2023, we did it
I struggle to think in concrete months anymore. Months are too arbitrary—I used to do monthly reviews, “achievement unlocked” posts, and tiny wins ✨ (that I mostly did over on Twitter/X; more on that later) on my blog, but the months fizzled into a larger and more nebulous period of time. This comes off a little strange to me, especially as I loudly proclaim that I “live and die by my calendar”. Almost everything has to be logged in it, from important dates and appointments with bookings, to times I plan to work out at the gym, to birthdays, to Toast & Roast podcast recordings, even to days in which I dedicate my free time to focusing on a specific personal project. But I never look at the months like one would a traditional wall calendar. I see it as a continuous, virtually endless scroll, and I suppose we can thank the digital era for that. Sometimes there are giant swathes of colour for my work meetings; other times there are blank spaces in the weeks ahead.
Years, though? Years feel different perhaps because they are synonymous with age. We don’t usually forget how old we are, and everyone has a birthday. In the past, the way I summed up the years in my blog posts differed. I believe it started with “yearly reviews”, where I copy-pasta’d a super old chain email from around 2002, with a questionnaire of thought-provoking questions. They really weren’t bad at all; in fact, I never forget one question along the lines of “Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?” Ten years ago, in 2013, I wrote “I don’t want to name this person”. One year, before my blog lived here (it would have been prior to 2009), I remember writing “Mine”. Ouch.
That set of questions became pretty banal as the years went on, and I changed it up a bit with more momentous posts like 2018: Year of Gratitude, my top 10 of the decade (2010–2019) and 2020: The Real Year of Gratitude. I’ve done a “Hey [year]!” post for many years now at the start of each year, but I haven’t always done a year-end post. Some years are somewhat uneventful in comparison to others and that’s OK. But even though I fucking hate goals, I still like the end of year as an opportunity to look back on my growth. 🌱 2023 felt a little like a “nothing” year. We all want to end on a high note, so I’ll roll through the more painful stuff first.
I feel like it was generally a hard year. I remember crying a lot. This post was about some of the lows I felt in July. I won’t disclose too many details but a lot of it actually had to do with work. Some of it was out of my control, so I felt helpless and concerned. I just didn’t know what to do, and I could only press on. Some changes happened, which were for the better. Another contributing factor was that I didn’t often respect my boundaries of finishing up at a reasonable time. I worked late hours. That phenomenon of “revenge bedtime procrastination” where you attempt to reclaim time for yourself at the expense of precious sleep? I get that, but for work. I get the urge to work on tasks independently during my personal time because other people demanded my time during work hours. I don’t think that’s “revenge out-of-hours procrastination” or anything like that—it’s just unhealthy. I am definitely doing better. Also: meetings are work.
🎵 Music in 2023
Unlike last year, I felt like it wasn’t as interesting of a year of music for me. I did discover a few new artists though:
- TOPS: A Canadian indie band whose music really reminds me of the 80s. Their music was playing in a cafe while we were in Norway. I fell in love with it immediately. It’s my kind of lo-fi, chill music—honestly the sort of stuff I would also play in a cafe, if I owned one.
- Subsonic Eye: A Singaporean indie rock band. I listened to their music for the first time on speaker while I was home alone to fill the empty space.
- Cat & Calmell: A duo from Sydney with a Pop/R&B sound. I love the contrast in the two girls’s voices. Cat’s voice is in a low, sultry register, while Calmell’s is higher and angelic. I love the way their voices sound together.
- Spacey Jane: A rock band from Perth with that “anthemic” rock band sound. Not gonna lie, their music is the kind you sing along and sway to, but if you don’t listen carefully, you might forget you’re listening to them. Still, they’re a great band live, and are another of those bands you’ve “heard of, but haven’t listened to yet”. So go listen.
Not too many of my favourite artists had releases this year, but hands down the favourite album of the year is The Maine’s self titled, released on 1 August 2023. The release date in the US is 8.1.23 and the number 8123 has special significance to the band. Not only was that clever, but the album stole my heart. Bravo guys. Honourable mentions go to Carly Rae Jepsen’s The Loveliest Time (which I almost like more than The Loneliest Time), and although it isn’t an album, the release of The Beatles’ last song Now And Then had me in tears. We also can’t forget Olivia Rodrigo’s GUTS, which had a handful of earworms but just didn’t quite warm me as much as Carly Rae did.
💻 Digital updates
In list form, because it’s not that much.
