Is it just me or did this year pass by even faster than 2020? With the months melding together into a mess of constant regulation changes, a neverending onslaught of pandemic-related news, and the world being stuck in a general state of limbo, it’s hard not to feel like 2021 slipped by.
Either way, congrats to us for making it through yet another year in this new pandemic-ridden world, and may 2022 be the year when a sense of normalcy slowly creeps back into our lives???
In retrospect, yes, the year passed fairly quickly, although it honestly felt gruellingly slow at some points, and there’s not much I would have changed about this year even if I could get a do-over. 2021 was a year of immense change and (sometimes uncomfortable) personal growth. It was one heck of a year for me, and I’m sure all of you have had a pretty wild ride as well.
So here’s an awfully personal post looking back on 2021, the craziest year of my existence (so far), and my new year resolutions for 2022, which we all make but rarely stick to.
Just like my Spotify Wrapped playlist, my year was a mixed bag of feelings, with many memorable highs and awfully low lows. It was a whirlwind of multiple life events:
- walking out of hospital as a med student for the very last time (Jan)
- our MBBS (Feb-Mar), a month-long ordeal of endless papers, anxiety and clinical exams
- getting my first tattoo (Mar)
- finally getting a degree after 5 years and half of my twenties (April)
- starting my first-ever full-time job as a House Officer (May)
- a family member being diagnosed with and treated for cancer (May)
- starting my second Housemanship posting (August)
- getting my second tattoo (Oct)
- starting my third & final Housemanship posting (Dec)
It’s been wild, and there’s nothing much I would have changed about this year.
finding simple joys & counting my blessings
If I had to choose one word to sum up my 2021, it would be Providence.
Providence[ prov-i-duhns ] noun
the foreseeing care and guidance of God or nature over the creatures of the earth.
Whether by divine intervention or personal hallucination, ‘Providence’ was the word that kept popping up in my mind whenever I was going through tough times (of which there were a lot this year). I felt greatly reassured by that single word, knowing that I wouldn’t be put through circumstances that would break me.
I’m not usually the bible quoting type, but this verse also kept me going throughout the year: He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. (Deuteronomy 31:8)
And at times when life felt too heavy or I found myself in a negative spiral of whining excessively about work (which my close friends can attest to), my mum would remind me to randomly count 3 blessings, a quick hack that honestly helped me get out of my funks. It was hard to remain unhappy or discontented when I reframed my perspective and counted the things that were working out, rather than focusing on the areas I was dissatisfied in.
So here are some of my greatest blessings this year (and there are way more than 3):
- Extremely supportive parents & grandparents, who I take for granted a lot of the time. They love and support me unconditionally, celebrating my milestones with me and being there for me on darker days.
- My best friend and fellow House Officer, TL, who I’ve known for half my life. I’ve sent her one too many texts about wanting to quit, we’ve laughed & moped together, and we’ve sent each other random memes at 2am when we were both on call in different hospitals.
- My closest friends (both in and outside of Med): L, Kat, K, G, my longtime girl squad, and a few former CG/Clinical Group mates. I felt immensely fortunate to have such great people in my life; from calling/meeting up regularly, to sending me memes to cheer me up, to commiserating together, I wouldn’t have made it this far without their support and love.
- Having good health. My physical health did worsen slightly due to Housemanship (ugh @ the calls and bad hours), but when I interact with my palliative patients, it’s a sobering reminder that I’ve been put on earth to serve people in any capacity, and so I will.
- Having a salary! It’s a long and arduous journey to financial independence, but at least I’m able to slowly start saving up for my future or donate to causes I feel strongly about.
- A comfortable home/safe space to return to after work. Even the worst days don’t feel too bad, because I know I’ll be able to detox from the day once I get home.
- Freedom. Other than work, I don’t have any major life commitments (no partner, no housing loan, no major debt), which means I’m free to chart my own future, travel on my own schedule and chase my dreams.
old & new friendships
It’s probably apparent from my list of blessings above that relationships are one of the most important aspects of my life, and they were one of the most fulfilling parts of 2021.
