Favorite Things 2020

In 2020,

On the coding front,

I committed to giving a workshop before I was ready, and like that, devoured my most meaty frog right at the start.

I taught seven days of code, joined TourHero as their front-end dev, and created Neo’s Tree–a recipe app.

From the writing sidelines, I published my first essay. And for the third year in a row, I flew paper planes every month.

I also discovered DIY flower arranging, rediscovered DIY waxing, puzzling, learned to do a strict pull-up and binged on La Casa de Papel under the guise of practicing my Spanish.

There were 39 books, 11 MasterClasses, 1381 minutes of meditation, 15 nights spent away from home (when travel was still something people did), and a bottle of wine a week (when it was no longer something we did).

Yet, all those things fade compared to the silver linings that dissolved all the clouds:

The gratefulness notebook I kept with G, the sessions with The Knitting Club, and the sunny phone calls with my parents and the in-laws.

In 2021,

I’m learning to sleep on it.

To breathe.

And to listen to my soul when it tells me to  s l o w  d o w n.


Here are my favorites of 2020.

The Gift That Got Me Teary-Eyed

🌳 After a hard week at work, Laura gifted me the logo for Neo’s Tree. In her accompanying message, she shared one of her past professional hardships and told me the logo was her way of comforting me. The thought still makes me teary-eyed.

Best Purchase I Made Under $100

🧖🏿‍♀️ Aquis Rapid Dry Lisse Hair Turban
2020 is the year that I tamed my curls at last, and it’s the Aquis hair towel that helped me do it. I bought two of them; since I tend to wash my hair before sleeping, I like to swap out turban number 1 for a dry, number 2, which I’ll keep on overnight.

Plus, a Definitive List of My All-Time Hair Faves

🥛 Klorane Tinted Dry Shampoo With Oat Milk
The Klorane dry shampoo is the only dry shampoo that doesn’t make my hair look strawy or feel sticky and heavy.

💈 Kristin Ess Dry Finish Working Texture Spray
My all-time favorite texturizing spray is the Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray. However, its price tag is slightly ludicrous, and it’s also impossible to find in Singapore. That’s how after trying alternative after alternative, I found Kristin Ess’s Working Texture Spray. I use it for volume and that much-coveted oomph, which makes hair look ever-so-styled.

🧯 Ouai Heat Protection Spray
If I’m blow-drying my hair, the Ouai Heat Protection Spray (previously known as the much cooler Memory Mist), will help to keep my style in place.

🏝 Kristin Ess Soft Shine Beach Wave Spray
If I have to comb my hair, I’ll use Kristin Ess’s beach wave spray to bring my curls back to life. I don’t tend to use it on freshly washed hair since my curls will look defined enough. And I only (lightly) spray the bottom layers of my hair.

🧴 Ouai Hair Oil
I crunch this oil into my hair’s bottom layers for smoothness and gloss, and to lift my spirits with its fragrance notes of Ylang Ylang.

The Book That Changed Plenty

🐥 The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter And How To Make The Most Of Them Now

We think that by avoiding decisions now, we keep all of our options open for later—but not making choices is a choice all the same.

The Defining Decade helped me understand that if I wanted a career I loved, I needed to stop running away from jobs when they got difficult. It’s also the book that informed me that if I wanted to have kids, waiting until I was 40 was not the best idea, fertility-wise.

❤️ Recommended to me by Katie, heroine without a cape who changed the course of many lives, including mine

A Skill I Loved Learning

🏊🏼‍♀️ Freestyle swimming with Total Immersion by Terry Laughlin
After my knee accident and surgery at the start of the year, I was only allowed some light exercise, walks, and cycling in the pool. Then, as I spent more and more time in the water, I committed to becoming a better swimmer. I watched the Total Immersion course and found myself get better week by week. Laughlin’s website and videos may come across as a bad infomercial, but the technique he teaches does work.

Most Memorable Travel Experience

☕️ Slow coffees in Tokyo
In January, I spent two weeks in Japan. My most memorable travel experience belongs to a non-descriptive coffee shop in Tokyo. I wrote a post about it, and here’s a tiny excerpt.

Being here feels familiar, like hovering at my grandma’s kitchen table, which makes it odd, since after all, I’m in Tokyo, and both my grandmas are dead. Yet, this sense of ease in the presence of strangers, usually women, isn’t new to me. And I know it’s her. I feel protected. Cradled. Enveloped in surrogate gestures of grandmotherly care, which I never experienced, or was too young to remember. From Found in Nothing

🌊 Cheeky fact: I stayed at The Prince Gallery Kiocho hotel in Tokyo where they had a most mesmerizing scent for a shower gel by a brand called Byredo. I tried getting it as a perfume but understood that it was exclusive to the hotel. I must’ve misunderstood because I couldn’t believe my nose when a bottle of Gypsy Water arrived home, and I got transported to that magnificent bathroom in Tokyo. (By the way, Selfridges, which is where I ordered the fragrance, was undoubtedly my favorite online shop of the year.)

The One Big Thing That Defined the Year

🧶 The Knitting Club
On April 17th, Devon, Silvia, and I became The Knitting Club. For our first season, we watched documentaries, shared and cooked family recipes, followed MasterClasses, practiced new habits, read Wait But Why articles, and took ourselves out on artist dates. Each of these chapters lasted three weeks, and every week we met up via Zoom (sometimes inviting a guest) to discuss what we had learned. We laughed, cried, and grew together. And no doubt, our friendship kept me sane this year. At the end of the second season, which was about working on our creative projects, our core team grew, and we were delighted to have Laura permanently join us as the fourth member of The Knitting Club.

And a Few Small Ones

🔖 Related reading: Play, Counting the Bounty, and Silver Lining

A Habit Friends Were Most Curious About

🌤 Waking up early
It all started with a noisy neighbor waking up around 5 A.M. After months of fighting the situation, I surrendered and began going to bed around 9 P.M. and waking up with her. Like that, I turned an annoyance into a gift. I went for early morning walks and discovered the dark and calm before the sunset. And with the time difference between Europe and Singapore just right, I could still catch my parents for a call.

🎼 And some tunes I’d listen to on my way back home: Breathe It In by Garrett Kato & Julia Stone, and Olalla by Blanco White.

Quote I Started 2020 With

Become so good they can’t ignore you. –Steve Martin via So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport