My 2019 was about one last hurrah before I dedicate the next couple years grinding to buy my first rental property. One last solo adventure. One last holiday of gluttony. One last year of indulgence.
For the 17th straight year, here is my annual run down of how I spent my year 2019.
1. Happier or Sadder?
HAPPIER. (More on that later)
2. What places did you visit?
- Toronto for FITC, a web developer conference.
- Paris, Florence, and Rome!
- Las Vegas for Christmas!
3. What was your best musical discovery in 2019?
Last year I wrote:
The rest of the year I was obsessing over electronic/house background music to use for my Japan vlogs.
Same deal this past year, special shout-out to Ikson.
4. How has your personal fashion evolved this year?
I finally discovered flannel! Not the plaid kind, but solid colors, which matches with the rest of my capsule wardrobe perfectly. I love my linen shirts in warm weather and now flannel in cold weather.
Everything else in my rather minimalist capsule wardrobe is still the same…and I like it that way.
5. What TV shows did you follow this year?
- Game of Thrones
- Silicon Valley
Shows I'm Loving:
- The Walking Dead
- The Curse of Oak Island — THEY ARE TOTALLY GOING TO FIND THE TREASURE.
Other shows I'm following:
- Black Mirror
- Black Summer — A cool zombie series to hold me over until The Walking Dead comes back.
- Raising Dion
- Ghost Adventures and other random ghost hunter shows on Travel Channel
- Fear The Walking Dead
6. What were your most favorite movies this year?
- Avengers: Endgame — All. The. Fucking. Feels. Even when I rewatch the final act, I still get chills.
- Spider-Man: Far from Home — So so so fun seeing Peter Parker grow as Spider-Man.
- Joker — I never thought anyone could live up to Heath Ledger's performance as Joker after Dark Knight…but Jaquin Phoenix absolutely killed it.
7. What were your most popular social media posts?
My little video inspired by Bird Box, lol.
8. What was your best food discovery in 2019?
- McDonald's outside of the U.S. is always a bagillion times better!
- Gelato at Venchi in Italy! So unbelievably CREAMY and DELICIOUS.
The other thing I learned about myself in Italy is that I'm really not much of an Italian food person…I really need to live off a combination of American food and Asian food 95% of the time.
9. What songs will always remind you of 2019?
I listened to vlogging music all throughout the year, especially these three songs that I envisioned for my Europe trip:
- Outside by Ikson — used for my Paris vlog.
- Skyline by Ikson — was originally supposed to be for Florence.
- You & Me by Ikson — used for my Italy vlog.
10. What political issues really stirred you?
Donald Fucking Trump and Mitch Fucking McConnell. Where the fuck do I begin? Ah here's a good, recent one:
The impeachment process is like a trial for a raping that happened at a frat party, with lots of witnesses, but the defendant, the judge, and half of the jury are all frat bros.
The House subpoenas first-hand witnesses, Trump tells them to not comply. Fox News preaches, "This is a sham! They don't even have any first-hand witnesses!"…and Trump's followers regurgitate that shit because Fox News is the only "news" source they follow.
11. Did anyone close to you pass away? Any notable celebrity deaths?
- John Mai
- Kris Mark
12. Who were your celebrity crushes?
- Brie Larson from Captain Marvel
- Naomi Scott from Aladdin
13. What were your favorite memes/trends this year?
14. What mainstream trends did you resist?
TikTok — As much as I love social media, I feel like I'm waaay too old for this.
15. Where did most of your money go?
- Europe! — DJ Osmo Pocket. Pickpocket-proof jacket. Knife-proof drawstring bag. Travel pants. Lightweight, windproof rain jacket. Waterproof shoes.
No souvenirs. Everything else was just tours, experiences, and trying new food. Worth every penny.
16. What was the best thing you bought?
The pickpocket-proof Transit Jacket by Pacsafe — sooo many inner pockets. It might be a while til I really travel again but this is my default jacket for when I go to the movies and need to sneak in a few things.
