Reflecting on 2019: Developing a resilient foundation

[Read my Privilege Statement]

Note: I wrote this post in December 2019, but unfortunately didn’t feel confident enough to post it. I figure better late than never!

In 2019, when people asked how I was doing, my typical response was, “My personal life is great!” I found myself feeling grounded, rooted, and connected at home while facing insecurities and difficulties professionally at a level I hadn’t experienced before.

In my personal life, I formed good habits for health and learning. My relationships with friends and my neighbors deepened. I proved to myself that I could complete and achieve measurable, time-bound goals. I felt self-assured.

At work, I oscillated between feeling confident in my skills, learning agility, and value, to wondering if my past successes had just been a big fluke.

I started journaling daily in 2019 and can now look back and see the evolution of my experiences. Early in the year, I expected a learning curve and less social capital. I was excited to challenge myself and build new skills, develop relationships, and receive constructive feedback to continuously improve. But suddenly, I found myself questioning my instincts and doubting my own competence. I felt I had to make myself smaller to get by.

Towards the end of the year, I learned to hold complexity: I tried to stay true to myself while adapting my style and admitting my mistakes. I looked for the lessons in every piece of feedback. Thanks to all the friends and mentors who talked with me and helped me through these phases.

I always enjoy reflecting at the end of the year, so I holed up in my Green Room and used a set of exercises to figure out my 2020 intentions. Here are the highlights.

What am I grateful for?

The people in my life

  • I got to see my mom almost every weekend. My little sister, dad, and maternal grandparents live close and I was able to see them frequently. I loved bringing my sister to the farm I volunteer at, and eating burritos with my Babushka in Oakland.
  • I have a kind, loving, and hilarious partner. After years of contemplating marriage, what it means to us, and whether it’s right for us, Nate and I decided to tie the knot in 2020!
  • I realized that my “new friends” are now my close friends, and my best friends are like sisters.
  • A group of curious and introspective women welcomed me into a book club.
  • Incredible instructors and mentors took the time to teach and guide me.
  • I know people walking around my neighborhood and I really feel that I am a part of a community.
Lil Lu learning to farm

Healthy choices feel easy

  • I can walk to farmers’ markets, fitness facilities, and entertainment. I can take public transportation to work.
  • I am good at setting goals and I have the privileges, resources, and self-efficacy to meet them.
  • The friends who I feel the most drawn to and connected with are positive influences and always inspire me.
  • I enjoy money management and can save for the future while living comfortably in the present.
A typical Farmers’ Market haul

I have sovereignty over my energy

  • My work is flexible, allowing me to work in accordance with my energy levels and places where I feel most creative and/or productive.
  • I learned how to say no to extra professional activities that don’t give me energy or that don’t leverage my skills, and yes to those that align with my learning goals.

Ways that I worked towards my values and mission in 2019

I deepened my relationships while connecting with nature.

  • I volunteered at community farms every 2 weeks.
  • After reading The Hidden Life of Trees, I organized a tree walk on Earth Day for a small group of friends. I shared what I learned about trees and we reflected on how we are similar and what we can earn from them.
  • I invited a group of friends to a home-made gift workshop, reflecting on the impact of consumerism during the holidays.
  • Nate and I took a bike trip down the California coast in January 2019. It was a more sustainable way to travel, and an epic way to connect with Nate and the California coastal landscape. I also proved to myself that I can endure and enjoy such a tough physical challenge.
Earth Day tree walk
Volunteering at Planting Justice with friends from different spheres of life

I contributed to equity and sustainability.

  • I aligned my money with my values around racial justice and climate change.
  • I didn’t eat meat during February and limited my meat intake to 2–3 meals per week in the following months. (For comparison, before 2017 I didn’t consider a meal complete unless it had meat, and in 2017 and 2018 I ate vegetarian 2 days a week.)
  • I earned a Certificate in Permaculture Design after a 100-hour intensive course focused on global indigenous origins of environmentally sustainable and regenerative design.
  • A quote that stuck with me was “waste is a failure of planning and design”. I anticipated when I would need certain items so that I could plan and bring reusable ones (examples: bringing reusable and washable cloth bags for buying produce, and bringing reusable containers and chopsticks for weekly dim sum at the Farmers’ Market).
  • I co-created a health equity strategy at work by interviewing a bunch of people and envisioning how we can build equity into our products and services. It’s starting to get legs.
  • I helped start a group at work called Rally for the Planet. We organize events and initiatives focused on the intersection of climate and health. We helped our employer partner with Replate to reduce our food waste in all 6 of our offices.
  • After more than a year of research and design, we at ShelterTech launched Guides for eviction prevention, youth homelessness, adult homelessness, and family homelessness.
Permaculture Design Course
Synthesizing our health equity interviews
The Guides team at ShelterTech

What am I dissatisfied with?

  • Sometimes in conversations, I respond to demonstrate how I relate to my conversation partner, instead of asking more questions to deepen my understanding of them.
  • I give myself a hard time for wanting external validation. While I am intrinsically motivated, I think it’s okay to desire positive feedback from others. At the same time, I can’t depend on it.
  • Systemic inequities and health disparities are simultaneously more talked about and getting worse. I fear that white people are getting more comfortable talking about it, but we’re not taking enough bold action.
  • While I’ve been changing my behaviors to live more sustainably, I need to do more. I have to rethink convenience, slow down, and be even more intentional about my spending and behaviors.
  • I love being a generalist and also feel pressure to become a specialist. This contributes to my insecurities about how people perceive me professionally.
  • I have a strong, unfulfilled desire to create something beautiful with my hands.
  • My volleyball career left me with moderate chronic pain. I address the symptoms by getting massages almost weekly, but I’m not doing what I can to prevent the pain.
  • Another fire season and an influx of construction in my neighborhood led to a heightened sensitivity to air quality and pollution. I’ve had asthmatic symptoms more often, and find myself fearful about the future and getting very angry at people who smoke in public.
  • I felt a lot of fatigue this year. I want to feel more energetic in 2020!

How I will improve, and continue working with my values, in 2020:

  • I will listen actively and ask more questions. I will express gratitude and affirm people.
  • I’m going to take more bold and active steps to support an equitable and just future — prioritizing the visions of Black and Indigenous communities. This will be reflected in my spending, giving, work, extra-professional, and leisure activities
  • I will periodically reflect on what I am learning, my contributions, and my areas for improvement. I will celebrate all of these things!
  • I will seek help to get to the root of my chronic pain, to prevent it.
  • I am going to tweak my routines and habits with the seasons so that I feel more energetic.
  • I will practice articulating complex ideas so I feel more ready to do so on the spot.
  • I will create time and space for imaginative and creative practices. Some ideas include: organizing craft progressives or creative exchanges with friends and making meaningful progress on a permaculture project.

Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear if you’ve had similar goals and what you learned. Always up for trying new tools and practices.



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