Happy almost 2023, and I hope most of you are also looking back on this year with feelings of fondness rather than frantic thoughts of ‘where did this whole year go and what happened to my 2022 New Year’s Resolutions??’
I know, year-end posts and reflections are admittedly pretty trite, but as Queen of Basic White Girl Things™, I’m writing another annual post for the heck of it (here’s my post from last year), so I’ll be able remember this rollercoaster of a year even in 2032. This might spiral into a long post, so let’s gather round this virtual campfire (minus the s’mores) and try not to fall asleep.
2022’s ending credits are about to roll, and what a year it’s been. Taking cues from Spotify Wrapped, here’s some numbers that made this year great: 73 days spent abroad, 6 countries visited, 4 jobs, 2 resignations
and a partridge in a pear tree.
Here’s a tl;dr of how all this craziness went down:
- Jan-April was spent in my final and favourite Housemanship rotation (TTSH Ortho <3) + starting classes at an MMA gym, a doubly enjoyable end to the most sleep-deprived and mentally draining 12 months of my existence.
- May-June was a zen 2 months of entirely clinic-based work in an unnaturally chill interim MOPEX, which sold me on the highs of clinic life. Resignation #1 happened after the posting ended on 4th July/Independence Day, and what a symbolic date it was.
- July-Sep was a time of growth, exploration, and excessive (but much-needed) travelling around New Zealand, Australia & Korea, both solo and with family/friends. In between the weeks of travelling, recovering from severe burnout & blogging, I picked up medical writing jobs and locum gigs to start paying the bills…
- Oct-Nov was a short but fulfilling stint as a full-time GP. Great job, great pay, great stability, great colleagues, but just not enough time to fit in my other career and personal pursuits. As grateful as I had been for that opportunity, Resignation #2 inevitably happened.
- December was spent fine-tuning my ideal freelance work schedule, travelling, and spending quality time with special people in my life (some old & some new). Finding the optimal balance between locuming and my studies/writing/hobbies/social life has been a bit of trial and error, but hey, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
So yes, it’s been a pretty wild year.
the biggest takeaways
Racing through multiple significant life changes within one year really helped me distill my thoughts towards both life & work, and these are some hopefully-not-premature conclusions I’ve come to:
- Living simply is underrated. I’m more than happy to be out of the rat race if it means I’m happy, physically & mentally healthy, and have plenty of quality time to spend on the things in life that spark joy (being there for loved ones, hobbies, travel, wellness, etc.)
- I don’t want to chase success. I’m not particularly interested in chasing prestige, money or power, and society’s definition of ‘successful’ tends to come with tradeoffs that I’m not willing to make. I rather pursue something I’m passionate about, regardless of its likelihood of success.
- You’re meant to change a lot in your twenties, so don’t box yourself in. I’m not afraid of revising goals set by my younger self, or evolving into a different person over time. I used to want to migrate more than anything in the world, but now I’m having second thoughts. I used to think I’d be a doctor forever, now I’m not so sure. People change, circumstances change, plans change, and it’s important to be open to all that.
- Travel is the best teacher (esp solo travel). I cringed at the cheesiness when I typed that, but I honestly thrived, grew and learnt more about myself & the world in my month of solo travel than in my entire university life. Additionally, observing the stark contrast between New Zealanders’ (chill, life-style oriented) and Koreans’ (stressed & overworked) relationships with work challenged my own views towards work.
- Work doesn’t have to be your identity. Too many doctors/other professionals seem to tie their identity predominantly to their job (or ‘calling’, as diehard Med fanatics would say), and I used to feel guilty that I couldn’t relate to that. But I’m the sum of my passions, work, hobbies, loved ones, ideals, and so much more.
- I need to change my mindsets towards success/work/money, and undo years of societal conditioning by Singapore’s academics-obsessed education system, Raffles’ culture of aiming for excellence, and med school’s competitiveness. It’s easy to blame all these external influences, but ultimately I’m the only one who can change how I allow my past to shape my future.
- Having autonomy over my working hours/schedule makes work feel sustainable and joyful. After years of routines and being told exactly when & where to show up for school or work, being able to actively choose my off days
or weeks, schedule events well in advance, make spontaneous dinner plans, or free up time for any emergencies is a job perk I’ll never take for granted.
- Stagnation is my new biggest fear. Settling into a routine and running on autopilot is easy, but it bores me sick. I combat that by working as a freelance GP, changing clinics and working alongside new staff everyday, so I always have variety in my working environment. I also surround myself with people who strive to improve themselves, and who I’m consistently curious about, interested in, or inspired by.
- I don’t want to retire for the sake of it. I don’t think I’ll be able to last more than a month without working, sitting at home idly playing crossword puzzles or Netflixing listlessly. By work, I don’t necessarily mean a salaried job, but rather, actively involving myself in various tasks/jobs/volunteering to fulfill some purpose in society. To quote Sylvia Plath, ‘what horrifies me most is the idea of being useless: well-educated, brilliantly promising, and fading out into an indifferent middle age.’
