Dec 28, 2019

2019 in review

Another year coming to an end and this time, it is also the end of a decade. 2010s will be very special to me - I became a mom, identified my passion and learned more about myself. If 2000s was the decade I ran the rat race and followed the crowd, 2010s was the decade when I slowed down and focused on my priorities. My previous annual reviews are a reflection of that shift. 2019 is no different.

Self-reflection is a powerful tool and in the current age of distractions, we hardly invest any time in just being with our thoughts. On one cool January evening, I made this list of topics I wanted to learn more about. As I look back, consciously or unconsciously, most of the books I had picked up this year are inspired by this list.

Here's the list of books I completed in 2019 and quite a few (not listed) are in progress. Though I had set a goal to finish 40 books, I'm glad I was able to at least cross the 50% mark.
  1. Notes for Healthy Kids by Rujuta Diwekar
  2. Heartfulness way by Kamlesh Patel
  3. Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport
  4. The Wellness Sense by Om Swami
  5. The last gambit by Om Swami
  6. The third curve by Mansoor Khan
  7. The one-straw revolution by Masanobu Fukouka
  8. Until the clouds roll by by Ruskin Bond
  9. The magic weight loss pill by Luke Coutinho
  10. Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella
  11. Rusty and the magic mountain by Ruskin Bond
  12. Atomic Habits by James Clear
  13. Indistractable by Nir Eyal
  14. Naan Nammazhvar pesugiren by Nammazhvar
  15. Feel the fear and do it anyway by Susan Jeffers
  16. Gut by Guilia Enders
  17. The Biology of Belief by Bruce Lipton
  18. Designing Destiny by Kamlesh Patel
  19. Satvic Food book by Subah Jain
  20. Reversing Diabetes in 21 days by Nandita Shah
On the learning front, I also participated in a couple of workshops.
  1. Jago investor workshop on retirement planning and financial health. 
  2. Rails workshop organized by Railsgirls. I couldn't follow through on this, as other priorities took over. But I know I can get started on Rails development when I put my mind to it.
Writing/Blogging continued steadily this year as well - 68 posts in total. Out of these, my personal favorites are these:

Review of packaged foods continued in 2019 but not at the same rigor as in the previous two years. I guess I have covered most of the popular packaged foods on my Master List. This is one area I have sort of deprioritized for 2020.

Apart from reading and writing, the other activity that I thoroughly enjoy is Public Speaking. The talk I gave at PayPal on packaged foods was a memorable one. Bhoomi College invited me again this year to give a talk on packaged foods as part of the food module in Sustainability and Holistic Education courses. It is always a pleasure to meet like-minded people at Bhoomi. 

Fear of failure/ridicule is something I seem to be not getting affected much off late. This has made me more open to try new experiments and experiences.

I tried something totally out of my comfort zone during the open mic event at my apartment - a 5 min standup comedy act focusing on packaged foods. The fact that there is humor/sarcasm in me came to light this year 🙂 On one bored summer morning in May, I thought I would try my hands at creating memes with the focus being food. I downloaded a meme creator app based on Tamil movies, created a few and uploaded them on Instagram. I thought people would dismiss them as mokkai (useless) but many wrote to me saying that they enjoyed my memes. Since then, I've been creating memes whenever inspiration strikes and I'm enjoying this process. I have created close to 100 memes this year and it's been such a fun experience.

As an experiment, I launched a 1-month program titled "Dejunk your diet" to help people eliminate packaged/junk foods from their diet using habits and behavioral changes. 6 people enrolled with me this year and I hope the program helped them to become aware of their eating habits and triggers. Due to logistic reasons and coordination efforts, I decided not to continue this program further.

I tried organizing a workshop in my apartment on the topic "How to read nutrition labels" targeted at children. Only one parent enrolled his daughter. It was such a disappointment and I remember calling my Insta friend one evening and polambifying (rambling) "What am I doing with my life" type questions. If you are reading this, thanks for listening, V!

Along the same lines, I organized a meetup in Chennai to discuss about the ingredients in packaged foods. 80 people voted on Instagram that they are interested but ONLY one person showed up. I'm thankful to her to have come all the way to meet me. Else, it would have been such a bummer.

A friend and I had also planned a workshop in Chennai, which we had to cancel due to few registrations. 

These experiences made me think a lot about my purpose and in the end, I arrived at the same conclusion that Gita taught us - "kadamayai sei, palanai edhir paarkaathey" (Do your duty, don't think about the results). 

On the professional work front, I did a small consulting project for a friend early this year. Around May/June, I decided to reapply for software projects and tried quite a bit looking through job opportunities. Most of them that came my way are full time, regular job openings. I was quite clear in my mind on the kind of opportunities that I want, based on my schedule. I almost decided that such flexible opportunities are no longer available. Call it serendipity - early this month, I found an interesting opportunity with a startup in a growing space that fits my requirements. I'm excited to learn more about the applications of Data Science and Machine Learning and this is going to be one of my core focus areas in 2020. That moment when I can use thalaivar's famous dialogue - "thirumba vandhuttennu sollu" ;-)

On self-improvement, I incorporated quite a few positive habits this year. 
I started doing weekly meal planning on a regular basis.
I started maintaining a habit tracker to track my daily habits.
After reading Digital Minimalism, I tried reducing my phone usage and set a specific time slot for using Instagram (the only social media where I tend to spend a lot of time)
I started maintaining a happiness journal to record moments of happiness in my daily life.

Though I followed through these habits for many weeks, I seemed to derail the moment my routine changes. I plan to be consistent with these habits in 2019.

On health and fitness, regular home-cooked food and Yoga practice continued this year as well. I cooked many new dishes though I didn't really keep track of them.

On the family front, we celebrated most of the festivals in traditional way. I want my daughter D to be aware of the traditions behind these festivals and it is my responsibility to ensure she has exposure to all of them. I enjoyed making various festival sweets and savories. This year, I conquered my fear of string consistency 😉 Gained good practice in making mysorepak and pori urundai.

Compared to 2018, we did travel quite a bit in 2019. We visited Chikmagalur, Vaikom (Kerala) and Yercaud. We did many one-day drives to places nearby Bangalore - Lepakshi, Antaragange, Nandi hills, Antaragange, Savandurga and Manchinabele dam. We also visited this place Indian Musical Experience in JP Nagar, which D loved it. For me, the most memorable one was the weekend trip to Gumalapura farm, organized by Bhoomi. And how can I miss the item that got checked off my bucket list - attending ARR's concert for the first time?

Overall, a memorable, balanced year for me. If I had to sum up in one line, "mysorepak podavum kathuppom, machine learning algorithms-um kathuppom".

Wish you all a very happy, healthy and bright New Year 2020!! May all your dreams and wishes come true!

Will do a separate post on my intentions and focus areas for 2020. Do take some time in the next few days to reflect back on the year gone by and plans for 2020. Having been doing this annual review exercise for years now, I can vouch for the positive effects it brings in.

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