I created an impromptu web dev track, and like that, went on to teach code in Bali and Barcelona,
to work with a designer who became a friend,
On a less selfish note,
yet, plenty self-serving,
I gifted twenty books, bought a stranger a coffee, and sent flowers to nurse Khwan. And I wrote postcards to friends and thank-you notes to the people who changed my life.
As for those yearly stats,
I logged 9 yoga classes, 432 minutes of sun salutations, 11 artist dates, 107 nights away from home, 1480 meditation minutes, 232 kilometers of running, and 13 floats.
But what I’ll actually remember,
are those balcony talks with Carly-Love,
and the two summers with the golden ones.
I’m giving my intuition full reign.
And I’m curbing my enthusiasm for no one.
Here are my favorites of 2019.
The Letters That Got Me Teary-Eyed
💌 For my birthday, I asked my friends and readers of Paper Planes and Packets to answer a few questions. The responses I got back were intimate and raw. People shared their stories about dealing with anxiety and depression, their struggles with aloneness, and accounts of ever-persistent inner dialogues that hold them back. Although it was heart-wrenching to read these messages, I was honored and grateful that people had entrusted me with their truth. It was a beautiful birthday gift that made me realize, yet again, how much we’re all alike. In case you missed it, the invitation to reply remains open.
Best $100 I Spent
🥀 A year of flower bouquets for mom
When visiting my parents in Sarajevo last summer, I came up with the idea of pre-ordering 12 bouquets for my mom at the local flower shop. The idea was to gift her fresh flowers every month of the year to remind her of my affection for her and have her experience the seasons in different blooms. To make the gesture even sweeter, I asked dad to take care of the deliveries. Dad, however, ended up telling mom about the present. And mom went to the shop herself, inquired about the budget, and then decided she preferred a potted orchid over two months of fresh flowers. Best $100 spent, still; terrible execution. If your parents are any less rebellious than mine, I do encourage you to steal this idea.
Favorite New App
This year I switched to using Markdown for notetaking and writing (if you’ve formatted text on WhatsApp or Slack, then you too, have used Markdown). The biggest reason I turned to Markdown is that Markdown syntax translates to HTML, which means that the styling of my documents will remain transferable, no matter which text editor I decide to use in the future. If you’ve ever tried moving documents from any application that uses proprietary formatting, you’ll understand the pain this solves. I’ve translated my entire archive to Markdown, and Typora is the Markdown editor that I use for everything, from noting recipes and travel recommendations to drafting blog posts and keeping coding study notes.
The Book I Recommended Most Often
🧗🏻♀️ Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men – Caroline Criado Perez
In Muriel Rukeyser’s poem ‘Myth’, an old, blind Oedipus asks the Sphinx, ‘Why didn’t I recognize my mother?’ The Sphinx replies that Oedipus answered her question (what walks on four legs in the morning, two in the afternoon and three in the evening) incorrectly. ‘[Y]ou answered, Man. You didn’t say anything about woman.’ But, replies Oedipus, when you say man, ‘you include women too. Everyone knows that.’ But in fact the Sphinx was right and Oedipus is wrong. When you say man you don’t ‘include women too,’ even if everyone does technically ‘know that.’ Numerous studies in a variety of languages over the past forty years have consistently found that what is called the ‘generic masculine’ (using words like ‘he’ in a gender-neutral way) is not in fact read generically. It is read overwhelmingly as male.
Invisible Women made me recognize the implications of living and growing up in a society where men are seen as the default. I now better understand the grounds for some beliefs I held about myself, like not being smart enough for math and physics, and decisions I made, like not pushing to earn more because it would be unbeneficial for my tax return. I also found it very interesting to learn the reasons behind daily inconveniences, like the long queues at public toilets for women, and many other curious examples.
Experiment I Loved
🍸 No Booze
Curious to find out what abstaining from alcohol would do for our moods, creativity, and productivity, G and I decided (admittedly, after a wine-induced Spanish summer) not to drink until the end of the year. The 4-month experiment was so successful that it has made me think of giving up drinking altogether, forever.
Most Memorable Travel Experience
🐚 Collecting shells with mom and G
It was too warm to be outside most of the day; the beach was a mess, the food questionable, and the only thing that could make it bearable, the reason we were there–the surf, was flat. With nowhere to go and not a single distraction, I gave in to a beach walk. With mom by my side, and G walking a few meters ahead of us, mom and I started collecting seashells. I studied the patches of sand available in my vision, hunting, gathering. My mood lifted. And the need to escape the place, the emptiness, and myself, lost its hold on me. I returned the shells to the sea, but I kept the images of my mom, content with nothing, playful as ever.
And Some Other Travel Faves
🐞 Nuxe. I bought the Nuxe fragrance (together with the lotion) when I was in Barcelona to remind me of my adventures and summer days spent in Europe this year. It’s an idea I learned from Eleanor Pendleton, founder of Gritty Pretty, who once shared how she likes to pick new perfumes for special occasions, like her wedding day.
🎬 When G and I fly together, we’ll sometimes play the same movie, at the same time, but each on our separate screens. Sitting next to G on a plane is always special to me anyhow since it’s on the flight back from our first trip together that we (sort of) admitted being in love with each other.
Music Album I Played on Repeat
🎶 When the Storms Would Come by Holy Holy
G and I thought to be wild and go the Melbourne for the sole purpose of watching Holy Holy perform. We booked the concert tickets but ended up staying home. So much for a thrill.
A Practice Friends Were Most Enthusiastic About
Since G and I both work from home, we get to spend a lot of time together. Naturally, this means that there’s plenty of room for annoyance in a week. Instead of escalating these nuisances into a potential fight, however, we save them up for a “Friday talky.” Then, every Friday evening, while we unwind on the couch or go for a walk, we’ll discuss the situations that upset us. By the time Friday arrives, though, I find that there’s little left worth mentioning, which tells me that most of the troubles were ego-driven and passing and would’ve made for an unnecessary blow-up. I also noticed that the vulnerability of the practice (since it turns out that talking our hurt through when we’re both calm is awkward) lets us rediscover each other’s gentleness, and this directly strengthens our connection.
Quote I Started 2019 With
Be tougher. –Jocko