2021 was the year of quality.
Throughout my life, I believed that settling was the key to survival. To stretch my budget further, I spent money on cheaper items that tended to break easily. I’ve gone through periods where I’ve sacrificed my own happiness for the happiness of others. I’ve said yes to unfulfilling work or working conditions just so I could pay the bills.
Since I didn’t know what I deserved, I accepted everything into my life, hoping that I would find fulfillment.
2021 was a year of shifting my beliefs.
2021 was the year I wanted to adopt the belief that I deserve high-quality things – relationships, habits, material belongings, and work relationships.
This is my Year in Review for 2021.
What I love about writing a Year in Review is the reflection process. Reflecting about your year can be better than setting a goal you may not stick to beyond January. This is because it’s time spent thinking about what worked in the past year, what didn’t, and setting intentions based on that.
This is one of my favorite times of the year. It’s time I get to spend thinking about moments I enjoyed, commitments I dreaded, and activities that made me happy.
Life Update: Moving from Vietnam to USA
Funnily enough, my year didn’t turn out exactly how I planned. At the beginning of 2021, I remember confidently declaring that I would spend the entirety of the year in Vietnam.
Now I write this from a family home in Kona, Hawai’i.
In my 2020 Year in Review, I did write about missing family and friends back home. Well, the last five months of 2021 were spent deepening my connections with family and friends –
- Asking family members more about their lives.
- Inviting friends from college out to coffee.
- Seeing friends whom I met in Asia here in the USA.
At the beginning of 2021, I set intentions to guide my goals. I thought about how I wanted to feel so that the goals and habits I set would align with how I wanted to feel.
1. Have deep, fulfilling in-person friendships
At the beginning of 2021, I felt alone. The friendships I had lacked the depth that fulfills me. It made sense: I had only moved to Hoi An a few months prior, and hadn’t taken the steps to get to know the people around me on a deeper level.
In 2021, I set an intention to schedule two coffee dates with two different people per month. Since I was relatively new to the city of Hoi An, I put myself out there and invited new friends to coffee. Some of those coffee dates turned into exactly what I wanted: close lifelong friendships.
2021 emphasized how much I value community.
Community builds stability.
Before covid, I travelled a lot. That travelling meant my community changed often and sometimes I didn’t have one. Too be honest, I struggled with it. Staying somewhere like Vietnam for 18 months was a taste of community that I know I want to have in my life moving forward.
2. Feel connected with my parents
The past few years, I’ve been trying to figure out how to feel connected with my parents. Getting to know my parents on a personal level has been something I’ve wanted, but until 2021 I hadn’t taken any steps to fulfill that want.
I started a habit of sending my parents one photo each day. The daily habit has fallen off, but it’s an improvement from 2020 and a step in the right direction.
I also bought Parents Are Human, a connection card game to bring families closer together. My father and I started using Parents Are Human as a conversation starter. We both have always struggled to open up with each other, so Parents Are Human was the perfect tool for both of us to feel connected.
3. Be an active, healthy person
To be honest, I didn’t end the year exactly where I wanted to fitness wise. However, before 2021 I didn’t consider myself an active, healthy person. In fact, I hated working out. In 2021, I enjoyed being active and healthy!
Actually I had a health scare and it revealed the relationship I have with avoiding the doctor. There’s some unhealed trauma there I need to address. Because I put off going to the doctor, I ended up bedridden the week before Christmas, making trips to both the ER and urgent care.
Unfortunately, that meant that I didn’t meet my goal of running 1,000km in 2021. My body was still far too weak before the new year to go on extended runs.
Still, I can be proud that I was consistent and ran nearly twice as much as I did in 2020. When it comes to health & fitness, there’s so much growth I’m experiencing that it would be a disservice not to celebrate it.
2021 Career Update
I haven’t figured out a way to set intentions for my career, so here’s a recap instead!
Unexpected career change
I worked as a freelance web designer from 2017-2020. Towards the end of 2020, my interest in writing was rekindled and I went into 2021 hoping to double the amount I made from writing.
I ended up changing careers completely. Most of my income now comes from writing and in 2021, I made more from writing than web design!
Although I still took on small web design + development projects throughout 2021, a majority of my time is spent on writing clients. This career shift leaves me feeling much more fulfilled at the end of each day!
In 2021, I started working with Alexis Galamy, PharmD after following each other on Instagram for 3+ years. We ended up launching a storytelling marketing agency that serves POC-owned businesses. You can read a little more about our story here on Instagram.
In December, Alexis & I looked at some of the statistics of growth we achieved for our clients.
There was a moment when Alexis exclaimed, “we belong here!”
Those words perfectly summarize the journey we’ve taken with kapwa studio. With kapwa studio, we are both trying something completely new. Yet, there’s evidence that we are exactly where we need to be.
