Reflecting on the year 2018

Today is the last day of 2018; it has been a rather interesting year. I had my very first counselling session as well as an operation in hospital, followed by the sad news of my grandmother’s passing, then the big decision to move to a new job after working at hipages for 9 years, trekking the Kokoda trail in Papua New Guinea with 16 others and finishing the year with the goal to be an entrepreneur. It’s been a great year in reflection. Here are 3 main lessons I learned in the past 12 months.

Don’t take your health for granted; mental and physical
When we are able bodied, we tend to forget how blessed we are to be mobile, to be able to see, to touch, have a sense of smell and taste food. These may be simple things in life but once we get injured or sick, we can’t help but notice the absence of these things very quickly. Staying active has been a big part of my life in the last 7-8 years and when I had to rest up after my operation, I was on struggle street big time.

The same applies to our mental well being. As mentioned earlier in the post, I went to have my first counselling session this year. I’ve been putting it off since my dad passed away 3.5 years ago. I had to accept that it was ok to see a counsellor and to have a chat. I know I kept putting it off because I would convince myself that I was ok – that I didn’t need any help. It came to the point where all my loved ones were giving me the same suggestion – “go to see a counsellor”. During the counselling sessions, I was able to understand why I was behaving the way I was, pushing myself to the limit. I was working very hard and not letting go of things that reminded me of my dad. I also wanted to do things my dad would be proud of. My dad inspired me to own my own property and be technically skilled as a software engineer; and those were goals I worked towards. Once I had achieved them, I was lost in my career path and didn’t know who to turn to after his passing, as this was a usual topic I shared with my dad. I must admit, I didn’t feel better straight after the sessions. The outcomes of the sessions were only the beginning of my self awareness journey to understanding why I behaved the way I did.

When my paternal grandmother passed away mid year, it triggered some emotions from when my dad passed away, I began to accept that grieving over a loss of a loved one can take time and the intense sadness is normal and not to be confused with symptoms of depression.

Getting out of your comfort zone can be tough but focus on getting through bit by bit, day by day
I’ve had an amazing 9 year career at hipages. I’ve loved working with different people in the team as they come and go; collaborating, solving technical challenges together as a team. hipages was like my second home, I often referred to hipages as family but I was too comfortable there. I know I needed a change in my life and had to gain more exposure of other businesses and code architectures, so when it came time to move on I was definitely out of my comfort zone. It wasn’t so much the tech, but working with a different team. From being the person that knew most people in the company to being the newbie who didn’t know anyone, not seeing my “family” and friends everyday, adapting to a different team, working with different personalities, being a part of different company values and trying to understand what value I can deliver to my team and the business. It was a change that I had underestimated – I thought I’d cope fine. I was trying hard to rationalise all the changes and knew they were all positive. My manager, Rich is very supportive through my transition, we have weekly 1:1 check ins. The team were welcoming and approachable – everyone is willing to help and explain things when I had questions. I knew I just needed time to get to know them a little bit more socially but all these rationalisations was not enough; my body was reacting differently. A rash developed in my torso and it was getting worse even after 2 months of joining Koala – I had to see a doctor. As the rash was getting worse, I would stress and panic even more, which didn’t help the situation. It wasn’t until I went to trek the Kokoda trail that my rash started to go away. Time away from technology was a great way to reset the pace in my life. Most people who know me would probably disagree, but I do feel I have mild social anxiety. It takes me a while to warm to people and speak out. So on the Kokoda trail, without a phone to hide behind, I was forced to connect with 16 other trekkers. I ended up spending a lot of time talking to them, getting to know them and pushed out of my comfort zone both mentally and physically. I asked myself, what is the difference between pushing myself outside of my comfort zone to leave hipages versus pushing myself out of my comfort zone to trekking Kokoda? I was coping with the Kokoda experience a lot better than my job transition. Then it struck me. Each morning, I’d wake up and concentrate on the day ahead, getting through the mountainous terrains for that day and that day only. I needed to take the same approach with my transition from hipages to Koala; focus on the changes bit by bit, day by day. I came back to Sydney with a different mindset and it has worked a charm!

We all fear the unknown but use it as your energy and motivation
Lastly, for most of 2017, I was lost and tried to search for my next goal in life. I didn’t know what career paths I could take, where I see myself in 5 years and not knowing the “answer” really bothered me. I bought books to try and help me get an answer. I raised this to my counsellor hoping she could give me an answer! She made me realise that no one could give me an answer except for myself. A few years ago, I had a conversation with my partner. We were discussing matters like marriage and starting a family. I told him that my parents have always taught me that I only needed to find that one perfect Mr. Right for me and if I met someone who didn’t share the same beliefs, it was time to move on. “Don’t waste your time on the wrong man!” they would say. My partner explained that life isn’t always about the ‘destination’, it’s the journey that counts. How could it be a waste of time if in the process, you learn more about yourself and what qualities you like and dislike in a person? The good times and wonderful memories shared was not a waste of time. It’s the journey we should be cherishing. At that very moment, everything clicked, I was enlightened in my relationship and was not afraid if he wasn’t the man I’d be with for the rest of my life. The funny thing was, I couldn’t apply this same concept in other aspects of my life. I kept on focusing on finding the “right” answer of what I needed to be, I was afraid that I would get it wrong. I needed to shift my mindset but knew I was always making decisions in the right direction – trying out different things and taking on opportunities like teaching code at General Assembly, being a mentor for females studying engineering at UNSW, taking on the Head of Diversity and Inclusion role at hipages, accepting a promotion to becoming an Engineering Manager. The more I try, the more I will know if I like it or not – a process of continuous learning and growing; it’s ok to try something that you know nothing about and end up disliking it – don’t see it as making a mistake but an opportunity to learn and grow. The more things we try, the more we would understand ourselves better. Bearing in mind, our taste changes with age also! What’s important is how we reflect upon our journey and adapt. Use the fear of not knowing as motivation. I’ve finally managed to get a clearer picture of what I want to focus on in the next 2-3 years. At first, when I identified what I wanted to do, I was procrastinating and making excuses for myself. Deep down, I knew I was petrified and scared. I didn’t know how to take the first step but after the encouragement of Kailash and the founders of Laddr, Mizko and Vaibhav, I accepted that it’s ok to be scared. When I take the leap, results whether good or bad will follow. Either way, it’s an opportunity to learn and grow!

I think it’s important to reflect on the past year and come up with new year resolutions and goals. I recently bought a Bucket List journal from MiGoals. Allan and Barbara Pease in their book, “Answer” quotes a Californian study where 42% of people who handwrite their goal achieves them.

When you use a keyboard to type, it only involves 8 different movements of your fingertips and this uses only a small number of neural connections in your brain. Handwriting can involve a range of up to 10,000 movements and creates thousands of neural paths in your brain. This explains why handwriting has much greater impact on your emotional attachment to your goals and on your commitment to them.

What are some of the lessons you’ve learnt this year? Want to set some goals for yourself for 2019? I truly recommend getting a bucket list and start writing down some goals! Happy New Year everyone! 😉

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