As we march into the new year, I’m recounting some of my favourite 2016 bits. I hate doing this just because I haven’t made a conscious effort to keep track of it all year, and I, as a psychology major, know that looking back at the year on its last day just has strong recency bias—we tend to remember more vividly the things that most recently happened. But I’ll try. And I’ll start with something somewhat quantifiable: music!
I love that Spotify gives me a list of my top 2016 songs because by December, I always forget what I was crazy about in like March, even. They did however give me 100 songs, which is way too many, some of which I don’t really care too much about… so I narrowed them down and these were my favourite songs of the year, roughly in order.
Another huge 2016 thing for me was podcasts. Ugh, I love them so much. Start Up, Millennial, 2 Dope Queens, Reply All, On the Media, Freakonomics Radio, Planet Money, More Perfect, How I Built This, Invisibilia, Homecoming, Heavyweight, Code Switch, Open for Business are only some of my favourites. They are so informative!!! I feel like I’ve learned so much about race, politics, popular cultures, economics, psychology and general storytelling while being entertained at the same time. I love being affirmed of the power of storytelling and sharing information and I think podcasts are so amazing for that particular reason.
I also looked back on the year and realised I managed to read 14 books this year. Isn’t that amazing?! That’s so many more than I thought I did; it’s 1.167 books a month, haha! Granted, most of them were read over the summer, during which I read 3 a month. I really hope I’ll be able to keep this up as I… you know… *whispers* graduate.
Which means, this year also marked my last full year at Penn. I was thinking about how much I’ll miss all the opportunities being in college gives me. For example, in 2016 alone, I got to see all these people speak at Penn: actress Anna Kendrick, author Michael Lewis, journalist Shaun King, actor Omi Vaidya and freakin’ former Fed chairman Ben Bernanke.
I also had wonderful—like beyond wonderful—professors at Penn this past year. Delphine Dahan was so kind and gracious to me as I’ve worked at her Psycholinguistics lab. Mark Pollack put together an amazing course on International Political Economy and has been a great resource for me as I sought recommendations on extra readings. Felicity Paxton and her class on pop culture gave me so much to think about how we navigate media. Jamie-Lee Josselyn, my creative writing professor, was a fantastic person to be around beyond being a fantastically supportive teacher.
I think one of the ways I’ve grown most at Penn has been by embracing my creative side. It was such an honour, honestly, to have my writing encouraged, workshopped and commented on by people I respected and whose writing I admired. Taking the creative writing class was a huge leap on my end because I had been so put off by sharing writing that I actually tried hard on and I’m really glad I did it because now I have some semblance of an idea as to what to improve on. I also started participating in my school newspaper’s podcast, Quite Frankly which has been interesting. It’s cool to see the process of putting together an informative story for the public.
Outside of school, I’ve been lucky enough to travel. This year, I was home in Malaysia twice! I was home in January, and then again later in May, when I surprised my parents (which was definitely a huge highlight). That makes a total of about 4-ish months there which was of course, nice (simply put). I also saw Singapore, Hong Kong, Copenhagen and London, not to forget good old Port Dickson, Kuching, Penang and Melaka. It’s a privilege to be able to see that much of the world, even if it doesn’t always seem like much and I should never forget that.
Lastly, I am reminded of the friendships that defined the year. I want to always remember that Hui Jie sat with me all night at the ER in May, that Shahirah is reliably there for me to share my ridiculous stories and thoughts (and is also a fantastic supplier of hilarious memes and tweets), May May has always picked up the phone when I freak out about anything, Jamie came by with a hug the morning after a terrible interview and Kimberly is definitely one of the best people I’ve met all year. I cannot thank them enough for being part of my life this past year.
On the whole, this year… I don’t know? It seemed to be like any other year. Maybe that’s a result of age? I was thinking earlier that I feel as if I’ve reached a point where I’m unaware of time: I frequently forget what age I am. It’s hard to say whether it was a good year or a bad year… I almost don’t believe it can be either. We have good moments and bad moments every day. There was that week I was sick, busy and lost my keys—it sucked. But there was also the time I aced all my exams even though I binge-watched Jane the Virgin for 2 days straight, I loved that! There were also all those moments in between that make us who we are, even though they leave us with nothing to remember.
I suppose I’ll admit it didn’t feel easy, but I don’t think it quite matters whether it was a “good” or “bad” year. We’re tested regardless, and we—I like to think—grow regardless of good or bad days and years. And I did grow in 2016, in ways I both expected and did not expect to. That’s for sure. So here’s to more of that.
Happy new year, everyone.