2020: End year in reflection

Of courage, creation, conversations, and communities.

2020: End year in reflection
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!! It's never too late to post a review for 2020 !! It's better to be late than never. It is also the first annual review I am writing and publishing. In 2020, I was surprised at how I managed to do things I never thought I'd be able to do. Writing this now makes me wish I had better documented my thought processes, but I'll have to make do with what I've got. Note: I'm lucky that my mental health wasn't badly affected so I managed to do more during the pandemic. What I felt more was languish, if anything. Let's get to it. If I had to summarise 2020, it would be around four Cs:


The only permission you need is from yourself

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There was a significant shift in energy in the second half of 2019. My self-esteem plummeted. I started a new job remotely (first remote job) and a long-distance relationship. Some days were a bit better than others, but it was difficult for the most part. Even though I thought I was used to being alone, I still craved physical interaction. At the beginning of 2020, things improved. Then the pandemic hit. A two-month lockdown ensued. I'm not sure what came over me but I decided to tap into my creativity more. I guess I didn't want to be in the situation I was in at that time anymore, so I decided to make better use of my time. I decided that this would be the year I have myself a push to do the things I wanted to do when I was younger, but never did because of the fear of being judged. It's better late than never. You don't need anyone's permission to get started on something. The only permission you need is from yourself. When I started believing that, I also started to believe in the process of learning rather than the final product, and it felt easier for me to continue. And I fell in love with the process of learning itself. The process to research, putting things together, trial and error seemed more valuable than the end result. All I want to do is keep making and creating things. I make to learn, and I create to learn. If we're too focused on the outcome, we might lose sight of why we're building and creating in the first place. Perhaps it's a fear of not being enough or the fear of failing to deliver fantastic work.


Creating brought more meaning to my day to day

We had plenty of time because we spent most of our days at home. I wanted to make things, so I slowly started to create more than I consumed, I think, or at least there was a good balance.
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On video-making

I collected a lot of footage from my travels, so I made more travel videos. I was using iMovie before, but I started learning Final Cut Pro X. So much difference it made because it allowed me to experiment with more editing and colour grading. I was excited to see the outcome of the videos, but I was more excited to see the outcome of my learning. Here are a few of the favourite videos I made:
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On building Buttermilk

Buttermilk is the first thing I ever built by myself. I built it to scratch my own itch. I wanted to build a platform to easily discover local artists around Malaysia instead of manually scouring for them across the internet. What spurred me to create was also when I was inspired by many other builders on Twitter. If they can build something, so can I. This was also the time when I discovered no code. I knew there should be tools to build using no code, but I still had to go down rabbit hole after rabbit hole to find the right tool to build Buttermilk. I slowly picked up there are more of these tools that are ‘no code’, and I slowly realised there was a whole community that created a path for everyone, especially non-coders, to build. This is the power of democratisation. I decided to use Webflow in the end, even though it had a high learning curve but I was willing to learn. It gives me the most design flexibility, after all. I don't regret that. Almost 100 artists joined in the first month. Now there are over 400 artists on board, and still growing. I got featured in a couple of places too!


I gradually began to write a bit more and take better notes. I also have Notion to thank for that. This was the year I started using Notion, and boy I love every single bit of it - creating, organising, and porting most of my documents over to Notion completely. Also, I even started painting with my new Wacom tablet, which I bought for myself for early Christmas. I don't have anything to show for these from 2020. But my hope for 2021 is to publish more of my content.


Hard conversations are necessary

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Photo by Keira Burton from Pexels
I had the most challenging conversations with my loved ones. I won't go into specifics, but almost every time I spoke with them, I had to summon all of my courage to initiate certain conversations. I couldn't decide which side to take. Do I need to choose a side? Will I come to regret my decision when I do? My mental health suffered as a result of this. It's uncomfortable, but it's necessary. It's uncomfortable because you want to try your best to be rational and empathetic at the same time, even though you know one of them was most likely in the wrong. However, even if you are being rational, the other party may be in too much of an emotional turmoil to see reason. Despite your best efforts, you can't seem to calm them down. It's heavy. But, unless you enjoy having it snowballed, it's still better to address the elephant in the room sooner rather than later. I don't think it gets easier, but it's unavoidable. First, try to communicate, and then try to compromise. I gave it my all. In the end, I left it up to them to decide because I had already done everything within my power. I don't believe that everything can be resolved. In my case, it was never truly 'fixed'. But I'm hoping that our wounds will heal over time, and that we'll slowly grow and mature to be the bigger person. So I started going for therapy. It's going to be a long ride, but I'm excited to process my feelings and emotions over the years.


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I rediscovered and started to better utilise Twitter. It was my first time discovering creators, builders, and indie hackers around. I have a tendency to travel down into rabbit holes, which led me to discover and join these communities in 2020:
  • And of course, Twitter slowly grew to be my one-stop community where I could talk to anyone and everyone
Why was this important to me? Deep down I think I've been looking for a sense of belonging, especially since the start of university. The first year was a disaster. I slowly recovered in my second year with the help of a close friend. Then in my final year, I had had enough of feeling powerless. I joined the drama club. I helped out as part of the backstage crew, and that was the first time in university that I felt closest to acceptance. From there on, I continued to look out for other communities to join on my own. It never occurred to me that online communities existed, except for the fandoms I joined when I was much younger. I thought they were mostly online forums at most. That is until I rediscovered Twitter again and the amazing communities in it. I'm closer to my community more than I've ever been, but I don't think I'm quite there yet. I don't think I'll ever find “The One” where I truly belong, but that's probably because I'm always exploring, discovering, and learning new things. I'm a community nomad if you will. That doesn't mean I'll forget the people I met and made friends with along the way. I'll keep adding them to my list of friends, along with any new ones I meet along the way. It's more enjoyable that way.
*** Overall, 2020 was a year of learning - a generous amount of it. I did a lot this year than I had in the past years combined. I want to be more humble, but there were still times I doubted myself whether the things I made and created were worth it. So I'm going to put it out there and say - I'm proud of what I've accomplished so far and I'm excited about what's yet to come. I said it! We need to try to be our biggest cheerleaders. For 2021? I'll continue to build and create, and work on my personal growth. And I'll go with the flow if anything else happens. Keeping it simple and strive for consistency is key.