The waterproof Cityscape sneakers by Vessi — they're light, packable, waterproof, and even orthotics-ready! By far the best travel shoe I've ever worn.
17. What is the best book you read in 2018?
Set for Life by Scott Trench — This book gave me a blueprint for getting my finances in a place where I have ultimate flexibility to do what I want.
18. Did you have any serious illnesses or injuries?
Stomach flu and massive diarrhea in Europe, LOL.
19. What was your most humbling experience this year?
My mom pestering me to bring diarrhea pills to Europe…me telling her, "I SAID NO, STOP BUGGING ME ABOUT IT."
…and then getting massive diarrhea in the third day of my trip, LOL.
20. Did you drop any old habits or pick up new habits this year?
Not sure if this counts as a "habit" but at work, when I'm managing a project, I've stopped being so nit-picky about other coders' coding styles…as long as it gets the job done, I'm cool with it.
I'm a lot more deadline-focused now.
21. Describe a typical day for you in 2019
Wake up 6:30ish. Catch up on tech Twitter and Feedbin while on the toilet. Out the door by 6:50. Work from 8ish to 11ish. Quick lunch and nap in car lol. Work until 4:40ish.
Salsa classes two or three times a week (usually).
Once I get home, I catch up on Feedbin, YouTube, and social media. Maybe Xbox for half an hour. A little extra work while I semi-pay attention to the TV. Play with Kogi or browse Imgur while Kogi licks my head until I fall asleep around 11ish.
22. What was the best thing you built or created?
Same as last year, but for Europe:
My travel vlogs. It felt good to tell better stories creatively on Instagram. But even after that, I love How I can rewatch my videos and relive my entire Japan trip in my mind.
23. What kept you sane? What gave you hope?
The BiggerPockets: Money and Afford Anything podcasts. I'm so behind in my retirement fund and it's becoming so clear to me that I'm underpaid relative to my age. These podcasts give me hope that I'll be able to get my shit together with real estate.
24. Who were you most proud of this year?
Shawn for finally getting his big-ass pay raise at a new job. Well deserved because of his ability to pick up such valuable web developer skills in a short amount of time.
25. Without naming names, who disappointed you the most and what did they do?
Anyone who blindly supports Trump. Anyone who dismisses credible news outlets because Fox News and Trump say so. Anyone who dismisses 11,000 scientists across the world because Fox News and Trump say so. Anyone who bitches about the "Do Nothing Democrats" when McConnell has been sitting on 400+ bills that the House has passed.
Anyone who says "you're just butt-hurt that you guys lost in 2016" because they can't put together an actual argument and back it up with data.
We can have different opinions on political issues, but anyone who believes Fox News is the one and only source of truth in the world…they straight-up have been brainwashed.
26. Which new person(s) in your life are you grateful for?
27. How did your New Years Resolutions hold up? Any new resolutions for 2019?
Expanding my Vocabulary, specifically learning more adjectives instead of just overusing "amazing" all the time.
Beating my Social Anxiety. All of my best memories and achievements in the past few years have been directly traced back to my group therapy sessions I attended in 2015. This year I realized how much my social anxiety has killed my relationships with people. Even trying to talk to people who genuinely want to talk to me, I struggle with maintaining conversations with. If I can beat this, I know my life will be so much more fulfilling.
Neither of those happened, lol.
This year I'm focused on two things:
- lose 40 lbs by June, which would bring me to 200 lbs.
- make smarter financial decisions as I save up for Arizona.
28. What did you do this year that you've never done before?
- Paris! Saw the Eiffel Tower, Mona Lisa, visited the Louvre.
- Italy! Toured the Colosseum, the Vatican, and Pompeii. Finally took a penis picture with the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
29. What was the most impactful decision you made in 2019?
This still has to come to fruition but this past year, I've come to the conclusion that moving out-of-state will be the best move for me.
There's just no way I can buy real estate in SoCal that is close to tech jobs.
30. What's been on your mind this year?
Europe — I was obsessed with vlogging music and would keep listening it while daydreaming about Europe.