From new friends to old ones, my social life has been thriving ever since graduating from med school. I was honestly not expecting that. Being the homebody and introvert I am, I thought I’d crawl home after work everyday, too exhausted to meet up with friends, but alas, I’ve thankfully had enough energy and motivation to devote to both old and new friendships.
Being a working adult suddenly meant I had a lot more time after work to meetup with my old friends (or at least those who weren’t working overnight/on call), instead of having to rush home to study after a full day of med school. After spending the past 3 years pretty much stuck in a routine of ‘hospital–study (or game) at home–sleep–repeat’, this was a hugely refreshing change.
Not gonna lie, the logistics were tricky at times; when planning outings with my fellow House Officer friends, we’d have to pick a date a month in advance and ensure we’re all not rostered on call on that day. But seeing my friends together after so many months made all our planning worth it. And there were the rare impromptu weekday dinners, video calls, or gaming sessions with precious friends after work, which often descended into us ranting about work or having heart-to-heart talks.
Here’s to the friends who’ve left an indelible mark on my life, the ones who’ve I’ve spent years of my life with, the ones whose little quirks have rubbed off on me over the years. Here’s to the people who were there for me during my tough times this year, the ones who always showed up for me in the stands, cheering me on. Here’s to the ones who always make my cheeks hurt from laughing and make my heart feel full, even when they’re thousands of miles away.
As sappy as it sounds (and at risk of sounding like a Care Bear), friendships make my world go round. And if my friends are reading this, I love y’all sm!! 💖💖💖
being openly vulnerable
Ever since I started writing publicly about my life and struggles as a House Officer, my social circle expanded. It was not an outcome I had expected when I first started writing – if anything, I had been afraid of being blacklisted by my employer for simply speaking up, or being judged by my peers/fellow junior doctors for being ‘weak’ or ‘whiny’. Being vulnerable is scary, especially on the Internet where every word you type is immortalised.
Some batchmates, juniors and even some long-lost friends from my secondary school days (who were now med students/junior doctors as well) reached out to me after reading my House Elf series to commiserate over our shared experiences or ask for advice. We’ve laughed, groused and talked about life over dinners, and this whole experience has taught me that suffering in silence doesn’t do anyone favours.
It’s better to speak up (and spread awareness in my case), because chances are that if you’re having this experience/thought/opinion, there’s at least one person out there who feels the same way, but maybe there were just waiting for someone else to say ‘me too’.
Even in my personal life, I’ve taken more chances and dared to be more open with my feelings this year, especially after various health scares or incidents that reminded me that life is too short. I’m sure most of us love and cherish our family/friends, and there are definitely various love languages that don’t necessarily involve us saying ‘I love you’ out loud (because let’s face it, that can be kinda awkward sometimes).
But not everyone is good at mind-reading, so it’s sometimes easier to let our loved ones know how much we care by just telling them (or writing it in a card). No one ever loses out by expressing their feelings (even if they’re not openly reciprocated); the bigger loss is missing the chance to tell the special people in our lives a simple ‘I love you’.
my 2022 resolutions
First things first, say it with me (and try to genuinely believe in it): “2022 will be my year.” 2021 probably wasn’t the best for most of us, so let’s try to make 2022 work out better for all of us. :’)
2022 will be the year where I continue to seek discomfort and force myself out of my comfort zone. I’m not going to set concrete/directly measurable resolutions or lofty goals (like exercising daily LOL), but I want to live by a few mottos and let them guide my decisions in the upcoming year.
If you’re a fan of the Yes Theory crew, you’ll know that their motto is seeking discomfort, and they genuinely live by that motto. They embark on adventures to rarely-visited locations, interact with random strangers from all corners of the world, try crazy experiences that most of us may never have the guts to do, all in the name of pushing themselves out of their comfort zones.
While I currently can’t travel nor have the budget to try most of the things they do, I’ve been hugely inspired by them in my daily life. From making new friends, taking up various outdoorsy hobbies, and planning a solo travel expedition (in a few years’ when I have more time), their motto of seeking discomfort has added inspiration and excitement to this former homebody/couch potato’s life.
