Letters from Elle #003
Half of 2022 has passed. The cliche - times flies - cannot be more accurate.
What had I done the past half year? How do I feel about the year so far? What am I looking forward to for the rest of the year?
I've been busy with many things, yet I feel I have accomplished so little. If I don't regularly take stock, all my good work may become unacknowledged and uncelebrated. Also, I'd let my biased perceptions take charge, making me feel low in confidence and disillusioned.
As a self-reflection exercise, here is my 2022 personal mid-year review. For some context, you can refer to my 2021 Personal Annual Review. Feel free to use the questions below for your personal mid-year review. Enjoy the read!
What went well? What have I achieved?
The past six months have been an unexpected and welcomed challenge to get my master's research up and running. With my ever-supportive supervisors' help, we narrowed down my large area of interest to a more specific topic.
nerd-alert: academic writing next. Skip ahead if needed.
My research examines refugees' integration with the host society and how that influences their psychosocial well-being. From the psychological perspective, integration is the individual's sense of acceptance, belonging and being part of society. At the same time, psychosocial well-being is the interconnectedness of a person's psychological, emotional and social aspects of their well-being.
There isn't as much literature in this area. So, we decided to use a newly published theoretical framework called the "Psychological Antecedents of Refugee Integration", which considers multiple psychological processes in the refugee's path towards integrating with the host society.
As of the end of June, and with the help of many angels, my research collected over 800 data points from Malaysia and about 70 from Portugal; there's still a long way to go for the Portugal data collection. Still, I believe we can get sufficient data for a great outcome. :)
Psychosocial Innovation Network (PIN) Internship
My internship with PIN was completed in March 2021! Internship report submitted. I'll always be grateful for the fantastic experience of working with the dedicated, inclusive and warm psychologists of PIN!
Family & Friends
In late January 2022, I returned to Malaysia for a ten-day COVID19 home quarantine and to make it in time for the Chinese New Year. Initially, I was meant to be in Malaysia till the end of March, with February and March allocated for data collection.
As fate had it, I stayed till the end of May. Yet, the four months at home were a blessing. Throughout these four months, I spent quality time with family and close friends. My brothers and I started various cooking projects and enjoyed them. Our family went on a relaxing staycation.
My Thai bestie and her husband flew to Malaysia for a visit. A girlfriend announced her engagement. After many years of not seeing each other, my university friends had a mini-reunion. My childhood bestie moved to a new home. My yoga/meditation buddy shared her teachings on QiMen.
Also, I've made many new friends - people who showed such kindness and compassion, no matter their situation.
Our time together was precious. We were closer than ever before. For the first time in all of my travelling life, leaving Malaysia was hard.
What didn't go well? What challenges have I faced?
Culture Spark Global & KulturKraft
I facilitated a few programs this year! Yeah! Though, I haven't been able to put as much focus as I had wanted and expand Culture Spark Global. Till the end of the year, my priorities will be on my master's research.
Long COVID19 fatigue
Long COVID19 symptoms were hard. I had general symptoms as per Mayo Clinic; fatigue, brain fog, backaches and worsening fatigue after physical or mental effort.
I suspected the winter and multiple exposures to COVID weakened my health. I had Omicron over Christmas 2021, then a booster shot two months later. Whenever I went out to meet a friend for coffee or brunch, I'd be exhausted for the rest of the day. If I needed to write, it would be at such a slow pace, as if swimming through molasses.
This meant I couldn't go to as many places, meet as many people or do as many things as I had before. I wasn't as productive, and I needed to pace myself.
To make full use of the little energy I had, I lived day by day. I'd be very selective of tasks to be completed and people to meet each day. After each meeting or task, I'd schedule an extended period for rest.
While I recovered over the months, the stresses of moving countries and starting a new life have prolonged my recovery. The change in time zones, environment and lifestyle made managing my energies more challenging.
As of writing, I've got COVID-19 again and am currently in self-isolation. I worry I'll get long COVID again and need to manage my energies as before. I have a few days left in my self-isolation. So, we shall see.
Moving countries and saying goodbyes
For the past year, I have moved countries multiple times, from Lisbon in June 2021, to Malaysia, then to Lisbon, to Belgrade, to Lisbon, to Malaysia in January 2022, and then back to Lisbon end of May 2022.
The constant moving took not only a physical toll but an emotional one as well. I've become better at making new friends and creating meaningful bonds in a short time. Also, as the years pass, I've come to appreciate better the friends who stayed connected with me throughout the years/countries.
How often can you say I've known someone for 20 or 30 years?
Great friendships are hard to come by. They are the people who will lend an empathetic ear when you're down, who offer encouragement for your success and who will embrace you with all your flaws or imperfections.
I'm grateful to have many wonderful friends and a loving family. It brings us so much joy when we spend time together.
They'll help you move your things when you only have two pieces of luggage, cook you soup when you're sick or take you out for coffee when you're heartbroken. They are rare gems and worth treasuring forever.
It is a blessing to have dear friends worldwide. Yet, the downside is having my heart divided into many pieces/places.
My freedom-loving, wander-lusting spirit has mellowed with age and wisdom. The world will always be there, waiting for me to explore. But my friends and family may not. And so, saying goodbye has become more complicated.
What have I learned? What can I do differently?
Self-care is personal. Each person has their unique health situation and, therefore, different ways of taking care of their physical, mental and emotional health.
For me, self-care continues to be a challenge. The frequent moving meant that my self-care routine was constantly disrupted. Having long COVID and acculturative stress meant I needed to schedule time for rest, limit the number of people to meet and be selective of cognitive activities. Without health, nothing is worth achieving.
And so, I'll continue to prioritise self-care, adjusting my routine as changes arise.
Be kind and have some grace.
Things don't always happen as planned.
When faced with an obstacle or challenge, my focus gets shifted to solving the issue, while other plans and tasks fall behind or are abandoned.
I know not everything is within my control, Yet, I can't help but ruminate and blame myself for these failings.
Why do I treat myself harshly when I've done all I can?
Enough is enough.
Self-criticism is unproductive and brings me more harm than help. I'm learning to be kind to myself. Also, to have some grace when things don't work out.
Build a solid social support system
Everyone needs a group of friends to rely on. Someone to lend an empathetic ear. Another to give caring advice. Another to drive you around when you don't have the energy. Or to buy groceries when you're stuck in isolation.
It will be harder to live in the world and face its unending challenges on your own. When you have a solid social support system, life's challenges seem easier to overcome. At the very least, you are not alone. And who knows, you might have a few laughs along the way.