Sunday, 3 January 2021

2020 - A Personal Reflection on What I've Done/Achieved/Gained/Grow From :)

AND I thought I could have combated 2020 with some cockroach spray. Oh, how naive I was - we were clearly underprepared to face 2020. But we survived.

2020 was definitely a really tough year. 

I have to admit - I have been through many downs. My emotions were seemingly unstable most of the time in 2020 - one minute I'm fine, and the other minute I feel as though the whole world is against me. It might be because everything was uncertain - there's the pandemic going on, that no one is able to predict what will happen and when it'll end. There are constant streams of worries.

With that, I'd like to celebrate the little successes and write on the aspects which I've gained/grew in 2020 - to remind myself to constantly reflect and adapt, to continue to work on what helped me to grow.

Personal Growth

 1. Established routines

Amidst the stay from home order, I've managed to set a few routines and stick through it. I've established routine which I'll break down into monthly, weekly and daily routine

Monthly routine

I've managed to consistently review my monthly goals (which you can see my monthly goals review posts published here on my blog, as a way to keep myself accountable), as well as doing a personal monthly reflection on Evernote (reflecting on things I was proud of in that particular month, things I want to work on and achieve in the coming month), and reading at least two books per month. (EXCEPT for the month of December, where I only read one book). 

I definitely want to carry forward these routine - doing a monthly review of my goals was definitely helpful to see where I am, and what I should work on/put in more effort. It also let me see what I have done/achieve for the month :) 

Weekly routine

I've managed to assimilate these activities into my weekly habits/routine since the start of MCO back in March 2020: room cleaning, plant care, cooking/baking one new dish-per-week, exercising at least twice a week & creating a checklist of things I want to get done in the weekend. 

It all started with these two dishes I made using the air fryer (Air fryer sweet potato fries & fried chicken) only did I realise I was so out of the game in cooking ._. and hence my journey & resolution to cook/bake one dish per week started. 

I really like creating a checklist. It is particularly helpful during this quarantine period when one might feel like one has done nothing at all. The checklist serves as a reminder of what I have done, and also prevents "I'm bored and I have nothing to do" moments, and ensure that I get what I need to do done! 

Daily routine

Note: My daily routine typically only apply to weekdays

I have established a morning routine of listening to podcasts and tending to my plants. At the end of the day. I try to do a reflection on the work front - what went well, what are my priorities for the next day and how can I improve myself the next day. I also set two mini personal goals just to ensure that I feel accomplished the next day.

I have to admit though I am not 100% consistent with the daily routine I set, but I do try my best to fulfill it. Some days you just don't feel like doing anything and I feel it's important to be kind to yourself. 

2. Picked up new hobbies, and revived old hobbies

Back in 2019, I was struggling to make full use of my free time. I was staying in Johor, away from most of my friends and family. I was busy throughout 2018 and the first half of 2019. When my schedule started to clear up around the second half of 2019, I realised that I didn't know what to do with my free time at home. I enjoy going out with friends, exploring new hiking trail, food to eat, travelling. But. What do I do with my free time? 

I realised that was quite unhealthy, as going out was 1) expensive and 2) I realised that it was a way to distract myself, and knew I needed to find time to be alone with myself, and be comfortable with it. 

I also struggled in thinking about my personal identity - who am I, other than my job as a teacher, who likes to travel and eat and hike and work and go out with friends? 

Which was why I resolved to explore around for new hobbies. Hobbies that allow me alone and enjoy what I am doing. I managed to pick up some new hobbies in 2020, as well as revived some old ones. 

New hobbies: 

1) Gardening

I'll always remember the feeling when I picked up my very first plant from Taman Hati back in February 2020. Little did I know I'd get really into gardening, and no doubt the pandemic spurred it further! 

My very first plant - the Fittonia! 

I became curious to learn more about plant care. About other plants. About landscaping. I've gained a lot of knowledge from Planterina, Swedish Plant Guys, Summer Rayne Oaks & much more on Youtube. I've DIY-ed a coconut planter and also made some terrarium, both open and closed terrarium during MCO. I began to appreciate nature and landscaping. 

