2023 Year in Review

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It’s that time of year again!

To be honest, this post is going to be different ways of me saying 2023 was an incredible year. Not to say it wasn’t stressful and there weren’t problems to solve or challenges to overcome — but just that the result of everything makes me feel really happy.

The new year is one of my favorite times of the year! I love spending time reflecting about moments I enjoyed, ways that I can improve life, and activities that made me happy.

This is my Year in Review for 2023.

Writing a Year in Review can be better than setting a goal you probably won’t stick to beyond January. It’s because it’s an intentional time you set to reflect about what worked for you in the past year, what didn’t, and set intentions based on that.

I look at my life in different categories (e.g. relationships, fitness, personal development, quality of life) and ask myself questions like:

  • What went well?
  • What didn’t go well?
  • How would I like to improve next year?

Theme for 2023

Every year, I choose a word to define how I want to experience the year. It’s the next theme, the next chapter, and my North Start as I make difficult decisions.

The word I chose for 2023 was “reflection.

The year prior to this one was a big year for me. I stopped traveling and over time, I kind of moved in with Keola. There were a lot of changes going on and reflection is the word that guided me as I made big shifts in my life.

Highlights

There were so many highlights, it’s hard to sum it up!

  • Visited Vietnam with Keola. It was Keola’s first international trip. En route to and from Vietnam, we spent layovers in Seoul, Korea. We went to a beautiful wedding in the mountains, and during our time in Vietnam I got to show Keola where I lived during the pandemic. It was a really special trip.
  • We got engaged! And while we were in Vietnam, we got engaged! We called my mom to tell her the news and she thought we were going to announce we were pregnant. Lol.
  • In 2023, I increased my income. There’s a lot of privilege behind being able to say this, but I’m proud that I increased my income in 2023. 2023 will also be the first year I maxed IRS contributions.
  • We moved to Hilo, Hawai’i Island. This year, we also moved from Honolulu to Hilo. Hilo, for those who don’t know, is a small city on the volcanic island of Hawai’i. We moved from the big ole’ city to a small one. I am enjoying the change of pace. I miss public transportation.
  • We went to lots of weddings! We are in the years of all our friends and loved ones getting married. Each one was special, and its own unique highlight of the year.

In 2021, I started tracking memories and my goal is to track at least one one memory each month. It helps to go back and think — wow, that was THIS year?!!

2023 Reflections

Normally, I set intentions at the beginning of the year but the beginning of 2023 was SO CRAZY that I think it just never happened.

I want to acknowledge that I have some immense privilege that’s helped me achieve my goals this year.

  • My partner is a huge support. Together, we look at our household finances as one shared unit working towards a singular goal. I have student debt, and this year I paid off medical debt. Both debts are/were in my name, but we structured our finances as a shared unit paying them off together.
  • On another note, after we moved from Honolulu to Hilo we made the decision to buy a second vehicle. I didn’t have the full amount ($15,000) saved, and instead of taking financing through the bank, I borrowed money from my dad.
  • Beyond that, I have friends and family who supported us beyond finances. It hasn’t been easy shifting from living abroad with no permanent address to trying to reintegrate back into American society. I was ineligible for auto insurance because of no insurance history; I had to be creative about establishing State residency before my name was on a lease or utility bills; and I had to show proof of rental history from years in Vietnam. Having a support network really helped me reintegrate and overcome obstacles towards reestablishing a permanent residence.

There’s countless others. I’m a very fortunate human being.

With that being said, here are my highlights and challenges in 2023.

Personal Relationships (Friendships & Family)

Highlights

  • Spent more quality time with family. We had lots of family time this year. After moving back to Hawaii Island, we drove over to visit my dad at least once per month; we visited Keola’s family; and we made an effort to prioritize family asks.
  • Lots and lots of board game nights. The #1 thing I miss about Honolulu would be board game nights with my cousin Thomas, and his friends from high school. But we still have friends over for board game nights in Hilo and our space accommodates it better too.
  • Gave/made more gifts. Gift giving is not my own love language. However, I see how people really appreciate it and find both giving and receiving gifts meaningful. I’ve tried to speak this love language for others by making cards, giving tokens of appreciation, and letting those in my life know I love them through gifts. There is definitely lots of room for improvement though!

Challenges

  • Seeing friends despite everyday life. I watched this video about how people think of college years quite fondly in part because of the walkable, communal life. Meals, gym, and services are designed to be designed in a small area, within walking distance. As a result, you see people more often and your lives are more integrated. This is also why I loved life in Vietnam (albeit not entirely walkable, everything was close) and one of the challenges I struggle to accept. People  are busier, they have commutes, and life is less integrated. I don’t know how to resolve it apart from being intentional and planning quality time around weekends.

Personal Relationships (Partnership with Keola)

2023 Highlights

  • Keola and I moved together! From Honolulu to Hilo. My brother, who moves people from home to home and state to state, says moving is one of the top, most stressful things that happens in people’s lives. And as we moved everything from one island to the other, I really felt it! The stress was blatantly there, but we saw it as a challenge to overcome together. There were a lot of comfort hugs exchanged during this time.
  • Continued traditions together. Poke in the park on Valentine’s Day. Reserving birthday evenings for time with each other. Christmas dinner with both our families at the same table. I love routine and it’s special that we’re creating traditions together as time goes by.

2023 Challenges

  • Find a rhythm. This year, one of the challenges I felt was finding a rhythm. I like routine and predictability, which our day-to-day life lacked. There were times our lives and schedules felt really chaotic — but we’re working together to find a rhythm that brings us joy.

Fitness & Health

This year, we slowed down on running.