Seeking discomfort is such a radical way of looking at life – it reminds me to stop making excuses to stay in my comfort zone, and provides a much needed impetus to start turning my dreams & bucket list into reality.
learning new things
I’ve been absolutely jaded towards learning anything medically-related, which is probably a side-effect of my chronic burnout or maybe just my long working hours, but it’s also affected my energy levels towards studying in general. Some part of me just sighs deeply and feels exhausted at the mere thought of studying, although I still have a burning desire to learn about 101 non-medical things under the sun.
In 2022, I’m determined to learn actively and focus on self-improvement. This is me committing to learning new skills, taking up new hobbies/sports, studying non-medical topics that interest me, and reading more books (or writing my own book). I want to become a jack of all trades, and hopefully somewhere along that journey, I’ll stumble upon my true calling in life, which still eludes me year after year.
positive thinking & self-talk
I’ve been guilty of holding onto some things for too long in 2021: negative emotions, fixations on certain goals/ideas (and the unrealistic expectations & frustrations that come along with them), and even people. In 2022, I’ll make a conscious effort to let go of the things that weigh my heart down or tie me to the past.
You know how sometimes when you allow some thoughts to fester in your brain, it ends up manifesting into reality and creating a negative feedback loop? It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy of bad vibes and negative outcomes, whether in your professional or personal life. I was guilty of that in 2021 and allowed myself to end up in such a spiral (albeit momentarily) when I had consistently pessimistic thoughts about my working situation for a few months.
At any rate, I’m going to try the opposite next year and focus predominantly on the positives, making an active choice to let go of any small grouses I may have. Maybe I’ll create a positive feedback loop and have sunshines & rainbows coming out of my face at work???
letting go and not taking life too seriously
Another thing that 2021 taught me was letting go. If you’re an overthinker like me, sometimes we build castles in our head and they accidentally turn into dark & looming mountains that stress us out.
I realised that the best remedy for when these kind of thoughts or feelings overwhelm me is simply to talk/write about them so that they can’t linger in the back of my mind. And instead of catastrophising like I usually do, mentally running through the 101 ways any given scenario could go wrong, I’ve embraced the motto of ‘JUST DO IT’ a la Shia LaBeouf or Nike.
People honestly don’t care about what you do (or don’t do) as much as you think. So instead of overthinking about how others are going to react or if they’ll pass judgement, I want to do what’s best for me, because I want to be authentic and accountable to myself.
I’m slowly trying to be more vocal about my thoughts and get feelings off my chest, instead of taking life too seriously and bottling things up. Learning to let go of my self-conscious tendencies not for the sake of anyone but myself, has been a strangely liberating feeling, and I’m excited to live more fearlessly in 2022. Goodbye to self-limiting thoughts or lingering feelings that no longer serve me, and hello to a version of me who’s confident and wears her heart on her sleeve.
Dear 2021, thank you for being nothing short of a year of Providence and God’s grace, and here’s to 2022, a year of stepping out of my comfort zone, seeking fresh opportunities, and many new beginnings. I can’t wait to see what you have in store for me, and I’ve never been more excited.
I’ll end off the year with this feel-good boyband bop:
And my shoes stuck to the floor
And the bell rang for last call
And I don’t remember it all
But I think it started with
Hey, I saw you from across the room
And I’ve been thinking of a way to come and talk to you
But I got nothing, oh
And nothing to lose
And I really wanna, really wanna, really wanna, really wanna dance with you
P.S. I don’t make any money from running this blog, so if you’d like to support my writing and help me bring even better content to you, you can buy me a coffee/donate on Ko-fi!
If you’re interested in exploring my blog, click here for an index of all the posts I’ve ever written (travel, musings, doctoring), or check out my most read series below:
- the Chasing Dreams series: a multi-part series chronicling my thoughts, dreams & changing ideals over the years (since 2018), including burnout, quitting the rat race, migration and trying to find my path in life
- the (not-so-definitive) guide to doctoring: Getting into Med School & FAQs | Surviving your Clinical Years | MBBS Tips | Life as a M1 // M2 // M3 // M4 // M5 during COVID // Life as a Doctor (monthly series) | Chasing Careers series