2021 version here.
Happy almost new year! Just as I did in 2019, I am closing the year out in Bangkok, Thailand. Suffice to say, a lot has happened in those three years. I’ve changed. Bangkok has changed. But all of us, we just keep turning the wheels of time and chugging along.
Biggest milestone: Started learning a new instrument, the Chinese guqin. It makes me so happy that music — the creation of music — is now an essential part of my life, my daily routine. Practicing the guqin has helped improve my mental health, better process my emotions, and connect more deeply with my culture. A few days ago, I stopped by an instrument store in Singapore and purchased my very own guqin, which I plan to keep for the rest of my life.
Firsts: Going on a work trip for my current job (to Vienna). Taking a one-week French immersion course in the south of France. Seeing a GP in Switzerland and undergoing IV therapy. Becoming pescatarian. Having brunch on a Swiss farm to celebrate Swiss National Day, and also seeing a traditional Swiss cow parade. Hosting my entire family in Europe. Travelling 7 hours to Germany just to watch a movie. Being on certified sick leave for Covid. Speaking to a financial advisor. Coloring my hair.
New places visited: Singapore, twice. Dachau. Vienna. Antibes. Istanbul. Greece. Liechtenstein. Chiang Mai. Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, and Ho Chi Minh City. Penang and Kuala Lumpur.
Places I returned to: Lyon, naturally. Interlaken, Montreux, and Neuchatel. London. Munich. Bangkok.
Number of train trips: About 20 individual trips.
Number of plane trips: Around 16 individual flights.
Number of boat trips: One.
Number of Covid tests: At least ten — I had to do so many when I visited Singapore in January.
Favorite Swiss things: The calm. Living in Switzerland has made me soft. I hate noise, and I love peace and order.
Things that still frighten/confuse me: When you’re doing something innocuous and suddenly an intrusive thought pops into your head: “wait, am I breaking the law?” This could include anything from vacuuming on a Sunday to playing your instrument at night to not using the right trash bag. Also, just how bad the restaurants in Switzerland are, as a whole.
Things/people from America I miss the most: I miss that feeling at 9 or 10pm, when you’ve just wrapped up a long day, and you walk into your neighborhood grocery store, and it’s quiet and deserted and you can just do your shopping in peace. There’s something about that ambience that feels therapeutic.
Things I do not miss about America: How car-dependent it is. I recently realized that one of the reasons I was so depressed and isolated as a teenager was that I was trapped in the suburbs and fully reliant on my busy parents to drive me around. I have a license, but I haven’t been behind the wheel of a car for more than ten years. And I’d be happy to keep it that way.
Lowest moments: This summer was tough mental health-wise due to the massive heat wave and getting Covid with my entire family in my small one-bedroom apartment. Physically, I also experienced a significant decline in my health and was found to be iron-deficient. I am continuing to seek treatment for my chronic fatigue, which often has me waking up feeling ill and exhausted. I also had an anxiety attack in Bangkok and then another one in Ho Chi Minh City due to sensory overload and generally being overwhelmed by Southeast Asia.
Biggest challenges: I don’t recall this year as particularly challenging. I think it went as well as can be expected, all things considered. My job was fine, my relationships were fine, and my travels were fine.
Achievements: Just the fact that I’m continuing to make slow, steady progress on many fronts. Learning the guqin. Improving my French. Keeping up with the people that I care about.
Most important lesson learned: When I met up with a friend in Hanoi this month, she remarked that I seemed so calm. This was particularly meaningful because many people have said this to me in the past couple of years: that I listen well, I give good advice, and that I have a calm, peaceful energy about me. That’s honestly the biggest compliment that I could hope to receive. I’d spent so many years of my life lost, unhappy and dissatisfied. It took moving to Switzerland, living through a pandemic, and finally getting a stable job for me to stop living life with my fists clenched and my teeth gritted and finally make peace with who I am and what I want out of life. So I guess the lesson isn’t to do something — it’s simply the mantra “everything is going to be okay.”
Most popular content on this blog: The most read posts this year were….
- What frustrates me about living in Switzerland as an Asian American
- Best way to learn French (2021 edition)
- My exhausting search for an apartment in Geneva
- The 1.5-hour boat cruise of Lake Brienz is extremely worth it
- Best way to learn French (2020 edition)
In 2023, some things I want to do are….
- Keep up my exercise routine. I started lifting dumbbells every day in the fall and kept at it, only doing about 5-10 minutes a day due to my worsening chronic fatigue. Even those very short workouts have made a discernible difference; on my flight to Asia, I could lift my suitcase easily into the overhead bin without help.
- Go back to Asia. Singapore now feels like a home away from home, and I’m also keen to return to Penang, Malaysia, which I absolutely loved visiting. And of course there’s Japan and Taiwan, which have now reopened.
- Get better at cooking. Every time I travel away from Switzerland, I’m reminded of how terrible the restaurants there are, and how much they have the nerve to charge. If I want good food, I’m just going to have to make it myself.
- Make a decision as to whether I should move out of Geneva. My lease is up in the summer, and I’ve been considering moving to Montreux, the village of my dreams. But the train commute would be daunting.
- Learn more about getting a degree in clinical psychology and about whether mental health counselling could be a viable second career for me, a few years down the line.