I wonder if I say this every year but 2016 was a really defining year for me. Whatever people say about 2016 being a bad year, with all the celebrity deaths and Brexit and Trump, you yourself make what you have of the 365 days laid out in front of you.
To me, 2016 was 5 things. Tenacity, Networking, Mindfulness, Listening and Love. Sounds like a bunch of airy-fairy bullshit haha but let’s get onto it:
I started actively looking for a job since Oct 2015 onwards. It was a decision I made knowing that 1. I felt that I didn’t have many hard skills to offer in my domain and 2. The job market was going down (and still is, as of now).
In Dec/Jan 2015/2016 a bunch of friends and I started validation on a startup idea. Fast forward to February 2016, and I was on a part-time internship and yet another leadership program cum social enterprise incubator from Ground-Up Initiative (GUI). I kicked off 2016 knees deep in a twice a week full day job, 2 startups in their incubation phase on top of my final semester in school, as well as my ongoing job hunt.
I remember life as a blur back then – I stayed in hostel on Mondays and Tuesdays and went back home on Tuesday nights to work on Wednesdays and Thursdays, often rushing out work on train journeys home before heading back to school on Fridays. Weekends were spent at GUI and the occasional facilitation programs and training.
I think a lot of people are like that and have many things on their plate too. Looking back, I felt that it is important to recognise that a certain tenacity and drive was within me to actually survive through that phase (I have to admit, I did not thrive). You did it before, you can do it again. And we raise the bar higher and higher each time.
The last point about tenacity ties in with networking – which is to never give up. I went for my first career fair when I was in my first semester of my second year and like many of my peers, we were quickly disillusionised by the ineffectiveness of the whole fiasco. My internship/job hunting buddies dwindled off and I actually find myself attending what would be my last career fair in my second semester of my third year. That day, I finally got lucky and eventually secured an interview with my current company. Don’t ever give up.
And as for networking – like it or not, I realised that it has been falsely mislabelled, vilified as a pretentious act but at the end of the day, it is very much necessary. Case in point – above in my example. Like most people I really hated networking, or rather, the way that the school teaches or drills us in networking. It may be a necessary evil (going around in a circle and doing 60 seconds elevated pitches – some sort of satanic ritual?) but I very much preferred to have done it in my way. I was lucky enough to find out early on during a tech networking session that if you forget about the term “networking” and the obligations associated with it, and simply position oneself as an interested person – you take the stress out of conversing, and an interested person is an interesting person.
The dots do connect themselves (nope, I’m not gonna quote any particular tech evangelist) when you connect with people. As I expanded my circle of friends in both startups and my job hunts, I began to see links and synergistic opportunities. Some of them translated into job opportunities. Go out there, ignore the dogma associated with networking and be an interested person.
2015 pushed me into a state of reflection which saw me taking up meditation which inevitably exposed me to the concept/state/goal of mindfulness. Mindfulness is undefinable because it is an individual journey, but at its simplest it is about being aware. Being aware of your feelings, your thoughts and how they affect oneself. With awareness comes choice.
I have to admit that 2016 wasn’t so much about meditation anymore, even though I wished I had more discipline to practise it regularly. But I am definitely more mindful than ever. I feel a precision in identifying my thoughts, which empowers me to consciously dissect my emotions and understand why I am feeling what I am feeling. Some of the most obvious uses I have for this is such as when I am feeling jealousy or envy, or frustration at things that are not within my control.
It might be too early for resolutions but it would definitely be a good thing to continue striving for a higher state of mindfulness in the coming year.
If there was a ‘thing’ that was most important or defining to me in 2016, it has to be that of listening. My partner and I are thoroughly invested in communication between the two of us and very early on I got to know of what it really means to listen to a person. This was validated along the way by my learnings from other sources too.
I lived my whole life (and I think a lot of guys in general) listening to friends and feeling that, oh right – I have been a good friend, I have listened attentively this whole time to the problem at hand, now what advice do I give to solve the problem? Firstly, there isn’t always a ‘problem’ and secondly, we don’t always have to have a solution to every problem.
This year, I became more aware and mindful of how I perceived my friend’s issues and how I reacted to them. It really feels very different to be content with just listening to a friend, and sitting in with them in their problem. And by ‘sitting in’, what I mean is to share the same perspective, to be sitting and facing the same direction as they are in life, to understand what it means to them and to reflect back to them that yes, you are trying to understand what they are going through. Perhaps if they ask for advice, then it can be given.
And yes, listening happens to be one of the love languages (quality time). This year, I learnt that the human capacity to love is still a really amazing thing. I rediscovered my capacity to care for another human being. Apart from the usual notions of love, I similarly realised that there are other dimensions to loving your friends and one of them is for accepting them for who they are.
There is also the faint realisation that what constitutes as love is also slowly changing for me as I grow older. It isn’t so much as just liking both the “personality and looks” of a person (alright I apologize if that’s way too insultingly simplified) but so much of it is about respect and understanding the other. It’s way too much to summarise in this space – but the bottom line is that in the greater scheme of things I still have much to learn and experience.
So that was 2016 for me. A year of budding independence and new found zest for life. 2017 here we goooooo