At the end of the year, we are reminded to slow down, reflect on the past year and plan for the year to come.
Are things going well? Is this where I want to be? Am I taking the right path?
This personal annual review is an exercise to acknowledge the things that went well and those that didn't. It is a chance to celebrate victories, big and small. This reflective exercise helps us to become better people the following year. Most importantly, reviews help us to stay focused on our priorities.
For many years, I've written annual reviews privately. This time I've decided to publish them online. This year's review is made public because I believe you may derive enjoyment and/or lessons from them. Yet, it is understandable if the review doesn't make sense, as it is primarily meant to be an introspective exercise for me. Enjoy!
What went well this year?
Masters of Psychology in Intercultural Relations
2021 is the continuation of the Masters in Psychology of Intercultural Relations (MPIR) in Lisbon, Portugal. The 1st year ended in June, and the 2nd year started in October. In the spring semester, I was an Erasmus+ student exchange with the University of Oslo, Norway. The semester was virtual due to COVID19 restrictions in both Norway and Portugal. Also, I've had the incredible opportunity to intern with the Peace Research Institute of Oslo (PRIO), Norway, as part of the program. The internship exposed me to the latest research on migration.
In the summer, I was accepted in the "virtual" summer school with the International Association of Cross-Cultural Psychology (IACCP). I met renowned psychologists and emerging academics/researchers sharing their passion, knowledge and wisdom on social and cultural issues worldwide.
In the autumn, I interned with the Psychosocial Innovation Network (PIN), in Belgrade, Serbia. For two months, I've worked with skilful psychologists who provide psycho-educational workshops to local students as well as mental health and psychosocial support to refugees. These activities were part of a larger project to support refugees' social integration into Serbian society.
At the same time, I've narrowed down and refined my master thesis proposal, which was accepted by my university and will be supervised by two renowned social psychologists. My master's research will explore the psychological processes of refugees' integration into the host society. For 2022, my primary focus is my master thesis. More information to come!
In the autumn, I've created and published a content platform called KulturKraft. It was initially named Interculturality. After feedback from friends about the "difficulty" in pronouncing the name, I've changed it to KulturKraft.
KulturKraft aims to share knowledge and insights into the psychology of culture and society. With this knowledge and insight, leaders, policymakers, activists, professionals, or the concerned public can use this information to resolve social issues. In 2021, 27 articles were published, with 15 republished from Culture Spark Global (CSG).
Miss Elle Tea
Recently, I've started a personal blog called misselletea. The blog shares all the things that I'm working on. This includes my current projects, longer articles on issues of concern and shorter posts on life lessons derived from books, conversations and reflections. So far, I've published 5 long articles (including this) and 78 life lessons.
Portuguese and Serbian Language Lessons
This year, I took language lessons and have reached an elementary listening and speaking level for Serbian and Portuguese. This means I can order food and drinks in restaurants and grocery shopping in supermarkets. Conversations beyond basic introductions and greetings still elude me. My reading and writing skill is at an A1 level, an elementary level of understanding. Next year, I intend to be more consistent with my Portuguese language lessons.
Travels in Portugal and Serbia
Despite movement restrictions, I managed to carve out some time to see local sights in Portugal and Serbia. Photos of the places visited can be found here.
Despite movement restrictions, I did a substantial amount of walking. I took 1,039,498 steps or walked 731.9 km based on my fitness watch. On average, I had worn my watch 70% of the time. So, the actual number might be slightly higher than recorded. What helped was the easy access to parks, miradouros (or viewpoints), historical sites and living a car-less life.
Morning meditation became a habit. The only time I've skipped it was when I'm down with a cold or had a late night out with friends. I've meditated 340 times. 67% of the meditation sessions were one-hour long and in the mornings. The other times were between 15 to 40 minutes and when the daily schedule was tight in the evening. Next year, I intend to better track my meditation times, make evening meditation a habit and attend the 8-day Satipatthana meditation retreat.
With the increased concern of social media on mental health and its impact on society, I've stopped actively engaging in Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. This has freed up additional time to focus on other things, such as reading. This year, I've read and completed 21 books, an average of one book per 2-3 weeks. This list doesn't include textbooks or language books and is arranged alphabetically.
