Three Words for 2022- 9 mins
So much happened this past year! It is incredible how different the end of 2020 felt compared to now. I graduated, travelled around the US, started work full-time, and I feel like I’m pretty close to living my best life now.
My only goal for 2021 was to “be kind”. I tried my best to not put pressure on myself to do or achieve anything, and that’s been transformative on my health and wellbeing. I have been continuing with consistent therapy, journaling, reading, and movement. I also invested a lot in myself—spending time on fashion, getting frequent acupunctures and massages, and indulging in things that bring me joy. It helps that many of my close friends are nearby, and living with family is such a blessing. Every weekend is a new adventure, a chance to discover more about myself and the world, to connect deeper with myself and others.
This year made me realize that if I never worked another day in my life, I could be extremely happy. I used to derive my worth from work, but no longer. This doesn’t mean that I don’t care about my work or that I don’t love it—I genuinely find fulfillment and satisfaction in the work I do. But making art, spending time with people I love, exploring the world around me, giving back in the ways I can—if I only did that for the rest of my life, I could be really happy. I don’t need a high-powered career to make me happy. I still have a lot of professional goals (and want to have an impactful career), but I’m not so single-tracked on fulfilling them because I know who I am as a human being.
This year isn’t without its disappointments, setbacks, and tragedies. But, none of them brought me to true despair, as they may have in the past. Not that the moments hurt any less—if anything, they hurt more now that I’m leaning into the pain and feeling everything. With better awareness and compassion, I learned to trust the process and take things as they come.
Each new year, I give three words that serve as themes that I want to invite more into my life. My three words for 2022 are alignment, consistency, and community.
Alignment is having a positive feedback loop between every part of the self and the outside world. It means that every fiber of your being is in service to something greater than the self. Part of fulfilling one’s potential is being in alignment—it is impossible to achieve success (however you define it) without aligning one’s inner world with the outer world.
This year, I want to become more aligned in all dimensions: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, financial. This means getting crystal clear about the kind of life I want and the world I want to live in—and putting the work in to get there.
To be in alignment, you must figure out what you want out of life, which is a continual, never-ending process of growth and self-discovery. This process comes in two parts. Firstly, it’s gaining information and stimulus from the outside world. To me, this means leaning into my interests (which include robotics, physics, AI, environmentalism, space exploration, psychology, neuroscience, literature, art, health/wellness, etc.) by talking to people, watching lectures and talks, reading papers, and continuous feedback from the world. Secondly, there is the feedback with the inner world: listening to the self (feelings, thoughts, intuition), journaling (asking and responding to the self), meditation, visualization. These tools help me figure out what I want in life instead of following what I am supposed to want, and I want to do more of this in the coming year.
Looking back, the times I’ve felt the happiest have always been when I was in the most alignment—when my thoughts, feelings, and actions reflected my values. It’s when I dived deep into a few things deeply, giving them my all. I realized that true freedom to me means being in flow states—when your entire being is dedicated to a purpose that manifests in the physical world. When I am immersed in art, engineering, running, stories, conversations, and other activities I love, I feel the most like myself. When I’m out of alignment, I am more susceptible to mental health problems.
Greater alignment also means alignment with the self to the world around me. I want to better communicate my boundaries, protect my energy, and be around people who align with my values.
I’m sometimes too all-or-nothing in my habits and relationships, which is a problem I’ve noticed since high school (probably due to school-induced perfectionistic tendencies). I enjoy the intensity of doing something in one sitting, going all-in on a project with laser focus, and even trusting someone fully and without a guard. I don’t think that’s always healthy or beneficial though, and I want to keep the intensity while incorporating more discipline and consistency.
This summer, I ramped up my physical activity level way too fast after a period of inactivity, leading to a knee injury that led to months of pain and many doctor’s appointments. This year, I want to heal from my knee injury completely—not jumping into running or lifting before I’m ready. I want to consistently work on exercises from physical therapy. Even if it’s ten minutes, I want to do some form of movement each day to work on my stability, strength, mobility, and flexibility. I want to listen to my body at all times (which goes back to “alignment”). As the adage goes, “If you listen to your body when it whispers, you won’t have to hear it scream.”
While I was injured, my parents were running every weekend, training for a marathon. Seeing my parents run a marathon together made me realize that I don’t have to push myself so hard now—I just have to take care of myself so that I can still push myself even when I’m older. This applies to career, too—it’s not about how fast you go, it’s about how far you can sustainably go. That’s why I don’t care about being a lead at age x, getting a promotion by age y, or achieving some milestone by age z. I know I’ll get there eventually, and I’m not in any rush. I know what I want, roughly (and my life goals largely haven’t changed since high school), and I know it can come. It’s just a matter of time and consistent effort. I want to enjoy the process at every step of the way. If I get a no, it’s either a not now or the wrong fit–it’s not a reflection of my being. I want to do what feels right. Everything I want is already in the universe, and everything I’m seeking is already inside me.
I want to be more consistent in my hobbies and interests (practicing art, focusing on my health, and spiritual practices) by creating systems and habits that work for me. I also want to be more consistent in reading papers, textbooks, and watching lectures. Lastly, I want to be more consistent in my relationships.
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we’re wired to be social creatures. We’re not meant to live in isolation. We have to rely on each other to get through and improve our lives, and we are stronger when we work together.
Sometimes I feel like I must work on myself before I go out into the world (and do the whole “going to the woods to live deliberately thing” where I withdraw to find myself), but the world and I should be in more of a symbiotic relationship. I’ll never be fully healed or ready, and I have to accept that. As an introverted person, I get drained easily—but in the right setting, I can have a great time and feel like my heart is full. I want to invite more of that joyous energy into my life this year, despite the pandemic.
I believe some of the most creative and intellectual endeavors require a predominantly solitary journey: to take what lies beneath the conscious mind and go beneath the consciousness of society. One must use intuition to go beyond, to see a vision of what is to come. Yet, communities are crucial to spreading ideas and inspiration, and sometimes, collaboration is the only way to get things done.
Western and modern culture is extremely individualistic, and we all suffer because of it. Unbridled capitalism, corporate competition, the romanticization of a nuclear family, the importance of finding The One, land ownership, etc., all feed into this individualistic narrative. While attending to the self is of utmost importance, the values of a community are equally important. While I likely will not take action in the coming year in this regard, I’m attracted to the idea of communes and communal living in our modern society.
This year, I want to meet more people through activities that matter to me—spiritual practices, community service, book clubs, running clubs, art shows. I feel like I changed a lot during the pandemic, and my values and interests have reflected that. While it’s great to do things alone, the company you surround yourself with is ultimately what makes the journey fun and fulfilling. As the proverb goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” I want to be more aligned with myself and radiate my inner values to find others who are on the same journey. I want to seek opportunities to bring people together and be there for people.
I’m so excited for what 2022 has to offer. I will largely continue on my current path, with greater intention to bring alignment, consistency, and community into my everyday life.