2021 Review

The big events, in chronological order

  • Moved back home

  • Ended a relationship

  • Spoke at two conferences

They are the three pillars that each captures numerous reflections/discoveries/transformations that made up my 2021.

Moving back home

When the pandemic "finally" hit Taiwan in May, I went back to Hsinchu to stay with my parents. At the moment I thought it’d be just for a couple of weeks, and that I’ll be back to Taipei, and to my normal life soon. I didn’t know this would turned out to be a permanent arrangement.

Living under the same roof with dad, mom and my sister again (after 7 years!) was actually not much to adjust to. For the most part, I’m grateful to have this chance to be physically close to my family again. I love that I can see them and talk to them every day.

Besides this perk, however, what came with moving back home were also the change in the daily routine, in the surrounding environment, and the disorientation around the outbreak situation.

Ending a relationship

The underlying tension of the pandemic might have been the last straw that made this happen.

This relationship had not been easy from the start. Long distance was one of the compounding factors. It’s only now, with the clarity of hindsight, that I started to see how some choices and assumptions that I made led to the seemingly inevitable breakup.

I chose to not talk about some things, because they were sad things which, at that time, was painful for me to talk about. I also assumed she understood, and that I didn’t have to make an effort to communicate my feelings. I chose to focus on the positive things instead, and was diligently sweeping the negative under the rug. Guess what, sweeping things under the rug doesn’t really work. The self-doubt and frustrations they slowly turned themselves into eventually became too heavy to carry. It led to a point when the only action possible was to leave.

Many conversations afterwards, we said goodbye.

It was a clumsy, but peaceful breakup. I have much to thank her for. For the better part of this relationship, it was good. We have the best intention towards each other. No regrets.

Speaking at tech conferences

This is the most surprising turn of event this year. In the best possible way.

Looking back now, I’m so grateful that I applied and that ElixirConf and RubyConf both accepted me.

But gratefulness wasn’t always the dominant feeling that accompanied me during the process. When the acceptance letters came, the fact that

  1. I’m going to the US

  2. to speak at two big conferences

  3. on two different topics

  4. alongside the people I admire and follow from afar

nearly paralyzed me. I felt underprepared immediately. I felt running out of time. I didn’t know if I could find anything insightful to say. The anxiety was real.

In the two months that followed, I spent every free waking moment either

  • researching, writing, overthinking about the talks, or

  • watching TV shows to shut my brain up

As a result, my first talk (presented in ElixirConf) featured some–perhaps one too many–snippets from How I Met Your Mother, Fleabag, and Killing Eve.

I also started to see Phoebe Waller Bridge as my imaginary new best friend, but that’s another story for another day.

Being a speaker is really a big deal to me

Being shy in my whole life (sometimes terribly so) means I’m not used to letting my thoughts out. I avoid spotlights, usually stay silent in group conversations, and the closest experience I had that might pass as public speaking was a 5-minute talk to 10-ish people on a bunch of bean bags.

There were times where I felt the limitations: the lost opportunities, the undercommunications. What drove me to apply for speaking at the conferences was, in part, me trying to break out of my shyness: I CAN be under the spotlight. I CAN talk about my ideas to a lot of people, and still be fine.

And I did it–while staring at my computer the whole time that I was talking–I did it and I think it is so cool.

The talks went…​really well. The positive feedbacks, conversations, invitations afterwards were just overwhelming. Granted, this was all very new to me. I was in a heightened state of excitement already so the bar to overwhelm me was very low. That is to say, even if my talks were mediocre, which they weren’t, I may still remember them as being a blast.

Delusions of grandeur or not, it was such a thrill to know that my ideas are appreciated and are resonating with other people. To this date, every message, even a simple thank-you message, would make my day.

Q & A

The rest of this post is in the form of Q & A, from the templates gathered by Yue-Han.

What are the cool stuff I discovered this year?

I want to mention two groups. The writing club and wnb.rb

Joy invited me to the writing club earlier this year. To be honest, now I still very much feel like the curious kid who accidentally walked into the cool kids' club. I love that poeple are always sharing ideas and give feedbacks to each other in the most constructive manner I’ve seen. This group is also the reason why this post exists. They inspired me through their writings to open myself up. I don’t know if my particular piece would bring any insights like theirs did to me, but it’s a start.

wnb.rb is the biggest gem I picked up in RubyConf. It is a community for women and non-binary Ruby devs founded by Emily and Jemma, two incredible people I was fortunate to meet during the conference. It is beyond my imagination how they built up this super supportive network and maintain it so well. I feel excited to know more about the people in this community and I’m looking forward to the events to come.

What do I want to continue doing?

Hmmm retro.

"Self-motivated" is a word that comes up a lot in my feedbacks. I attribute it to curiousity. I’m perpetually, simultaneously, curious about things. It makes me go that extra mile, read that extra book, and think for that extra minute. It does sort of creates a priority issue sometimes, but ultimately, I believe it is curiousity that moves me forward, and keeps life exciting for me.

I want to continue being curious in the year to come, and in the many years that follow it, too.

What am I working toward?

  • Make more conscious efforts in maintaining meaningful friendships.

  • Run a full marathon.

  • Express myself better.

  • Workwise, consciously work towards being a "senior" developer, both in mindset and in capabilities.

What are my music playlists of the year?

Okay this is not a question from the templates :p

I feel this playlist is the best to sum up my year (Thanks to Hazel who asked me for recommendation and patiently waited 5 months for it)

What were the moments I cherish?

When I was running on the Stevens Creek Trail one November morning, it came to me: "This is it. This is happiness. I feel secure, excited, and confident. I feel happy."

I hope I’ll always remember that feeling of serenity, of possibilities opening up before me, of worrying about nothing.

There are many things that weren't mentioned in this post, but have been the foundations that carried me through this year: I am surrounded by friends and family that I love and appreciate; I have financial security to afford not thinking about money in everyday life; My efforts at work are recognized and I am working with people I trust and see as friends. All I can say is thank you. Thank you.

關關難過關關過。To all the challenges to come.

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