Goodbye 2019, Hello 2020!

January 3, 2020

Today is January 3, 2019-backspace-backspace-20. My fingers still mechanically tap out 2019s, and this year, like every year before it, I'm shocked that another 365 days have flown by so fast. But there are so many reasons 2019 has been one of the most special years yet, and some reflection is overdue. 

The year in review

It hardly feels like most of this happened in a single year, but in 2019 I

  • Celebrated New Year's Day in Seattle, WA

  • Renewed my status as bird lady by making a home for two lovely parakeets

  • Spoke at a Girl Scouts of Northern California gathering about my Gold Award project and met Marina Park, CEO

  • Captained my last FIRST Robotics season and spent hundreds of hours with some of my best friends

  • Mastered the Thunder dance

  • Achieved new bench/squat/deadlift PR's 

  • Met 39 incredible women and accepted the NCWIT National Award in Charlotte, NC

  • Stressed about choosing a college and committed to Harvard

  • Graduated high school!

  • Explored Japan with good friends

  • Sang my last concert ever with Crystal Choir in Norway and caught major feels

  • Gained my birds' trust

  • Went backpacking in New Hampshire and started college

  • Marveled at the amazing people who are my CS professors

  • Explored Boston, stayed up until ungodly hours playing board games, and found people that I love with all of my heart

  • Reunited with my cousins after eleven years

  • Started casually learning Arabic and Swahili

  • Took lots and lots of photos

2019 was a year of first times: learning to bake (plum tarts & walnut brownies), backpacking trip, wasp bites (ouch), football game, alcohol (in tiny amounts), In-N-Out, escape rooms

College and expectations

All throughout high school, I was so excited for college. It seemed like a magical place full of freedom, where I could finally do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted to, with no consequences. I quickly realized that college is actually, surprise, a lot of work!

I think I also had some unrealistic expectations of the kind of person I would be in college: I'll magically become super outgoing with endless energy, spend afternoons playing the guitar and singing under shady trees, stop procrastinating and blow through all my psets, and finally become a super strong powerlifter. Needless to say, none of these things have (entirely) happened.

In many ways, however, college has surpassed all of my expectations. The past few months have been some of the happiest of my life. Though there have been lonely moments, I have found people that make me feel heard and loved and appreciated. I have found talented and diverse classmates who have challenged everything I thought I knew about everything, courses that cater to all of my curiosities and push me to think harder and work harder, and professors who astound me every day with how incredibly intelligent they are, yet are willing to spend hours with my questions that must be far, far below their levels.

This semester, I took four courses

  • Math 23a - Linear Algebra & Real Analysis I - taught by Paul Bamberg

  • CS 61 - Systems Programming & Machine Organization - Eddie Kohler & Mike Smith

  • Frsemr 71g - Americans at Work in the Age of Robots & AI - Benjamin Friedman

  • Ling 83 - Language, Structure, & Cognition - Kathryn Davidson

which left me a lot more free time than I anticipated, which was good because I and joined (too many) clubs and dropped several of them. I think I accidentally joined too many pre-professional groups, and I'm trying to get more involved in the arts next semester!

This semester was the first time I've lived for an extended period of time outside the Bay. It has been so cool hearing about aspirations so different from my own, and my ideas of what I could do after college changed too many times to count: the Silicon Valley route - big tech/startups; the Harvard Wall Street route - finance/consulting; pursue academia; become a photojournalist, either independent or for a publication; do human rights work internationally; serve as an officer in the military; go into public service; the list goes on...

I'm still not quite sure what I want to do post-college. But I've got four years to figure that out, and my guiding principles: I want to be doing work with a mission I believe in and that I wake up excited to do.

Reflecting on 2019 and goals for growth in 2020

  • Give more honest compliments and voice my appreciation. I've realized that I often think about how talented/kind/beautiful/good people are around me, but so few of those thoughts get expressed—why? I want to make sure none of my amazing friends are left wondering just how much they are appreciated.
     

  • Curb my procrastination. Sometimes, I get overwhelmed thinking about how much is ahead of me, and use temporary distractions like checking my phone or doing small "productive" tasks to avoid thinking about it.

  • No excuses. I always have ten minutes for a quick workout. Lying in bed "one more minute" will not make getting up any easier when it happens. Being afraid of failing is not a reason not to try something.

  • Make health a priority. I don't always have time to do a full lift session, but get some form of exercise every day. Eat less sugar. Eat more vegetables (even though the dining hall only offers raw leaves or steamed carrots). Don't stay up late if I'm not doing anything with the time. I want to be able to do the flag, though I don't expect to achieve this move this year.

  • Reflect more often and find sources of inspiration. Update my goals when necessary.

  • Don't stop actively trying to meet new people. 

  • Make art. 

  • Code more things that are not assigned problem sets.

  • Call family more, but use my phone less.

  • Be more conscious of my language. Reduce filler words. Stop saying sorry when I haven't done anything wrong.

The year ahead presents so much time and opportunity for self-improvement and achievement, but I know that I need to take initiative and stop waiting to do the things I've always wanted to do, or the days will whiz past before I know it. Excited for all that 2020 has to bring!