- 🏆 Geoff’s and my podcast Toast & Roast hit the big 100 episodes. Hopefully we get some new listeners… if you want to listen to an unfiltered, topicless podcast with two people just “talking shit”, boy are we the podcast for you. Find us wherever you listen to pods.
- 🏆 At the beginning of the year, I completed #blogeverydamnday, by blogging every day in January. It was a bit tricky. I don’t think I will do it again, at least not next month. It was a nice exercise but I think next year I might try and write one blog post a week, to have some sense of consistency.
- I realise I stopped doing Stylesheet (formerly Fashion Friday) posts, and weeknotes at the end of 2022. This wasn’t my specific intention, but it does show how much my blog has changed depending on my interests and what is happening in my life. I think my wardrobe has become small enough that I’m repeating outfits and I feel like they no longer need an individual, full-fledged blog post, which is why I find it sufficient to post them on my Instagram story and create a highlight for my #ootd (outfit of the day). I think weeknotes stopped because I ran out of steam with #blogeverydamnday at the beginning of the year, then, as I said, work got difficult at times, and I think I just lost the motivation.
- After Twitter got officially renamed to X (not just the logo changing), I sort of felt a weird extreme disconnect from it. This came at around the same time I wanted to better my relationship with social media in general, particularly Instagram, and had unfollowed a lot of accounts with content that didn’t add value to my life. I still love Instagram for being a place I can see what my friends are up to, more so than it being a source of entertainment. I didn’t “leave” Twitter/X, but I stopped posting, because it just really got me down that the platform I’d joined in 2008 was a dumpster fire of people screaming into the void. I know some people may still contact me there, and that was also their way of seeing what new blog posts I had published… I guess I don’t know if I will return to it or not.
- I joined and am on Mastodon, @email@example.com. I post pretty infrequently there, mostly for the same purpose I used Twitter for: self promotion and the occasional shitpost or random thought. I haven’t figured out what more to do from there.
🌻 Personal achievements, improvements, and changes
Not in list form, because it’s kind of a lot.
📚 Relationship with books
I read 36 books this year, in a mix of e-book, audiobook, and physical book form. This is a lot more books than I read in the 10 years prior. As I wrote earlier this year, after a ten year break, I’m reading again. I’m not about to write book reviews or anything. I chose many books that people recommended, and some that were on a daunting little list written in my Notes app but that I feared I may never get around to. From there, I found similar books, still unfortunately finding myself drawn to poorly-written self-help books. My friend Mitch very kindly reminded me that when I borrow books I do not have to endure reading a book that I dislike, and it’s OK to not finish a book.
I mostly stuck to non-fiction, but two out of four fiction books I read are worth mentioning:
- Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid, loosely based on the story of Fleetwood Mac. Tense and gut wrenching at times. (I haven’t seen the TV series yet, no.)
- Almond by Sohn Won-Pyung, which was translated from Korean, about a person with alexithymia. This is one of those books that maybe aren’t the best thing you’ve ever read, but sit in the corners of your mind forever. They cut deep because the story gives you chills. Not chills like the ones you get from horror films, but the ones that just really make you think.
And now my non-fiction favourites:
- The Storyteller by Dave Grohl. I listened to this as an audiobook and highly recommend it as an audiobook narrated by Dave himself. Even if you aren’t a Foo Fighters fan. Dave Grohl is terrific at storytelling, and although you might not garner anything mega insightful or fresh, it’s an entertaining listen.
- I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy. Jennette McCurdy is known for her role in iCarly, although I did not watch the series. This memoir is pretty heartbreaking. Bad reviews will say it reads like a diary or notes from a therapy session that should never have been made into a book. Look, I get where those people are coming from, but I have read worse memoirs in that regard. And I have to give it to Jennette for opening up about her traumatic childhood and the emotional abuse she endured.
- Wear Next: Fashioning the Future by Clare Press. I actually had the chance to meet Clare at a book event. Her book inspired me so much to do better with my wardrobe and making more sustainable choices. More on that in a bit.
- Real Self-Care by Dr Pooja Lakshmin. A practical self-help book that looks at self-care as internal work, rather than the bath salts, skincare masks, and spa treatments we are so often encouraged to spend our money on.
🥘 Trying to cook more, and more often
I’ve furthered my cooking skills by trying a couple more things, like making Nick peanut-free satay chicken, a vermicelli noodle salad from scratch, and vegan tacos (I need to improve on that recipe I made up myself, though). I’ve generally tried to order Uber Eats less, and make my own lunch at home instead of always purchasing a ready-made meal. It’s not just about the health factor and knowing what goes into my food, but the cost of paying someone else to make your food for you.
