2022 Reflection

The Gypsy and the Traveling Suitcase

Reflections on a year of navigating uncertainty and constant change

Aarti Amalean

--

Favorite place I travelled this year — Lake Como, Italy

It’s that time of year again; the light-hearted holiday mood sets in, the Christmas carols play in the background, and the feeling of relief that another year is coming to a close. It’s that time of year for the annual reflection on the challenges and lessons learned of yet another eventful year.

You might be curious about the title of this years reflection. Over the course of this year, multiple people have referred to me as a “gypsy”. The word gypsy has two definitions:

  1. “a person originating from South Asia and traditionally having an itinerant way of life, living widely dispersed across Europe and the Americas”
  2. “a nomadic or a free-spirited person”

This was me this year. I embraced the life of a digital nomad by living in three different countries every few months, from Sri Lanka to the United States of America to the United Kingdom. I changed my living situation over a dozen times and packed my suitcase more times than I can count. Each time I moved, it felt like I lived a different life — a different chapter filled with immense growth. The new environments pushed me to adapt quickly and embrace constant change. It taught me the importance of being resilient and playing a fair game with the cards being dealt. It pushed me to sit in the discomfort of unpredictability and uncertainty. I placed a premium on growing current friendships and fostering new ones. I had the pleasure of meeting wonderful people across different cities that made each place feel like home. I was a gypsy with the traveling suitcase.

These annual reflections give me the space to be reflective, to zoom out and view the challenges, the ups and downs, the rollercoasters of each year with a lens of hindsight and gratitude.

Personally

2022 was a pivotal year of personal growth. I began the year in Sri Lanka where I had the opportunity of escaping the Northeast winters in the US and work remotely for Vimeo. My work schedule was flipped with a 4pm to 12am schedule that ran on multiple doses of caffeine. I was grateful for the ability to work remotely from my childhood home and foster deeper connections with my family and friends.

Unfortunately, the dream of working remotely from the island ended as Sri Lanka encountered it’s worst economic crisis since 1968. Sri Lanka went through months of power outages, some lasting for over 20+ hours. The country suffered from a foreign currency crisis and was forced to default in April. As a result of cutting costs, the previous government limited supply of basic necessities such as food, petrol, medicines, and gas for cooking. People were struggling to keep their businesses afloat due to a lack of electricity, tourism plummeted due to the economic uncertainty, inflation skyrocketed at an average of 66% YoY in October, and the value of the currency depreciated by 4x. It’s heartbreaking to know that the country you once knew to be home no longer holds that value.

As I moved back to New York, I realized the importance of community. New York is a lonely city unless you have community. I made it a priority to invest in friendships and build meaningful connections. Remote work is here to stay, and as a result, building professional relationships with colleagues was a challenge. I genuinely miss the water-cooler conversations that turned colleagues into friends. I lived in different neighborhoods — from Upper Manhattan to Williamsburg. I realized the importance of adapting to new environments, being flexible when things don’t go as planned, and making the best out of a current situation.

Further embracing the nomad life, I worked remotely from London over the summer and traveled around Italy. As I lived in many different cities and experienced new perspectives, I realized the value of stability, consistency, and community. As I constantly challenged my comfort zone, my identity and sense of home became apparent. Home was everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Home was the community I surrounded myself with. Home was my definition of purpose. Home was within me.

Professionally

I began the year setting out professional goals of what I wanted to achieve by the end of the year.

I quit my job to re-define what a life of happiness, fulfillment, and purpose meant to me. This was the hardest decision I made all year. To choose to leave a job that provided stability in a time of economic volatility and live in the discomfort of future uncertainty.

I applied to over 25 jobs this year, got to the final stages of only three of those positions, only to get rejected by all three. I’ve had multiple rejections and set backs this year. It felt awful. There were days of grief over the painted fantasy of a new job and a new life that got taken away by a rejection email.

I had a linear list of professional goals and met none of them. Not because I didn’t aspire to meet them, but because circumstances changed. I reminded myself that it’s ok when things don’t work out the way you planned. Nine out of ten times things don’t work out the way you think it would. The right things have a way of taking their time and perseverance will only make the journey worth it.

Quitting my job opened up new avenues of professional growth. I invested time in learning and development — I partook in Ascend’s Women’s Leadership in Business program, I taught myself new skills such as illustration, I read books on technology and the future of design, and had the headspace to draft out potential business ideas as a stream of passive income. The one thing we don’t get back is time and quitting my job gave me the time to work on improving myself for the next opportunity that comes my way.

📚 Reading list

The following books grounded me and provided a sense of guidance throughout this year:

  1. Sapiens: A Graphic History, Volume 1 — The Birth of Humankind — David Vandermeulen
  2. My Life in Full: Work, Family, and Our Future Indra Nooyi
  3. SprintJake Knapp
  4. Product-Led OnboardingRamli John
  5. AttachedAmir Levine
  6. Come as You Are Emily Nagoski
  7. Invisible WomenCaroline Criado Pérez
  8. Girls That InvestSimran Kaur
  9. The Design of Everyday Things Don Norman
  10. Lighter Yung Pueblo
  11. Erotic Stories for Punjabi WidowsBalli Kaur Jaswal
  12. Wrong Place Wrong TimeGillian McAllister
  13. The Silent Patient Alex Michaelides
  14. The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches Sangu Mandanna
  15. A Good Girls Guide to MurderHolly Jackson

Lessons learned

  1. Change is the only certainty there is.
  2. Resilience will get you through anything. I followed this four step framework to build resilience: https://every.to/rethinking-resilience/how-to-cultivate-resilience-a-four-part-framework
  3. When things don’t work out, trust that there is always a silver lining.
  4. Surround yourself with people that comfort your soul — we are an interdependent species and there’s no better feeling than the warmth of true friendship.
  5. Be true to yourself. Follow your intuition, listen to the unspoken voice of your body telling you what you need.
  6. Know your worth. Leave situations when they no longer serve you. Focus on the people, places, and aspects of your life that provide value and fulfillment.
  7. Give your 100% to the things you want and meaning will follow. Doing things because of society’s expectations will only weigh you down.
  8. Throw the plan away — not everything goes according to plan. Adapt. Be flexible. Ride the waves. Ride the rollercoaster of the ups and downs. This is part of life. This is how it’s supposed to be. The only constants are the ups and downs. There’s no such thing as a straight line in life.
  9. Set inspiring goals and aspire to achieve them.
  10. If you don’t achieve your goals, reflect. What could you have done better for next time?
  11. Be present. This very exact moment will never happen again.
  12. Live. Dance more, travel more, invest in community.
  13. The time is now. Use your time wisely. Communicate effectively, set boundaries, and prioritize.
  14. Never stop investing in yourself.

Life is full of ups and downs. It is a constant rollercoaster. There are days where you can feel on top of the world and there are days where you want to shut the world out. Mindset will navigate you throughout this journey. Enjoy the ride. Live in the present, appreciate the life in front of you.

Until next year, with gratitude,

Aarti Amalean.

--

--

Aarti Amalean

Creative artist turned product designer, fascinated by technology, human connection, and social good