Real Estate — I'm not going to catch up with my retirement fund through traditional Roth IRA or 401K investments. I need to look for other means. I binged on the Bigger Pockets podcast for months and feel like "house-hacking" is something I could do.
I miss Japan — I think about it, every single day. Whenever I see a filthy toilet. Whenever I drive by a 7-Eleven. Whenever I'm stuck in traffic and wish I had public transportation. Everytime I interact with some inconsiderate stranger.
I'm always missing how Japan was so much nicer.
31. What valuable life lessons did you learn this year?
Art History is more than just the story inside the painting. It’s also the story of the artist, the story of the artistic technique at the time, the story of who it was acquired by, and the story of how it was acquired.
Being a leader, as I've learned through dancing, is also about being able to lead when you have no idea how things will play out.
Own your awkwardness. Self-deprecation can be charismatic but it depends on one key factor — you must be able to own it.
32. What was your biggest failure?
Last year I wrote:
Gaining 37 lbs since my birthday, LOL. Totally self-inflicted. I'm gonna have to rethink my whole, "I'll do keto, then switch to low-carb, then full-on fat-ass mode during the holidays."
Welp, I officially gained 49 lbs from my lowest, LOL. It's gotten so bad, my cataract has started to come back in my right eye…the same eye that I had surgery for years ago.
I'm not sure when I'll take care of my cataract, but for my weight, I know exactly what I need to do to lose all of that again.
33. What is the one thing you are most grateful for from this past year?
I'm grateful for how my job duties have shifted to more of a tech lead role where I'm the one to lay the foundation for a website and have other more skilled developers do the dirty work. This past year has been unbelievably less stressful.
34. What was your most memorable moment this year?
Can't think of a specific moment so I'll have to say my entire trip to Paris, Florence, and Rome.
Sure, I was fighting off the stomach flu for almost the entire time, lol, but this was another big solo adventure for the books. It just boggles my mind how much history there is all around the world, especially when compared to California.
35. If you could tell your past self something exactly one year ago, what would it be?
Hey Mel 2019,
There's gonna be some pretty big changes for you at work this year. Your growth & hard work will be recognized, many things that bothered you get fixed, you lose some people but you gain a mentor-figure. Overall, work will be a whole lot less stressful.
Toronto will be a great quick trip. The Arizona Reunion will give you the same Saudi vibes that you've missed for years.
Next thing you know, it'll be November and you're on your next big solo adventure in Paris, Florence, and Rome. Enjoy! Definitely a different vibe than Japan but I promise you you'll cherish it.
Everything else is good. You take a break from salsa but it'll be fun to go back. Keep listening to Bigger Pockets Money and Afford Anything podcasts; it'll be key for us for the next few years.
But above all that, treat yourself this year…because the next few years are gonna be a grind!
Oh, and listen to Mom about bringing diarrhea pills to Europe.
—Mel, January 2020
36. What are you looking forward to this upcoming year?
Keto Goals! All the weddings I'm attending this year are spread out enough that I can take keto very seriously this year and have an occasional, planned cheat day. I'm excited and focused on losing 40 lbs again.
Arizona! As I'm planning for the next big chapter of my life, visiting Arizona is giving me all sorts of nervous/anxious/excited. AZ is sounding good on paper and I'm well-versed in living in a desert…Hopefully I'll find all the other stars line up when I visit Arizona this year.
37. If you could ask your future self anything one year from now, what would it be?
Dear Future Mel,
How's work going? We just started doing the "2-day work remote" policy thing and so far I'm loving it. Are you working remotely more now that we left the original office?
How'd your keto goals go?? No big solo adventures planned, just a couple weddings, and a whole lot more time at home to cook something healthy…you gotta be back in shape by now. There's no reason why we can't achieve what we did in 2016.
Most important of all…are we moving to Arizona or what?? How'd your birthday trip go?? You feeling good about moving there?? Shit, by the time you read this, we'll be making the move there within a matter of months…
I'm not anticipating much action this year. Everything is about ramping up for 2021. Whatever you've done this past year, I hope we're ready.
—Mel, January 2020