published in 🔙 Letter 142: Looking back at five events that shaped my year


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