My New Year’s resolution for 2020 was a lesson on navigating my own interests and being honest with myself.
In this MY 2020 series, Youthopia writers explore everything that happened in the past year – the good, the bad, the ugly – and also share their hopes and dreams for 2021. What’s yours?
At the start of 2020, I remember joking about how this was going to be the start of my “roaring twenties” with plenty of good things to celebrate for. I felt ambitious and almost overly-confident for the year ahead.
On Chinese New Year, I tossed the yusheng high while wishing for divine blessings on my three New Year’s resolutions: A good final year project experience, higher grades and paying more attention to my own mental well-being.
But the series of events that happened following this was an experience that pulled me down from my high horses.
Stuck at home and faced with an uncertain year, 2020 has been a humbling experience that made me realise how grades and work are not everything. In fact, it is the little things around us in life that matter.
From reprioritising the friendships I had to changing my definitions of success, here are three ways that my 2020 New Year’s resolutions have changed over the year.
I used to think that doing a face mask or binging on my K-dramas were things that should only be done when I’m free from any commitments in school. I usually felt guilty for indulging, and self-care often felt like a reward rather than something I owed to myself.
In reality, school work and projects were a constant as a student and my work-life balance was unfairly weighted just because of my stubbornness to take a break.
But I began to realise the importance of self-care when the circuit breaker began. My routine was a mundane mix of sleep, eat and work which made me restless and bored.
Perhaps it was the boredom of being confined within the four walls of home, but the simple act of doing something different – like making a cup of dalgona coffee – felt like a much needed distraction to feel energised again.
Picking up baking was also a hobby that I spent more time on this year. It was also through these small pockets of time away from my laptop that I learnt to prioritise myself over the work ahead of me.
If I had let my stubbornness stop me from taking a break, I would not have realised that self-care is a conscious effort to take care of one’s mind and body. Of course, that does not mean that I neglect my work, but rather to find an appropriate balance between work and rest.
Learning to recognise and pay more attention to my own needs has made me realise that self care does not happen overnight and it is the small actions of letting loose and taking a break that are the little things that keep us going.
Like most students, I wished for good grades during the new year. In reality, I think I was setting myself up for failure. No, I did not fail any of my subjects, but I did end up feeling disappointed and demoralised when my grades fell below my expectations.
I was overly ambitious in my own goals with no solid plan, and my motivation was fixated on the three defining figures of my grade point average that I thought mattered the most.
But when my grades for a writing assignment that I felt most confident in came back far below my expectations, I spent more time berating myself because I had perceived the bad grades as an indicator that my goals were crushed.
Admittedly, it was a cycle of being stuck in a fixed mindset. I was easily daunted by the fear of failure and was more concerned in validating my own efforts through my grades.
Reading the book Mindsets by Dr. Carol S. Dweck gave me a rude awakening, as I realised that failure can also be a springboard for something better instead.
Setting a goal fixated on an unknown end result will only lead me to neglect the joy of learning along the way. Perhaps I was naive and did not consider why I wanted to excel academically.
If I could set my new year’s resolution again, I would wish to set a goal that is not only a ‘want’ but also something that is reasonable within my own abilities. Rather than a singular focus on perfection, I would wish to embrace the experience and work on what I can do to improve on my studies instead.
During this year, my supportive group of friends from school often held video calls late into the night and it was through these heart-to-heart moments that we constantly kept ourselves and our emotions in check.
When I was worrying about my internship applications, they pushed me to take the first step in seeking help from others like my lecturers. When I was overthinking situations and procrastinating at trying new things, they kept me grounded and made sure that I was not left behind as I tried to find my footing while working towards my goals.
I was inspired by their daring drive to take action and this helped me to come out of my shell to embrace new experiences better. The future felt uncertain, but the faith that others have on you can be one of the most powerful forces for someone on their long road to fulfil their goals.
Surrounding yourself with the right people was one of my greatest takeaways for the year and I hope to carry that confidence forward to be a pillar of support for not only myself but for others too.
This 2021, I hope to be more open minded and honest with myself. Being less fixated on my grades is a journey that has seen some progress but there are times when there is still a lingering sense of doubt that the figures are just not enough.
But it is like the saying that embracing discomfort is a sign of growth. I hope to step out of my comfort zone to pursue new experiences outside of the world of school and work that I have always known.
And now that I know how to prioritise my own interests better, I hope to spend more time doing the things I used to love – like art – and treat myself a little better come 2021.
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