The goal that I set for myself in the beginning of 2022 was to be more outgoing and try new opportunities. Before the year began, I wasn't too sure about certain things about myself and I had hoped that by the end of the year I would be more confident in myself while learning and growing. It was, and probably still is, an ambitious goal that I think has no end (to be more confident), but I'd like to think that I've gone so much further than I'd expected.
This year meant a lot to me since there were many cherishable and memorable experiences beyond my gratitude. I couldn't be more grateful and appreciative towards the people I've met this year, whether it's the friends I made in polytechnic or someone I had a quick conversation with. It's exciting to see how these people have changed my life, and possibly vice versa as well.
Every year, I try to set a personal vision for myself to accomplish by the end of the year. In 2021, it was "learning" and "growing". The past year, my goal was "confidence". I recently looked back at conversations I had with my secondary school classmate and never realised how insecure I was; in almost every message, there would be a nervous "haha" or apologising for something really random and miniscule. Don't get wrong: it's important to apologise for things, but I was unconditionally apologetic and would apologise for asking a question almost every time.
Now, I think I've met my vision. I'm more confident in myself and I've started learning how to set boundaries that fit me. Learning how to say no and not crumble immediately to someone else were thing I never thought I'd learn, but now I've started doing exactly that. I still have a long way to go in terms of self-confidence (particularly assertion, which is something I'm still pretty weak at), but I'm glad to be where I am today.
Here are a few lessons I've learnt from this year that I'd love to share in more detail:
- Gaining more self-confidence to try new things
- Being yourself in a new place
- Meeting new friends
Gaining more self-confidence to try new things
I personally believe that one thing that's rarely talked about when it comes to trying new things is the amount of belief you have in yourself that you can do it. For me, the lack of self-confidence played a key role in making me defer from a lot of opportunities, even if those opportunities can bring benefit to me (like increasing my confidence). It almost feels like a catch 22 of its own: I don't want to take part in things because I'm not that confident, but from taking part in things my confidence can grow.
Since late last year, I've started cultivating a "screw it" ideology when it comes to taking part in events. I'd have the registration page open right in my face but still remain hesitant to fill up the form to complete it. This "screw it" ideology challenges the doubts I have: instead of thinking, I do before I think. This has led to me taking part in a few interesting events that I'll talk about soon. Of course, it goes without saying that YMMV and this definitely isn't good for everything, but in instances when you're afraid to try something new for the wrong reasons, it might lend a helping hand.
Over this year, I've explored several events and took part in a few things that I still shudder today in reflection (mainly because the twang of regret hit much later, but waaaaaaay lesser than I'd expected). In many of these instances, I've taken away so much and got to meet new people! Here are a few memorable moments:
CodeDay Singapore 2022
I've written a separate article detailing my experience with CodeDay, so I won't dabble too much on it. Looking back at it, though, it's wild to think how much I've done back then: going to an event alone without the guidance of anyone, being worried about loads of things but still having fun, and just being me when I'm over there.
I got to meet at least a new person and had a blast. While I still recall how miserable my project was, what mattered was that I had fun in the company of others! I even got to meet Sam Poder, a cool companion (who I think I'll keep bumping into now), in person for the very first time.
This was one of the earliest moments where the "screw it" way of thinking really overrode my insecurities and doubts. Instead of thoughts like "what if there's no one to go with" (which, in the end, was none) and "what if X happens?", I thought more along the lines of "screw it, even if X happens, I'll do my best anyway". Reframing your thoughts to be a little more optimistic can really help!
Cloudflare x Supabase meetup
Another time where the "screw it" mentality came in handy was when Supabase announced a developer meetup that would happen in Cloudflare's office in Singapore. I got pretty excited the first time I heard of it since I've been following Supabase for a while and it's at Cloudflare!
I was really hesitant to go (do count the number of times I bring up something about hesitance in this post) but signed up anyway. On the day itself, I even was considering to no-show for the event out of fear. I'd imagine the people who'd attend this meetup: professionals who would have years of experience in the field. How would I even start to have a conversation with them?
When the time came, I showed up, and was immediately thrown into a networking session. I had, and still have, no idea how networking is done. Even though it's about getting to know each other and professionally grow opportunities for yourself, to me, it feels like some intricate dance that you need to do very carefully and get things right. Especially as a polytechnic student who still have years to go before entering the industry, networking felt like such a foreign concept to me. To be thrown right into it was surprising and scary!
I got eased into it by one of the staff members there, though, and we got to talking a little and at least introducing ourselves before the meetup began. Throughout the event, I tagged along with a familiar face — Sam once again — throughout the event. It wasn't a big win (such that I got to know a lot more people) but it went well for the most part!