Two closed terrarium I made

I've also began to share a little plant care tips on my plant Instagram account, @pot_tosynthesis

2) Video editing 

This one was quite accidental - but as my job required some filtering of videos, I began explore how to use Youtube editor, and subsequently learning how to use iMovie! Ok so buying a Mac was not completely a waste :P 

I was quite resistant in learning how to edit video at first but once I sort of get the hang of it, it becomes quite addictive I have to say!

My video editing skills are still pretty novice, as I am doing it "for fun" and learning as I go :)

These two videos are the only videos I have listed as public so far :p too embarrassed to share any more as I feel that a lot of work could be done to improve. 

Old Hobbies:

I also found joy in things I used to find joy in :)

1) Blogging

I've been writing about food places again :) And also exploring new food places to eat. I realised blogging makes me more "alert" and perceptive - I'd pay attention tot he food served, service, the service from the moment we made a reservation (norms of CMCO - always make a reservation to avoid disappointment), to when we step into the shop, to tasting the food and so on

I've also noticed that my old Cuti-Cuti Malaysia posts have been gaining traction - probably because we are only allowed to travel locally as of now. This motivates me to write more of my Cuti-Cuti Malaysia experiences on my blog :) 

Like this post I wrote about Cameron Highlands. Interested to find out where? Click here to read about this place! 

P.S. compiled all my Cuti-Cuti Malaysia traveling post here, and a list of hiking destination in Malaysia here

2) Cooking and Baking

This one is really obvious especially if you have been following me on social media, or at least this blog. 

Most recent cooking venture (as of time of writing) Dak Galbi! 

Morrocan-inspired chickpea stew with homemade artisan bread

I am inspired by myself from moving on as an air-fryer cook (as mentioned at the second point) to like...a proper home cook now haha :D 

I gain inspiration and learnt a lot from Youtube as well, mainly from June Xie from Delish, America's Test Kitchen, Food Wishes and Cupcake Jemma

So now I am someone....with a very strong identity hahah :D Someone who loves cooking, baking, gardening, hiking and travelling! 

3. Planning & curating my wardrobe for the long-term, establishing my personal style (WIP)

I made a promise myself to embark on a personal styling journey at the start on this year when I shifted from working in a school environment to corporate - I realised that my old styles didn't really fit the environment I was in, nor I was too satisfied with my personal style.

Clothes that I tried on back in January 2020, in search of my personal style

I was worried that being in a new profession might require me to do a complete overhaul for my wardrobe but thank goodness I did not take it to that far, thanks to the videos from Audrey Coyne! With her videos, I have gained some inspiration and now have a few personal policies when it comes to shopping for clothes, namely:

1) I'll only buy clothes I can try on. 

This helps remove a lot of temptation to shop online - I realise when you shop online its more of a hit and miss. Sometimes the clothes fit you well, sometimes the clothes look good, but it just simply doesn't fit you.

Exhibit A: Loved the cutting & look of this dress but when I put it on...only did I realise it was a complete misfit on me! 

This also helps ensure that the clothes I buy are pieces of clothing that I truly covet, and will wear time and again :) 

2) I'll try to only buy clothes that are on my long-term planning list

This also helps me ensure I buy clothes which I can mix and match easily with my existing pieces of clothing I have. 

key word is "try" because time to time I'll find a very beautiful piece of clothing at a shocking price...which I really can't resist. Like this dress I bought for only RM10 from 2nd Street!

This is definitely a work in progress, and it will take time and conscious effort to curate my personal style. :) Definitely something I want to bring forward in 2021!

4. Shopping consciously 

This is a little similar to 3. When I moved back home for good at end 2019, I was aghast with the amount of stuff I had accumulated, even though I've always thought that I'm someone who is already very conscious in what I buy - aim for cheap items, think through for a few days before making a purchase. 