- A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson
- A World Without Email: Reimagining Work in an Age of Communication Overload by Cal Newport
- Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor
- Company of One: Why Staying Small Is the Next Big Thing for Business by Paul Jarvis
- Dipa Ma: The Life and Legacy of a Buddhist Master by Amy Schmidt
- From Here to There: The Art and Science of Finding and Losing Our Way by Michael Bond
- How to Decide: Simple Tools for Making Better Choices by Annie Duke
- Life of a Daymaker by David Wagner
- Living This Life Fully: Stories and Teachings of Munindra by Mirka Knaster
- Metta: The Philosophy and Practice of Universal Love by Acariya Buddharakkhita
- Satipatthana Vipassana: Insight through Mindfulness by Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw
- Slowness by Milan Kundera
- So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love by Cal Newport
- The Almanack of Naval Ravikant: A Guide to Wealth and Happiness by Eric Jorgenson
- The Art of Living: Peace and Freedom in the Here and Now by Thich Nhat Hanh
- The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk, M.D.
- The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are by Alan Watts
- The Power Wish: Japan's Leading Astrologer Reveals the Moon's Secrets for Finding Success, Happiness, and the Favor of the Universe by Keiko
- The Sorcerer's Burden: The Ethnographic Saga of a Global Family by Paul Stoller
- The Truth Will Set You Free, But First It Will Piss You Off!: Thoughts on Life, Love, and Rebellion By Gloria Steinem
- Unbound: A Woman's Guide to Power by Kasia Urbaniak
What didn't go well?
Culture Spark Global
Due to the surprising amount of work for MPIR, I couldn't maintain or grow CSG. However, CSG's website and social media have been revamped with a minimalist look and feel.
Staying In Touch
COVID19 has dramatically changed the lives of many, including myself. Supposedly, it is natural that people's priorities and values change in crisis times. We are reminded of our true desires when mortality rears its head. As such, I've detached myself from social media to focus on my professional goals and caring for my mental health. These changes inevitably meant that I'd lost touch with friends.
Next year, as I remain detached from social media, I'll need to find alternative methods to stay connected with people who matter. This will mean more time will be dedicated to sending emails, scheduling calls, or catching up in person.
In late 2020, I've started exploring and experimenting with intermittent fasting (IF). Surprisingly, I feel more awake in the mornings, more energetic, less hungry and feel lighter. In 2021, I've loosely continued IF, and I didn't keep any records or track any metrics. As such, I could not objectively review the impact of IF on my health and only have my subjective perceptions to rely on.
For 2021, my goal was to learn the entire Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series. As other priorities took precedence, my goal was pushed back, and my regular yoga practice fell wayside. Next year, I intend to make yoga a regular workout and learn the entire Ashtanga Primary Series.
What did I learn from this year? How will I change?
Self-Care is Essential.
The lesson of self-care hit me while at PIN. I thought I was good with self-care. I regularly meditated, walked a lot, practised yoga and have been a vegetarian for over a decade. In November, I caught a cold and cough (and it was not COVID19, though eventually I did in December). PIN has a strict health guideline that ill staff is not allowed in the office unless you're 100% recovered.
I felt guilty for not working.
What ensued was a personal struggle between "not doing anything, except rest and recover" and the sense of "being unproductive because of not working". No one else was pressuring me to work. I've realised that I've placed pressure on myself to be productive, even when no one else asked for it.
This struggle tested my perspective on self-care and my ability to set other things aside and focus on healing. And I've come to realise that all the while, I've treated/viewed self-care as a number's game, i.e. the number of times I've meditated, practised yoga, distanced walked, etc.
Instead, self-care is about being honest with myself, accepting my current (good or bad) state and nurturing myself into good health and well-being. And so, in the coming year, I'll be working on self-care.
Focus on Essentials. Ignore everything else.
Generally, I'm a curious person. I find many things interesting and will take time to explore, research, experiment, etc. When that happens, I end up with multiple projects, classes, books, etc. I get a shallow focus on many things rather than a deep focus on a few. Being involved in too many things means I can't do the project/tasks well, or it doesn't get finished.
And so, I need to improve on my prioritisation. Say "no" and eliminate projects and tasks that are non-essential. Then, place all my attention on the essentials.
A life well-lived is a life well-edited. James Clear
Thanks so much for reading! Many happy returns and have an extraordinary 2022!
This annual review format was inspired by James Clear.