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My gratitude to each of you, memories of 2022
Successes and failures. Joys and tragedies. Personal shout-outs.
It feels jittery to write much about myself in a public blog like this, dedicated to building a community, but a year-in-review post is, perhaps, an expected and unavoidable feature. I handwrote the core of the summary below on New Year’s Day in my journal, and I’d like to turn this writeup into a gratitude-giving session directed at everyone who impacted my life last year. There is a good chance you are mentioned!
If you were forwarded this post, subscribe for free to this substack on developing our mindsets of abundance.
Editorial note: all names are abbreviated to first initial for compactness and privacy (you know who you are), all routine family matters and work-related business are omitted to preserve confidentiality. This therefore accounts for only ~ a quarter of my daylight hours in 2022, but that quarter is a core part of what gave life its meaning.
If you don’t know me personally, please feel free to introduce yourself by replying or leaving a comment: it’d be nice to establish deeper connection with more of my readers. Or, drop me a line to update me on what you are up to: always glad to hear from people I know.
P.S. Before embarking on my post below: grateful to have met or corresponded online last year with authors of these substacks (Anna G., Rika G., Nita J., Irene K., Robert U., Elaine W., Jeffrey Y., Valerie Z.) Please follow their amazing writing:
Looking forward to engaging more with all of their — and your — journeys in 2023!
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2022 was a year that tested many of our emotional capacities for empathy, resilience, and patience. It began like any other one, though with increased vigilance over the rising first wave of omicron variant infections globally. 12 months ago, many believed that this would represent the year’s gravest threat to societal (human) wellbeing.
My motivation level last January to create and to take action outside of familiar daily routines was exceedingly high, as I volunteered to help out with multiple new initiatives, the most memorable of which was the, a community I love. Grateful to its team (A., K., T., etc.) for bringing me aboard for the time span I could contribute wholeheartedly: it felt boundless that month.
In early February, a very refreshing cross-country skiing trip with friends in NH (thanks to J. for driving all to/from my “layover” place and others back to NYC, during a snowfall!) seemed to lay a foundation for a solid, fun, tightly-packed year ahead.
Instead, everything changed two weeks later.
Near-simultaneously, two calamities transpired, both hitting home. The health of my maternal grandfather — with whom I had Skyped nearly every weekend for years — began to suddenly and rapidly decline. That very same week, an event that will henceforth be infamously known as “February 24th” struck, out of left field for many, waking up the rest from relative dormancy in the context of just how far unchecked bias (and a scarcity mindset!) can take decision-making bodies.
Bodies. Theory turned into action. Battleground maps turned into red stains on pristine, snow-covered ground. Real, human blood. Action led to reaction, and countless tragic losses ensued.
As someone who had traveled by train across eastern and southern Ukraine multiple times in childhood with family to relatives in Crimea, stopping in cities that were now constantly in news headlines, I could not assume the role of an uninvolved bystander.
The situation on both fronts continued deteriorating through March, as was my mental and physical capacity to take on new projects or proceed with the overly ambitious goals I had set. The most memorable thing I started in March was this very substack, drafting an antiwar post with recollection of a decades-old episode from life.
Hosting an Area contest for regional Toastmasters clubs served as a much-needed respite from stress in those days.
Nightmares and shock were slowly replaced by a grim acceptance of reality. I could do nothing to alter the course of events, and my grandfather, who could no longer speak discernibly, was now out of reach, with direct flights canceled due to sanctions.
One silver lining of that dark month and next was a Design Your Life book club co-facilitated by two fellow university alumni (J., L.) and I, scheduled before the war. We had a lot of productive Zoom discussions, reflecting on the present and envisioning the future in guided small-group sessions. Thank you to all who participated over those 8 weeks, esp. N. and B.!
In early April, I lost my maternal grandfather.
To say that I felt guilt for not having tried to do more than what seemed to suffice based on lengthy conversations with family, despite weeks of anguish and uncertainty, would be an understatement.
I’m truly grateful to my good friends, J&N, from whose NYC apartment at 4:30 am, before dawn, I was able to act as “host” of the funeral’s Zoom livestream for other family abroad.
Grateful to all friends who sent messages of support, including K. (thank you for the microgreens!), A., Z., B. (so thankful for your warm card!), M. (likewise!), and others.
Grief was interrupted by another bright spot: coordinating the annual Explorer event for Physics Unlimited, in which teams of high school students from many countries worked on creative, open-ended solutions to a month-long challenge. Grateful to B. for writing up this year’s assignment and to all contributing volunteers!
A drive to Princeton for a weekend lunch with K&E and J&N was soul-healing.
