In tea culture, there is an expression:
It reminds each tea ceremony participant that the moments they are about to enjoy are fleeting, and will only happen once — never to occur in exactly the same way again. Even if you were to reassemble the same group of people in the same place, and try to brew the same tea in the same way, things will never be perfectly replicated.
If we generalize, such is the nature of life, perhaps?
When I think about my life while reviewing 2020, this expression occurs to me time and again.
My Year in Review: 2020
This year was a particularly pivotal year for me in terms of personal growth, a spurt that comes once every few years, if you will. Coming into 2020, I knew that big changes were about to happen — being privy to the acquisition of CoinMarketCap — and tried my best to prepare for them.
The labor in leading
I had the opportunity to lead our team through the acquisition, and shape the process of transition for them. It was tough, and there were so many moments when I doubted myself. When I wasn’t sure how to make the next move. When I couldn’t figure out if what I was doing was right or wrong.
Ultimately, I learned that in order to lead, you have to make hard decisions. If you choose to lead, you have to take on the difficult conversations you’ll rather not have, and the risk of making the wrong move. I learned about communicating with candor and clarity at all times, so nobody has to guess what you’re really thinking.
And one more thing I learned very well: Walking away when you need to. To live life with your own philosophy and be in touch with your morals, you have to make choices. Making a stand is necessary.
When I look back, I can only think about how I treasured the experience, even though it was arduous. I wouldn’t change it; I lived through the process and I grew through it.
In the midst of it all, I had to undergo two surgeries under general anesthesia (GA), once in February and again in July. I recall working on my phone up to the point where they moved me on to the gurney destined for the operating theater. I was triply anxious; anxious about leaving work behind, and anxious about the surgery ahead — and then I was anxious about being anxious about either when maybe I should be focused on the other.
After being wheeled into the operating theater, things started to look inevitable — I can no longer run away from the surgery. 😂 At that point, I became curious about everything in the theater so I asked the attending nurse a bunch of questions about how things were managed. Being painfully mindful at that point morphed into an unexpectedly interesting time.
Predictably, both surgeries were unpleasant and left my brain in a fog for a couple weeks after due to the GA. With all the turmoil this year, I became conscious and appreciative of my health and of those around me. In moments of clarity, I knew that I would never feel this way again — my body won’t ever grow younger. I can only take steps to preserve and strengthen it, but it won’t be the same ever again.
Before this year, I spent half my year traveling, if not more. As the pandemic raged on, and everything went on lockdown, it was clear that traveling wasn’t on the cards this year. My family helplessly lamented not being able to go anywhere.
In hindsight, staying put and not rushing to airports and new destinations was a boon. It gave us more time together as a family, and we made new rituals that are unlikely to repeat when the new year rolls around and the situation changes; when life changes, as it does.
After I quit my role at CoinMarketCap, I became restless and felt aimless (dare I say useless) for a time. Again, hindsight is 20/20 (pun intended? 😃) and I really should have treasured that time off more. Really, ichi-go ichi-e: Enjoy times you get to give yourself a break, and stay present, because the moment will pass. Then you may regret not relaxing and doing what you wanted to do before you get caught up in the next big thing again.
My Hopes for 2021
Of course, being the person that I am, I’ve already moved on from it all. In the new year, I expect lots of new challenges — obstacles to be mindful of, and moments to be present in.
(Not) staying shut-in: V2
I really may have gone too far on staying shut-in and trying to be zen. Consistently, I’ve given in to social anxiety and shied away from extended social interaction this year (partly due to the pandemic, but no excuses for virtual meetings and texts). Procrastinating on responding to messages leads to further anxiety, so it’s almost become a cycle.
It’s one of my priorities in the new year to get off my social ass and reconnect with everyone I care about again. If you catch me in the new year, and I’m not responding properly, feel free to quote this post at me. 😹
Creating my new future
In starting Preinclined and a sub-brand for sunscreen (stay tuned for more updates!), I want to build businesses that truly reflect my philosophy. Living without regret — savoring the present moment, knowing it will never happen again — but giving ourselves a leg up for the future. What is sunscreen if not to preserve the youth of our skin (and prevent skin cancer!!) for the future — but how to make it a delight to apply every day?
Writing my present thoughts
I succumbed to perfectionism and anxiety each time I opened my notebook to write. I was afraid of writing things of little consequence, or something that may be offensive. But heck — I might as well say what I feel in the moment, and save it for myself to reflect upon in the future.
Ichi-go ichi-e: Live Without Regret
In closing, I offer you some tea wisdom:
- Relish the good and the bad. You sometimes make (or get) bad tea, but they teach you how to make it better next time.
- Make it a ritual. Become extremely aware of each move you’re making. Take the time to pause and take care of yourself.
- Cherish and remember. This moment will pass, so savor it and record it for yourself.
Happy new year, and I hope 2021 will be another series of moments that we will rejoice in.
(P.s. I’d be delighted to offer you some real tea!)