2017 is nearly at an end (!!!) and considering the many highs and lows and all that’s happened this year, I’m taking this opportunity to recap and reflect.
I did a post on my top 5 books of 2016 last year, but this year it’s a bit harder to pinpoint which exact ones are my ‘favourites’. Instead, I’ve chosen three — below, in the order I read them — which really stood out because of how much of an impact they left on me, and included a few quotes that really inspired me. None of these spoil plot points, but if you’d rather not know about important emotional moments, maybe skip these.
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
You won’t understand what I mean now, but someday you will: the only trick of friendship, I think, is to find people who are better than you are—not smarter, not cooler, but kinder, and more generous, and more forgiving—and then to appreciate them for what they can teach you, and to try to listen to them when they tell you something about yourself, no matter how bad—or good—it might be, and to trust them, which is the hardest thing of all. But the best, as well.
Things get broken, and sometimes they get repaired, and in most cases, you realize that no matter what gets damaged, life rearranges itself to compensate for your loss, sometimes wonderfully.
Friendship, companionship: it so often defied logic, so often eluded the deserving, so often settled itself on the odd, the bad, the peculiar, the damaged.
And so I try to be kind to everything I see, and in everything I see, I see him
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
Indeed, this is how 99 percent of people select their jobs: pay, work environment, hours. But that’s the point. Putting lifestyle first is how you find a job — not a calling.
Even if you are perfect, the world isn’t. The secret is to know that the deck is stacked, that you will lose, that your hands or judgment will slip, and yet still struggle to win for your patients. You can’t ever reach perfection, but you can believe in an asymptote toward which you are ceaselessly striving.
I was searching for a vocabulary with which to make sense of death, to find a way to begin defining myself and inching forward again. The privilege of direct experience had led me away from literary and academic work, yet now I felt that to understand my own direct experiences, I would have to translate them back into language.
Moral duty has weight, things that have weight have gravity, and so the duty to bear mortal responsibility pulled me back into the operating room.
Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman
Because sometimes when the world doesn’t make sense, it just feels better if there’s someone around to make it a little less lonely.
But as much as I like Jamie, as much as I might even love him, needing him is something else entirely. Needing him is scary.
Because needing him means losing him will hurt so much more.
Beauty isn’t a single thing. Beauty is dreaming — it’s different for everyone, and there are so many versions of it that you mostly have no control over how you see it.
I have my whole life ahead of me — there isn’t room in it for anger about things I don’t have the power to change […] and that’s okay — because I will be the person I need. I will be the one I can depend on, the one who has the power to make my life better or worse […]
I accept myself.
A few highlights from this year:
- Visiting Melbourne in January and meeting friends and authors there
- Seeing extended family in China again (and coincidentally bumping into a uni friend there!); the brief visit to Hong Kong and Singapore after that
- Making some really close friends within the #DiverseBookBloggers community
- Co-hosting #AsianLitBingo and #AsianLitChat throughout May, which then turned into Lit CelebrAsian – I’m so inspired by the dedication of our brilliant team for putting so much hard work into this, entirely voluntarily, because of everyone’s passion for uplifting diverse voices
- Noted Festival, Sydney Writers’ Festival, NYWF and Boundless (oookay I did not realise how many of these events I’d gone to until I wrote that as a list xD)
- I really engaged more with everything I was learning at university this year – Abnormal Psychology, with its clinical applications and expanding my understanding; genuinely improving my Chinese; understanding criminal justice issues through Civil & Criminal Procedure and Criminal Law; and gaining an understanding of Public International Law.
- Being part of the editorial team for my university’s social justice journal – again, I learned a lot about editing and different areas of social justice and how it interacts with the law throughout
- Completing an internship which involved working on my university’s innocence exoneration project, and learning more about the criminal justice system throughout
- Most importantly, strengthening existing friendships and making many new ones – I’m so grateful for all of you!
Some lessons I’ve learned this year (and some that I keep trying to tell myself and need to be reminded of as I face different challenges):
- It sounds obvious, but experiencing moments that have been more uplifting AND painful than I’d ever imagined possible this year really showed me how unpredictable life is, with all its complexities, joys and difficulties.
- Many things we experience don’t inherently make sense; it’s the way we personally interpret them that allows us to make meaning out of it. (That’s harder, however, when things are unresolved)
- In terms of my writing, I think the fact that I haven’t written as much this year, but only worked on pieces that have really meant a lot to me, has had an influence on the fact that my writing goals are now a lot more important to me personally. I no longer worry as much about what other people think of the subject matter I choose to write about. Which is amazing, because I used to be swayed so easily by others’ mindsets.
- It’s good to experience things outside your comfort zone — but it’s possible that your final take-away will just be reaffirming where you don’t fit in, and learning to better stay true to yourself.
- I’ve learned to trust my friends more. There’s a long story behind what prompted me to change in this way, and the short version is that I hadn’t even realised until a few months ago that there were parts of me which I instinctively kept private – but it usually wasn’t the right choice, because those were the times when I needed my friends’ support the most. Opening up in certain ways definitely doesn’t come to me easily, but I’ve kept pushing myself, and my friendships (new and old) have grown as a result.
How was your 2017?