2021 was full of unexpected twists and turns. Going into it I had different expectations for where I’d end up, but with a series of drastic lifestyle changes I came out of it stronger and happier.
It all started with my decision to spend a few weeks working remotely in Hawaii…
Change #1 - From city life to mellow adventures
During my 7 weeks in Oahu I started to embrace the Hawaiian way of living. The culture is all about living in the present and spreading love, and it's far more enjoyable and sustainable than the glamorized hustle culture that I escaped from the Bay Area.
Wes and I stayed in the North Shore with one goal in mind: to learn how to surf. I’ve always been fascinated with surfing and we knew this would be the perfect opportunity. We took surf lessons from our Airbnb host Edison and went out to catch waves after work every day.
The number of hours we spent outdoors in the ocean or on the hiking trails really helped improve my wellbeing. My happiness and fitness levels were at peak high and the delicious food around the island had my stomach extremely satisfied.
Change #2 - From freelancing and art to family and friends
At the start of the year I decided to buckle down and define a path to take my 6 year side hustle to a full-time gig. I was oozing with passion and excitement, anticipating for the day I could finally call myself a full-time artist.
But the honeymoon phase quickly faded and I found myself in a bottomless pit of fear, stress, and sleepless nights. A few conversations with two very important people helped me realize what was happening and reset my priorities.
First, my therapist Nina. I only had a few sessions with her but I’d say they were some of the most impactful conversations I’ve had in a while. She helped me identify the specific things that were causing my unhappiness and develop a plan to solve for them one at a time.
Second, my dad. This year his physical and mental health struggled and it was the first time I saw him in a weak and vulnerable state. One day he opened up about how he regrets spending his entire life prioritizing work over family and it made me realize two things: 1) my workaholic tendency comes straight from my dad, and 2) I don’t want to end up regretting the same things when I’m his age.
These conversations led me to pause on all freelance and art projects for 6 months and focus on strengthening my relationships with family and friends. It was the longest break I’d ever taken since I started lettering in 2015. It was uncomfortable. But critical for the next lifestyle change I experienced in Q3.
Change #3 - From Facebook to Chime
As I spent my summer days living in the present, I started to realize there was another part of my life that was keeping me from being happy: my work at Facebook. I started working at the company in January 2018 and after playing the role of Design Program Manager for several teams across many years, I was starting to lose the spark that once had me excited to wake up every day to go to work.
I reflected on this a lot. And it was clear that a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic values were no longer being met. I started having conversations with peers and mentors to figure out what my next move should be. Ultimately what I decided I wanted out of this next chapter of my life was to 1) work for a mission-driven company that aligns with my values, 2) find a new community that inspires me to do good work, and 3) have better work-life balance.
Thanks to a lot of luck and amazing people, I landed a job as the first Design Program Manager at a smaller fintech startup called Chime.
All together now 🙌
The last three months of 2021 were some of the best months of my life.
I unintentionally (or maybe it was intentional?) incorporated all three lifestyle changes (adventure, family & friends, career) together.
Adventure: Went on my solo Euro trip to Portugal for a surf camp in Algarve and surrounded myself with amazing food and adventure seekers. Returned to Hawaii to continue surfing and spend the holiday season.
Family & Friends: Got engaged to Wes after 9 years of dating and celebrated with friends. Went on a grand tour across NY, SF, and LA to catch up with friends and colleagues. Spent the month of November with family playing golf and walking the dogs.
Career: Started working at Chime and regained the spark and sense of fulfillment that was missing in my day job.
What’s most exciting about this last quarter is that by investing in these lifestyle changes, I started feeling a lot happier and as a result felt more creative and inspired. I guess the saying is true – a creative mind is a happy mind.
This year I experienced the highest of the highs and lowest of the lows. It took a year’s worth of work to unpack my mental state, understand my values and readjust my priorities. I hope to continue investing in these areas going into the new year.
Here’s to many more adventures, quality time with family & friends, and career milestones in 2022! 🥂