May was even better, marked by acceptance of inevitable human mortality and diluted by many solo walks out in nature and first time in a movie theater since the pandemic.
My old (college freshman) roommate, A., debuted as a main character in Hamlet at the Met Opera: it was fantastic to watch. (Please reach out if you’d like to connect with him or see any of his other numerous performances worldwide.)
In mid-May I joined EK&JK for a splendid day trip to Mystic Aquarium in CT, a chance to see myriad types of fish, turtles, penguins, and other wonders of the sea.
I reconnected with dozens of old university classmates and friends during and after annual Reunions, where it was a pleasure to organize a full-house meal at our former food co-op for its current and past members; thank you to all who joined and helped out. Grateful for catching up with you (too many to list!).
Finally, E.’s picnic the following weekend was a joy to attend, as always.
June brought the first multi-day comfort of the challenging year, post-February, as I discovered and experienced a weekend camp-style atmosphere at the ethnic Eastern European music and song festival in upstate NY, meeting talented, like-minded creatives, guitarists, and songwriters who reminisced about adolescence by campfires post-midnight, singing and reciting poems about peace, love, and hope.
I then drove to help video-record a wonderful piano recital by one of my forenamed friends (J.) in NYC. Bach, Chopin, and Prokofiev pieces were played masterly!
I was surprised to be selected to co-lead, as a VP, my regional (Princeton) alumni association of New England over the next two years. Grateful to R., S., the late B., G., and other board members for nominating me. I promised to do my best.
In early July I publicly announced the overarching goals for the abundance mindset community initiative and set a quantitative goal for the anyhumans podcast.
It was a true delight to attend an Interintellect dinner in Boston and finally meet its founder, A., in-person, after our many interactions online-only, and better get to know several others, inc. T., W., A., M. Thankful for the conversations.
Driving south and visiting a medieval alchemy library exhibit the following weekend at Princeton on invitation by friends K. and A. was enlightening!
I started Middlemarch, the saga I had long-wanted to dive into (thank you to E. for recommending!), taking until November. I also read Red Crosses that month, a timely work of historical fiction, recommended on the radio by Liya Akhedzhakova (see my very short review on Goodreads: let’s connect if you use that platform).
The penultimate Sunday of July set a temperature record in Massachusetts (99°F) and a connections near-record for self: I spent that afternoon in the company of new acquaintances in Cambridge, with rather deep conversations on the human condition and intentionality (grateful to have met A., S., M., E., etc.), and dinner at J&J’s house in Somerville, discussing doing good better with many newcomers from across the U.S.
August was the “travel month” I engineered for myself with less than a few weeks’ notice. Because I cannot fly East, I will fly West, I thought. And so I resolved.
A tightly-packed trip to California, carved from 10 days of my vacation time, entailed:
volunteering at the inaugural Future Forum in the Bay area for the weekend, an exhilarating adventure in a picturesque setting (grateful to have met and conversed with so many ambitious young minds, inc. a fortuitous, unplanned encounter with T. in-person after only knowing each other online, and forging new acquaintances J., S., K., M., N., and so many more),
listening to one of my best friends’ (Z.) choir performance (“Music for the Troubled Times”) in Stanford that same weekend,
hosting an Interintellect IRL salon in S.F. with a view on Golden Gate Bridge (thank you to Z. for driving me around and joining!),
a 10-hour Coast Starlight scenic train ride to L.A., where my old friend B. was gracious to drive me places and hike together to a nearly-hidden waterfall up a mountain in a national park,
solo-touring The Getty museum for two hours (enough for only 1.5 buildings),
being invited by a Physics Unlimited team member, S., to visit her Caltech lab,
after another 2-hour solo train ride south, strolling amidst cacti in San Diego.
August was also the month I first tested positive for COVID since the start of the pandemic, after all my travels, despite wearing a KN95 in all public indoor spaces. It was an interesting symptomatic progression, and I am very grateful for its mild course.
September brought another joyous reunion with five old friends on Labor Day in NJ.
Trips to several farms in CT and their fresh produce were nourishing in all senses. A “workers’ party” in western CT, helping clean out a huge barn in preparation for a celebration of my friends K&M, ushered in sweet nostalgia for similar childhood memories doing this at my grandparents’ place.
September also brought order and consistency to this substack through autumn, with alternating Creative Fridays text interviews and small-g Giving Tuesdays submissions. (Please check them out, if you have not, for inspiration or for support. These sections will resume soon, alongside a long-awaited new episode release cadence. Schedule a time here if you’d like to be featured on anyhumans, at any degree of privacy.)