⏰ Being on time/even early to things
This was the main thing I called out in my Hey 2023! post. My tardiness was embarrassing and I hated the fact that I could never seem to be on time to anything, no matter how early I left. I often almost stressed myself into a panic attack if I rushed so much to be on time. I made a more concerted effort to be early instead of being on time, always aiming to be somewhere at least ten minutes ahead of time, and making decisions like, if I was going to catch public transport, I wouldn’t take the service that got me there early, I’d aim to get the one even earlier. I think this sort of made for an adequate buffer for when I didn’t leave enough time. I think that enough practice and repetition has put me in a more improved position than where I was last year, that’s for sure.
💪🏻 Did my first powerlifting competition
I recounted my first novice/friendly-gym powerlifting competition in a blog post in May. I had such an incredible time and everyone was so supportive. I placed third (it was an open comp) and hit a PB of 85kg in my squat and 105kg in my deadlift. I haven’t specifically been training to beat those personal bests, as I’m in a muscle-building phase at the moment, but the other day my coach got me to spontaneously try to deadlift and I was able to do 100kg without having trained or prepared for it.
I do see another powerlifting competition in my future, so watch this space.
🛍️ My attitude towards shopping changed
I literally cannot believe this happened. I cannot believe I got to the point of basically hating shopping and not finding it fun anymore. I can’t pinpoint an exact moment where everything changed, but this is where I feel like Clare’s book Wear Next was a lucky find when I was killing time in the library one day. A brand new (!! ✨) book, which shared so much about small businesses and powerful initiatives in Sydney that were geared towards a more sustainable future for fashion and our clothes.
Although I knew a lot of what Clare shared in her book, I appreciated her recognition of the guilt that people experience when they realise that the decisions we are making are harming the earth. Around the same time, I was making huge efforts to sell or pass on my clothes and re-home them without simply donating them. I went to my first clothing swap. I tried InRo, a rental wardrobe service, which I plan to subscribe to again in the new year.
Somehow, all of these things occurring at the same time—with a couple of Black Friday purchases of things I needed, done almost with valediction—led me to a point of finally becoming sick of it all. My interest in new activewear, clothes, and just new shit in general, completely dwindled down to zero. No more scrolling looking at stuff I would think about, but wouldn’t even buy. No more interest in looking at new arrivals of various clothing sites. Literally unsubscribing from newsletters and unfollowing brands on social media. No more dopamine hits. No more money being dropped on things I didn’t need. I was done, I felt done with shopping—perhaps also after admitting to the addiction I had years ago—and I felt satisfied. Satisfied with having zero urges to spend money, satisfied with what I already had. Most of all, satisfied that I made it to this point.
🌿 Got my first (and second!) tattoos
I realise I didn’t write blog posts detailing such a milestone. Perhaps I will do that in the future. For some people, tattoos are incredibly personal, but I don’t think I’m the kind to be secretive about mine. I got a fine line styled tattoo of a vine and leaves of the monstera El Salvador—one of the plants I actually own—on my left thigh. I had been thinking about a nature-related tattoo as my first tattoo for a while, but nothing stuck with me. I had originally wanted a design of a tree but I couldn’t find one I liked. This idea was one I left alone many times until I realised I loved my monstera plant so much and thought it was so beautiful that I felt it would make the perfect tattoo. I really liked the idea of leaves but I didn’t just want any leaf, or a style that was too common, so after learning more about the monstera El Salvador, I knew that it had to be the inspiration for mine.
It’s huge for a first tattoo, I’ve been told! I still love it as much as I did the day I got it. I think it looks fantastic and I might even get more added to it over time. It took about 4.5 hours but we had a 30–40 minute lunch break at around halfway. Having a large tattoo for my first one meant that my second one felt like absolutely nothing.
I have shared as an Instagram post and some of my blog friends have seen it there, but if you’re not on social media and you’ve been following my blog for a while… I don’t think it will surprise you. It’s a rendition of this tofu cube I’ve been drawing everywhere and that were on some of my old blog and hosting website layouts.
I didn’t want it to be tattooed in exactly the same way I drew it, as I wanted the artist to do an adaptation of it. We worked together on the details and the actual tattooing was very quick! About twenty to thirty minutes. Now I get to carry my little tofu cube everywhere.
Thanks 2023. Honestly, you were a pile of shit sometimes, but I’m coming out harder and stronger. I think of the visual of a turtle with a bejewelled shell. I tried a couple of new things; I moved at my own pace. Sometimes I hid in my shell; sometimes I went out into the world. I’m here with my sparkling armour. ✨