Geekcamp Singapore 2022
Geekcamp was a pretty interesting experience, and I first got to know about it through Sam who was running a short session there (see, the benefits you reap from a network?). I also tagged along with a few schoolmates from secondary school who I bumped into around the morning of the event.
I was initially afraid that the event would be too complex for me, but turns out that the pacing was just fine. I had a pretty fun time hanging around with Peter and Sam, and I got to hop into a few sessions that were quite interesting. One of the smaller community-based talks was centred around streaming on Twitch, and I found that pretty interesting to learn more about!
When signing up for Geekcamp, the "screw it" mentality wasn't really that evident since it was something that I really wanted to take part in. I guess that goes to show how trying something for more than a time slowly eases you into things!
Being yourself in a new place
2022 marked an important year in my educational journey as well as it marked my entry into the post-secondary school life. Polytechnic is very unlike what secondary and primary school used to be, and while you still have some kind of rigidity (at least in the form of lessons and schedules), you're mostly independent on a lot of things. What you want to learn, how you want to dress, and what you do with your own time are all in your hands.
This change was quite abrupt and I'm still wondering if the transition went well, but so far school life has been awesome. During the time I was sitting for my Os, I remember going through some low moments where I was unsure how I'll be in polytechnic. There'll be so many things to do: new friends to meet, activities to take part in, and so much more, and I might even leave some friends behind as we part ways. One of my biggest worries was about how to really be me in a brand new place.
I'd describe myself as an introvert by heart, so I'm not really that good at putting up masks. There's the concept of "new place, new me" that I wanted to do, but back then I didn't really know what kind of personality I wanted to show. I wasn't even sure about what kind of person I am, really, so why bother keeping up with an appearance anyway? Besides, it doesn't really sit right with me to put on a personality all the time while in polytechnic.
Anyway, the point that I was gonna make was that I eventually decided to just take things as they go, and "be myself" when I start lessons in polytechnic. As many things are, it was a little bit anticlimactic: when talking with classmates and other people, I just don't try too hard to be someone different than I already am.
Polytechnic used to be something I was a little concered about — in terms of what social relationships could be like, how I'd handle the pressure for being more free to do anything I want (pretty ironic!), and generally being in a new environment. Now, it seems like a pretty normal thing: I guess I'm just used to polytechnic now, but I still can relive some of the worries I had back then.
Meeting new friends
It's easy to walk up to someone and get to know them, and I guess in that case I probably have a lot of acquaintances. Making them friends is the next step, and I think I've done a decent amount of work at that. Friendship was something I really admired but also wanted to keep small; I only have a small circle of close friends that I talk to regularly, and I guess that's good and bad at the same time.
I recall sometime before the Os started that I was really afraid about losing the friends I've made in secondary school when we moved on to our own respective courses and schools, and to some capacity some of my worries did come true. I was most afraid about losing my closest friends that I never considered that it's still possible to keep up with them from time to time, even though you won't see them everyday. Most importantly, you don't need to see a person everyday to be their friend. For what it's worth, knowing what I know now, I feel like it might even be better to catch up once in a while: you'll have a lot to talk about in that case!
When orientation week began, I didn't necessarily make it a goal to be acquainted with the class by the end of the week. I didn't really push or avoid conversations, and just talked whenever I could and should. Of course, since I'll see these people almost every day, it'll be a lot more easier to forge bonds and get to know each other better, and that was exactly what happened back around April, when school started.
The thing I learnt was that it's perfectly fine if you aren't talking to your old friends every day, and that getting to know people and even having a conversation with them isn't as complicated and difficult as I once thought it was. It's probably an introvert-by-heart kinda thing when you think that socialising is really difficult.
I don't think I'm that satisfied with the way this post has explained things, so consider it a work-in-progress. Overall, I'm really proud at how far I've come in the past year. I've learnt so much, not just the hard skills but also soft skills, and got to me so many new people. I like to think that I'm doing pretty well for myself currently in polytechnic, and I'm hoping that things will remain that way for this coming year and beyond.
2022 was a success: I am more confident in I am then I was before. I still have yet to come up with a vision that I have for 2023, and I guess that's okay. Taking things as they come and go is a pretty important skill, so I hope to hone that by doing exactly that!
To you reading this, a huge (belated) happy new year. I really hope that this year goes well for you, and you'll be able to look back at the end of the year and see how much you've grown! We're so used to seeing how much we grow in relation with others, but not so much with ourselves in years past. Let's take some time to reflect and think about what we can do to make 2023 a year to better us all. :)