Similar to my clothes, I have a long-term planning shopping list which I separate into "essentials" and "others" (ie, wants, or things that can potentially make my life better, but are not considered "essentials"). This really helps me think through what I need in the short term, as well as long term, and is extremely helpful when it comes to sales such as 11.11 and 12.12 sales :P

5. Mustered up the courage to do things/activities alone

Of course, this died down because of the pandemic - but I would like to recognise the few activities/events I've joined in 2020 alone! I have always preferred to do activities with someone, but I didn't want not having company to hamper me from trying out new things or doing activities I may enjoy :) 

Closed terrarium making class @ IKEA, Cheras in Feb 2020

Joining my second Jane's Walk in Feb 2020

Joining my very first clothes swap in Jan 2020 - really look forward to joining more clothes swap in the future, but with the pandemic, it is probably hard :/ 

Volunteering at Free Tree Society (Bangsar) in August 2002

6. Started pot_tosynthesis

I started an Instagram account dedicated to plants back in July 2020.  The initial plan was to start up a plant business but because of my busyness at work, and also how I choose to spend time in other parts of my life (especially in my newfound & rekindled hobbies), the plan got stalled.

I now use the account to share about plant care and interesting plant places in Malaysia (mainly nurseries for now!). If you're looking for affordable places to buy plants, check out my stories highlight! 

I am however selling my self-propagated plants and some pots on my Carousell account, do check it out if you're interested :)

7. Writing book reviews 

I revived my hobby of reading in 2019 when I was having a tough time and I realised that books can help me carry through a tough time.

I resolved to write a review for books that I've read so that I am able to properly articulate what I've digested, and also I can share the joy and love with others because I often find books that I'd love to read through other friends' review too!  

Check out books that I love and what I think about them on my Goodreads profile

Professional Growth

1. Change of job, change in roles, change in industry

I went through a (voluntary) job change 2/3 way through 2020. Never have I ever thought I'd experience a change of career in 2020 but it happened, after many long and detailed consultation with friends and family and thorough considerations.

I remember taking this photo on the very first day of my second felt so sureal

I did not go through a vertical progression in my career (ie a promotion) in 2020, especially since I switched industries. However, my career change definitely contributed to my personal growth immensely (eg: new friendships that I truly cherish, learning about culture-building in a company/team, having a job that I enjoy = improved well-being, and much more).

I definitely learnt and gained new skills and knowledge from both jobs, though it does not directly lead to linear career growth as of now, which I will detail below

Learnings and Takeaway from my First Job

1) Structured thought process

I did notice that I am more conscious about the flow of an article I am writing. I am also more aware of the consistency of the terms I use in an article, as well as whether or not I am using BRITISH ENGLISH or AMERICAN ENGLISH

2)  Google & research skills

As my first job in 2020 requires me to conduct in-depth research of a particular industry, equipping myself with Googling skills was vital. I found this Power Search with Google free online course during the first movement control order and I must tell you, this is an extremely useful online course.

Learnings and Takeaway from my Second Job

1) How to manage and host an effective online event and meetings 

I've learnt about the various tools we could use for online meetings/events, such as Mentimeter, Padlet and so on. How we should set expectations and norms at the start of a meeting/event. 

How to make full use of breakout rooms. How to host a live event. How to engage people in an online event. And so much more! 

2) Delegating and asking for help 

This is definitely one of the biggest takeaway/learning in 2020. I have always been someone who is afraid of asking for help. Who would rather suck it up and do everything on my own. I am afraid of burdening others. I am afraid of being seen as "weak". I am afraid of being rejected.

I faced an immense crunch time in my job. I learnt to ask for help. I learnt that asking for help is not a sign of weakness, nor it is burdening others - you are giving others the opportunity to learn and grow too :) And you as the delegator, or leader, learn how to lead and direct a team. I have received so much helpful input through delegating and asking for help. Things that I wouldn't have thought of myself, aspects which I had overlooked...and so on.

I know I definitely still have a lot to learn and grow on this :) 


Writing this blogpost was...refreshing. It made me realised that I have grown quite a bit in 2020 :) Despite the pandemic and so. Despite feeling useless time and again. And those mood swings. Celebrate little successes! Definitely, there were things that...ahem I need to work on and grow too, will probably leave that for another blog post :) 

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