3 Things I Learned in 2017
Haha, I know it’s February already, but does that matter? I’ve given myself a good long January to reflect on everything that happened last year. Fine—I admit, I’ve sort of been putting this off, but being late is better than not doing something at all, right?
I’ve always been big on personal development and growth, so reflecting is one of my favourite things to do. I’m typing this up while on a flight back to Vancouver from Toronto. Instead of being bored like last time, I thought I would make use of the time and do some thinking.
2017 was an awesome year, to say the least.
I hit two major milestones: I graduated from university and started my first full-time job.
Along the way, I learned a lot of things, had a lot of fun, and met some interesting people. There were definitely some challenges along the way, but challenges are good in moderation.
My last term at UBC—January to April—was challenging. I took four courses, which I piled on two days of the week, and I continued to work at Global Affairs Canada the other three days of the week. That was also the first time I commuted to UBC from Surrey—three hours round-trip!—which took some getting used to. It was an incredibly busy time for me, but also very productive.
Then, I graduated!
In the summer, I spent five weeks in Trois-Rivières, Quebec, where I learned French as part of the Canadian Government’s bursary program Explore (I highly recommend it, and you can read my full review of it here).
Then, I started my first full-time job at the UK’s Department for International Trade, based out of the British Consulate-General in Vancouver. It has been rewarding so far: the work is really interesting, my colleagues are awesome, I get to go on work trips, and there’s a lot of opportunity for professional development.
In 2017, I also achieved my personal goal of running a marathon, got a five-page feature in the Sing Tao Daily magazine, visited Toronto four times—don’t ask, I’ll explain some other time—and travelled to some other places—Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, London, Florence, Rome, San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
Having had all of January to reflect, and now finally having some time to jot down my thoughts, I will share with you some of my main takeaways from last year.
Takeaway 1: Persistence and building good habits pays off
I really do believe that the little things make the most difference—and I see this panning out in a lot of areas in my life.
One small thing that I started to do a year and a half ago to improve my French was listen to French radio for 10 minutes every morning. When I first began, I could understand maybe 70%. It was difficult because my vocabulary was limited and I thought that the radio hosts spoke way too fast. After a few months, I could understand 90%. Now, I can pretty much understand 90-100%. Of course, me being in a French-immersion program in the summer probably contributed to my improved comprehension, but my point is that spending even 10 minutes a day on language learning can make a difference over time.
I ran regularly throughout the year, on average 2-3 times a week. Since 2014, I’ve been building the habit of running (and I actually enjoy it now!). Sometimes I ran for 20 minutes, sometimes for 1.5 hours, but mostly around 20-35 minutes per run. Do not underestimate a 20-minute run! It makes a difference! By the end of the year, I completed a 10k, a half marathon and a marathon.
Something else that’s so simple it’s almost stupid: I’ve been great at flossing in general, except for five teeth on the bottom where I have a permanent retainer. In March, my dentist scolded me for never flossing those five teeth. I got scared, so I started flossing there 3-4 times a week. Literally it takes me an extra minute to floss those five teeth and I know for a fact that it pays off. Nobody got time for gingivitis!
Takeaway 2: Life gets interesting when you take initiative and talk to people
From my previous travels, I knew this already, but this really got cemented in my head last year. There were so many instances where I took the initiative to talk to someone—to be honest, it is a little scary sometimes—and things just ended up super awesome.
For example, when I took the ferry to Victoria by myself to run the marathon, I saw a girl who was on my ferry and didn’t think much of that. When I got off the bus in downtown Victoria, I noticed that the same girl got off; again, didn’t think much.
Then things got interesting. We walked in the same direction and entered the same building. Well duh—she was part of the same running event! After I grabbed my race package, I saw her walk past me and noticed she was wearing a UBC hoodie. It also seemed like she might be by herself.
I had to make a split decision. Do I let her pass or do I maybe talk to her? My gut told me to talk to her. I literally said, “Hi, sorry, this might be a little weird, but you came from Vancouver right? I saw you on the ferry and then the bus. And I thought I might talk to you because I went to UBC too,” pointing at her hoodie.
Turns out, Vicki was also running the marathon by herself. And!—the most interesting part was that we booked the same hostel! How cool is that.
Another example of meeting awesome people at the perfect time was when I was in Rome in December: On a walking tour, I talked to two girls: Szilvia from Budapest, and Jessica who was working in Spain but originally from LA. It couldn’t have been more perfect because two weeks after Rome, I was in LA. And of course I met up with Jessica! (Thanks for being my chauffeur!) Szilvia, I know I will definitely see you sometime in the future!
Takeaway 3: Everyone needs support and there’s nothing embarrassing about seeking help
In all honesty, I think I’m pretty independent. Sometimes, I think I can do everything by myself and I don’t need anyone else. But time and time again, I’ve learned that I’m wrong. Yes, I can do a lot of things by myself, but I realized that I need other people’s support to live my best. You become stronger when you have support.
I have support groups in different areas of my life: I have mentors for my career, I have friends for my sanity, I have a church community for my faith, I have family for everything else. Support can come in many shapes and sizes.
It’s hard for me to say this in the open, but I think there’s nothing embarrassing about admitting you need support. Last year, I finally got a counsellor to help me through some challenges.
So, what about 2018?
I’ve also had the entire January to think about new goals for 2018. I’m really excited for 2018 because there’s so much I can do if I use my time wisely.
Some things I want to do—and I know these are definitely not SMART goals— are to improve my Chinese reading ability, be conversationally fluent in Spanish, manage my finances better, challenge myself at work more, do a half marathon in under two hours, start on some personal projects I’ve been putting off, and updating this blog more.
(Psst, by the way, I would love you if you subscribed to my mailing list. That’s something else I need to work on. I’ve had a mailing list for over a year but I’ve never actually sent out any updates. My promise is that I’ll send out an update once a month.)
I’m going to keep reflecting. What about you?
I encourage you—even if it’s February or March or April—to do some reflecting on last year. Or if it’s mid-year already, reflect on the last couple months. Or reflect about your month, or your week. Heck, do it every day!
But in all seriousness, I actually do reflect every single day. I have a five-year diary—and I’m super excited because it’s my fifth year doing this. It literally takes me one minute every day to jot down some thoughts. I’ve also been journaling on and off for about 10 years.
I really like the idea of sitting down every week to reflect but that hasn’t really happened. Life’s busy as we all know, but I do want to dedicate focused time for that. Maybe I’ll sit down once a month and do it… perhaps include some of my thoughts in my monthly emails? (Psst, subscribe!)