Between freelance writing projects, and kapwa studio, writing accounted for over 50% of my income (up from only 2% of my income last year). Web design + development was about 30% of my income (down from 85% last year).
To be honest, with the career transition, my income was not consistent this year. I definitely had the privilege of being able to take a smaller paycheck in order to grow the business. But looking at where kapwa studio ended the year, I feel increasingly validated in the sacrifices I made.
2021 Finance Update
Thanks to covid forbearance, I am in the same place of my student loans as last year. I chose not to make payments towards my student loans this year.
- Student Loans: This year, my student loan with the highest interest rate (5.875%) is still -$8,000.
- Investments: In 2021, I increased my IRA contributions by 250% compared to last year. Not paying student loans has helped. In 2021, I automated three monthly IRA contributions based on my goals.
- Budgeting: Budgeting went out the window for me in 2021. I have an idea of what I make and what I spend. I’ve automated payments like my credit card, investments, and savings.
Overall, I still feel positive about where I am financially. Although I would love to be debt free, I know I am on the right track.
I’m building up my emergency fund so that I can put more money towards retirement.
2021 Personal Development Update
In 2021, I started a lot of books that are unfinished. I have a lot of different books on my Kindle and pick up whatever topics call to me at the time. I also make use of my Audible subscription and listen to books whenever I want a deeper dive into a topic, or want to listen to a story.
Here are 3 of my favorite reads in 2021:
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- Essays in Love by Alain De Botton. This fiction novel was recommended to me by a friend. It’s about a man and a woman who meet on the airplane, and their journey falling in and out of love. What I found so gripping about this novel was the way relatable, human emotions were so well written.
- Untamed by Glennon Doyle. I listened to this book in audiobook format. I think every person who identifies as a woman needs to read this book. There are so many ways that society tells us who to be, from the moment we are born. And this book celebrates the beauty of what it means to be untamed.
- Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t by Steven Pressfield. I started and finished this book in just a few days. The writing lessons from this book have stuck with me since I finished it in January 2021. I took lots of notes and recommended this book to friends. If you write, read this book.
One of my life goals is to write a book that explores the nuances of being Asian American. I’m proud of the cultural progress I made in 2021.
- Started taking Vietnamese language classes. I have a growing interest in Asian languages and started learning Vietnamese first. When I was living in Vietnam, I felt super supported by my friends who are Vietnamese and encouraged my studies!
- Visited Wing Luke Museum in Seattle. In November, I visited a museum that features culture and history of Asian Pacific Americans. To be honest, the experience was incredible. I felt seen by stories and exhibits in a museum, and learnt about history and struggles faced in the past + present. I would highly recommend visiting this museum.
Quality of Life
In 2021, I experienced some losses that led to celebrations of lives. Loss of life is one thing I have trouble writing about publicly, so I’m moving on.
Apart from that, 2021 was honestly an incredible year. Losses are sad, but they’re sad because of the positive impact and memories. In addition to significant losses, I created some memories I’ll cherish.
- Trekking and camping through cave systems in Phong Nha, Vietnam.
- Treated myself to travel experiences related to fitness, including trekking and running!
- Maintained my running habit even when I travelled.
- Met my business partner for the very first time in November.
- Spent quality time with family on both my mother and my father’s sides.
- Ended the year with a run in the rain in Honolulu.
I’m so, so fortunate and grateful that I get to see and appreciate so much of this life. I’m really happy with where I am.
Here are the intentions and goals I want to set for 2022.
Relationships: I want to feel connected, nourished, and generous.
- Deepen connection with parents. Have a weekly call with my dad, and travel 1-2x per year with my mom
- Find friendship in person. I would love to find close friendship in person.
- Co-create vision with my partner.
Fitness: I want to try something new.
- Train for a marathon. Maybe I’ll run it too.
- Develop a healthy diet.
- Develop daily fitness habit/routine.
- Try a sport other than running. Ballet classes? Climbing? Strength training?
Personal Development + Quality of Life: I want to feel abundant + connected to my culture.
- Read 4 books written by API authors.
- Invest in a noteworthy experience 1x per quarter. Ideas include trekking in a national park, taking a cooking class, visiting friends, attending a conference (covid depending), visiting a neighbor island, or going on history + walking tours.
- Publish 2 articles about culture.
Career: I want to establish myself as a cultural writer.
- Feel supported enough to take guilt-free time off or holidays.
- Connect with my business partner, Alexis, in person.
- Take a course related to culture, brands + business.
Finances: I want to feel stress-free around money.
- Double my IRA contributions.
- Invest in my side project, Econalu. It’s making money with little time investment so far and just a few articles. So I would like to invest a little bit more into it.
There’s a little more I want to explore in regards to where I want to take 2022, but that’s all for now!
xo – Krista