Our day-to-day life feels pretty hectic, so this was a welcome shift. It took a few months, but towards the end of the year I finally convinced Keola to let us shift to replace running with alternative movement and strength training. Honestly, I felt so weak every time we ran so I think it’s important we stopped and focused on my strength conditioning.

2023 Highlights

  • Bought a walking pad and started incorporating small strength exercises into my daily routine.

2023 Challenges

  • It’s been challenging to set up MEDICAL appointments. It’s not even that I don’t have the time or flexibility, I’m just… avoiding it. But that’s one thing I want to improve in 2024. First step — I have a dentist appointment scheduled in January!

Professional

When I look at my Professional highlights for the year, I sit with a lot of gratitude and joy. I’m simply happy with where I am professionally, and what I’ve achieved through my work with others.

2023 Highlights

  • At kapwa studio, I’m happy with the clients we work with and proud that we’ve created a work culture that incorporates balance between work and our ever-changing personal lives. This year, we started working with a contractor to help us post for our biggest client, whose needs have grown the past two years we worked together.
  • I also took on two different W2 positions — one doing design and marketing, and the other in a completely new field of work.
  • I earned my Property & Casualty insurance license and started working for a local insurance agent, which is one of my proudest moments of 2023. I started training in-office and after a few months, I am now working remotely full-time. I find the work itself enjoyable (I love the culture and people who I work with/for), and I am really grateful to be able to work from home.
  • I work 100% from my home office. Honestly, the opportunity to work from home is very special to me. Even with a 25-minute daily commute, I came home exhausted every day. Now, if my body starts feeling tired, I incorporate movement into my work day!

2023 Challenges

  • All this other work has slowed down the solo contract work I have capacity for and due to a smaller capacity, I’ve had to turn down both new and past clients this year.
  • How do I describe my work? There’s not really an overlap in my work. When I meet people, it’s hard to talk about what I do because I do so much. I either talk about one job or the other (whichever I feel in the mood to talk about) and I’d like to figure out a way to talk about the work that I do and enjoy.

Overall, I am very grateful to the people in my professional life who give me the space to be and do multiple things professionally. I feel very supported here.

Side Projects

Beyond my professional life, I like to spend time on digital side projects / websites.

  • Big Island Beat: I started a weekly newsletter about events happening on Big Island. It was before we moved to Big Island. On an aspirational level, I would be deeply involved in the community and go to events regularly. The reality is, we spend our weekends either at home or visiting family and prefer hosting our friends instead of going out. I was 6 months strong of publishing every week before I decided to sunset this project. As much as I enjoyed it, I will put this project to rest.
  • Econalu: This is a small affiliate website project I have, and I dedicate about an hour per year to it. In 2022, it made enough money to pay for the annual domain cost. In 2023, it made three times as much!
  • BIPOC Books: I started this website to be an affiliate directory of books written by BIPOC authors. I didn’t think that it was getting any traction until I saw it started generating affiliate revenue earlier this year. I just need to keep adding books and keep going.
  • Filipino American History Month: I just bought the domain on a whim to showcase events related to Filipino American History Month. I updated this leading up to October and the community helped me promote it.

Of these projects, the only project I heavily promoted was Big Island Beat. That happens to be the only project that didn’t bring any money in too. My idea was to grow the email subscriber list and get sponsorships, but eventually I accepted that my lifestyle does not make time for going to events — which would truly be the heart behind the Beat.

Finances

Regardless of how my finances are, this is always the fun category for me.

In 2022, my goal was to feel stress-free around money. I do feel stress-free around money — a part of that was intentionally increasing my income (I work two jobs) and another part of that was completely reprogramming the way I look at money.

I’m really happy with where I’m at, which I’ve learnt is the “boring middle.”

2023 Highlights

  • Maxed out my IRA contributions (for the first time!). I’ve been chasing this goal for years — with all the life changes, and with all the support around me, I finally maxed my IRA contributions in 2023.
  • Started saving for our wedding. When we first started talking about our wedding budget, it started at $15,000 (saving $7,500 each). But the reality of wedding costs hit us and we’ve started saving more (on top of contributions from family).

2023 Challenges

  • Shared budget, split finances. Especially after the move, our shared budget/split accounts felt squeezed. We had a spending plan so that our spending was equitable, but at the end of the day one partner would be moving money from Savings to pay the rent while the other was being conservative with their spending in case extra money was needed. We ran into a lot of challenges here and eventually made the decision to merge our financial accounts. Normally people wait until marriage to do this at all, but Keola and I have 12 and a half years of friendship and established trust that made this decision easier. This shift was huge and now, as the person who manages the household budget, I feel very confident that we are not accidentally overspending.

2023 — the Year of Reflection

I think I needed this year of reflection to slow down and think about my needs.

Photo at a hanbok shop in South Korea

  • From a fitness perspective, it meant replacing running with strength training / at-home movement exercises.
  • From a career perspective, it meant thinking about my professional life trajectory and being open to W2 work.
  • From a side projects perspective, it meant trying different projects and seeing what I want to keep in my life.

There were a lot of things I needed to really sit down and think about my next steps. I didn’t really do any goal-setting this year because I needed the year to think about what direction I wanted to take my life, and what I needed in order to do that.

I am grateful for the year of reflection.

Things I’m Looking Forward to in 2024

  • Keola and I are getting married! Our wedding will be held in Holualoa, Hawai’i in October 2024.
  • We decided to have our honeymoon in Japan! We saved miles for this occasion.
  • I’m looking forward to enjoying the everyday moments — like board game nights with our friends and working from home from our home office.

Happy New Year!

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