October was the month I had to turn the page on my twenties and officially enter the fourth decade of life: the dinosaur decade. I celebrated by hosting events in two cities: Friday night group dinner in Boston and a Sunday picnic in NYC with many friends.On a weekend coinciding with our university’s birthday, singing its old anthem together, accompanied by one of my friends’ (J. again) adept sight-reading on my battery-powered piano keyboard in Central Park, was an unforgettable highlight. Grateful to everyone who showed up, despite the rain, and helped assemble the tent!
Earlier that same month, K&M were married on a farm in CT, and all events leading up to it were a joy to partake in, as was their magical big day itself.
Thanks to Q. for connecting me with F., with whom I discussed prospective STEM outreach collaborations in Japan. I look forward to what’s next.
In November, my main “extracurricular” was coordinating Physics Unlimited’s Premier competition, in which 350 students from 20 countries (online and at four international partner sites) submitted work and whose scores were recently released.
I realized that age is no longer just a number, and that maybe hosting a two-hour Zoom session for Europe- and Asia-based students at 3 am in my time zone, followed by another one for North America at noon, is not the most conducive action to take for one’s sleep cycle and overall health. (This made me empathize even more with some medical student friends and their overnight shifts.)
Grateful to all volunteer problem writers (A.,H.,J.,Y.), proctors (B.,K.,L.,M.,M.,S.,S.,S.), and graders who cooperated on short notice and made this multi-dimensional undertaking over a two-month period, with so many moving parts, a success.
My traditional solo viewing of a Boston Philharmonic early season concert, a Dvořák cello concerto this time, was animating and therapeutic. I wish more people joined its livestreams even when they can’t go in-person: the streaming quality is superb.
Late November and early December were accentuated by two remarkable, fun potluck dinners, one in NYC (hosted by E.) and one in CT (hosted by K&M) on back-to-back weekends, both with inspiring conversations and delightful food. Thank you, hosts!
Grateful to my cherry red tomato plant for hanging on through frost and not dying!
In early December I had the opportunity to pitch the abundance mindset community on a local radio station, WCRN. You are welcome to listen to or read my 5-minute segment or excerpts here. It was a special moment to be a guest inside a real radio station studio for the first time: grateful for the invitation and the host, C.
An annual roast (of me this time, as its immediate past president) at my local Toastmasters club was one of the most laugh-inducing evenings of the month. Grateful to L., P., C., and M. for the thoughtful roasts I enjoyed “rebutting” and K. for the GE role. On that note, I must add that this club has added incalculable value to my growth as not just a better communicator, but also as a more open-minded human being. Highly recommend to anyone looking for a friendly, supportive community.
The long “Christmas weekend” was a time for another round of reconnections with old friends. A dumpling-making party with Z&M in south Jersey, organizing a virtual Zoom holiday reconnect with friends spread across North and South America (thanks to all for joining), and a solo-drive to a “home concert” by the famous bard, Alexander Gorodnitskiy, now 89 and “not feeling old at all” (in his own words), with an unambiguously humanist stance and impeccable sense of humor, marked the concluding full weekend of the quintessentially Tiger-tough 2022.
* * *
Some failures (what not to say!): my comfort with vulnerability is still nowhere near where it should ideally be; I read too few books from my list since last January; my podcast creation rate is still in the abyss; I started learning Mandarin much later than initially planned; my guitar and piano plans are lagging terribly; I am too risk-averse; etc., etc. [This is, of course, scarcity mindset speaking.]
Let me reformulate (to practice what I preach): in 2022 I increased my comfort with vulnerability through multiple amazing communities, as well as via personal outreach; I did read very good books as time allowed; I started taking one-on-one Mandarin lessons through italki, which I absolutely love; I rekindled with a guitar during my summer travels after a 12-year hiatus and vow to continue my adventures with music; my risk tolerance has increased measurably.
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How this year will turn out is anyone’s guess. I have my own resolutions, though am keeping them undisclosed for obvious reasons. I hope 2023 will bring peace, health, and abundance to everyone reading this. Deeply grateful to all of you.
Happy New Year! С Новым Годом! 新年快乐!
How was your year? What are you yearning for next?
It pains me that there is a limit to what I can write publicly about this global event for certain reasons. Ask me privately for an honest perspective.
It so happened that I was in the city already after seeing Eugene Onegin at the Met Opera with J&N, scheduled well in advance, something I had even mentioned to my late grandfather, an avid theater- and operagoer, before his health took the unexpected turn. He would not have wanted me to cancel attendance.
Huge thank you for my birthday celebrations to: G&J, P&K, EK (for attending the dinner in Boston); J&N, K&M, K&M(#2!), B., A., T., M., Q., P., S., S. (for the NYC picnic fun)