- Being open to new feelings & experiences is scary yet liberating. After this whirlwind of a year and 2022’s gamut of adventures, I feel more confident, independent and am no longer afraid to be unapologetically myself. I’m open and ready for whatever 2023 throws at me, both the good and (hopefully not too much) bad!
Who knows, I could be singing a different tune in next year’s post, but guess we’ll have to make it through another year to find out.
my liberation notes
I feel almost silly saying that a single drama inspired me so greatly this year, but My Liberation Notes did just that.
The drama’s synopsis: Three siblings, exhausted by the monotony of day-to-day adulthood, seek to find fulfillment and freedom from their humdrum lives.
Being a slice of life show, it felt as if I was being taken on a journey alongside the siblings, through the high highs and low lows of their daily lives. Stifling workplaces, dinner & drinks with friends, tiring 2-hour train commutes, harvesting vegetables on the family farm, loss & grief, holding onto love even when it was tough, messy adult relationships – My Liberation Notes had all of that, and so much more.
So, what was each sibling seeking liberation from? The eldest was trying to escape loneliness and find someone to love before winter rolled around. The middle was working hard but soullessly, to escape financial instability and the village home they grew up in. The youngest was trying to break free from her unfulfilling job and unexciting life – she started writing a list of things she wanted to let go of, aptly titling them ‘liberation notes’.
While watching the show in June this year, I found myself relating to each of the siblings’ struggles and life choices in some way, which inspired me to scribble down a list of things I want to be liberated from (I’ve transcribed them below):
- Caring about what other people think
- The rat race
- Having walls up. I want to be open to loving freely & fearlessly
- Imposter syndrome
- Chasing money for the sake of it
- The fear of failure
- Letting comparison kill my joy
- Unproductive things like doom-scrolling social media and overthinking
I highly recommend watching this drama if you haven’t already, and writing your own little list; who knows, it might inspire you to seek liberation from whatever is holding you back right now.
Be open to change and see where your feet take you.
My best friend sent me a Reddit post that resonated with me and echoed, to some extent, what I’ve already been trying to achieve over the past few months – building a life that I don’t need a vacation from.
Maybe I don’t need to migrate or run off to a rural farmland to enjoy a serene and burnout-proof lifestyle. Maybe I can work on creating that ideal balance of ‘working hard to build my wealth’ and ‘having time for the people & things that matter’ right here.
That’s at the top of my list of 2023 goals, and here’s the full list (so far):
- Leading a balanced life with fruitful work, adequate rest, self-improvement, and quality time to spend with loved ones. That was my objective when I quit the public healthcare system, and I’ll hold onto that goal.
- Seeking discomfort and embracing connections with strangers. I’m an extroverted introvert, and enjoy the excitement of meeting new people and learning about their worldviews, lives, travel experiences & work. While most are simply fleeting connections, I’ve made some deep & long-lasting connections too, and I’m excited to learn more from the people I cross paths with next year.
- Cutting social media usage. I enjoy immortalising my travels and memories with the people who matter, so I’ll continue posting
excessivelyon my Instagram stories. But scrolling aimlessly on Insta and watching people’s stories has got to stop. I’ve set a screen time limit to improve my mental health and get rid of one time sink (but reddit is still my guilty pleasure).
- Self-guided therapy. As a self-confessed psychology buff who has a tendency to overthink and feel too much, my goal for next year is to do self-guided Emotional Regulation Therapy and reduce my tendency to psychoanalyse things, people, their emotions or actions/inaction. Here’s to developing into a more mindful and balanced person next year!
- Reading more books. With all this spare time on my hands, I’ve taken to reading books recommended by friends with similar literary tastes. I’ve had the luxury of completing 5 books in the past month, and it’s reignited my passion for reading. In 2023, I’m aiming to read a book a week, and will be starting a new book review blog series too!
- Trying new (fun) things. I’m extremely excited about my planned pursuits in 2023, including sword-fighting, tennis, 2 new blog series, coding projects, art, music, and more travelling!! So many more adventures are just around the bend!
Instead of doom-scrolling through the Instagram stories of other people’s lives/BTOs/weddings/kids, seeing them travelling, furthering their studies and discovering new facets of themselves, I have every intention of grabbing life by the metaphorical balls, and doing all those things for myself over the next few years. 2023 will just be the beginning.
And for my last song recommendation of the year, Glee’s Roots Before Branches has fairly accurately summed up how the past year has been for me. I’ve found myself (at least more so than in previous years), and now I’m ready for new challenges.
I gotta have roots before branches
To know who I am
Before I know who I wanna be
To take chances
To live like I see
A place in this world for me
Like an average twentysomething, I now have the freedom to be a little bit lost, take calculated risks, and begin building a future that brings me joy; and that’s how I’ll spend next year. Stay curious, seek discomfort, and chase your dreams. Be sure to follow me on Instagram or like my Facebook page to be updated whenever I post something new, and I’ll see y’all in 2023 – happy new year 🙂
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