Of all my years of life, 2021 was by far the one with the most highs and lows. I thought moving and leading a life in London was the most challenging thing I had done until last year. Not only was the year one full of challenges and heartbreaks, but also transition and growth. It made me realize that there will never be a single moment in my life where I will be worry-free–and I’m not trying to be pessimistic here. But life is full of challenges that twist and mold you in different ways. The intense emotions I felt in my early days in London were a completely different experience to what I felt last year as I transitioned (or at least tried to) back to America. Here’s what I got up to last year that truly helped me embrace my 2022 word of the year.
Isolation & Loneliness
With the pandemic going into its second year coupled with the fact that my life and the people in it looked completely different from life in London and the life of when I was last at home at age 18–I felt very isolated and alone most of the time. Sure, Zoom catch-ups and virtual happy hours were a thing, but I was also dealing with trying to re-adapt to the life I led in America almost a decade prior. To make it harder, logistics for calling, timezones differences, and lifestyle changes made it all the more complicated. There were times when I wanted to call up an old friend but realized that the last I spoke to them was when I was last living in America. Though I should have swallowed the pride and hit the call button, the social isolation got the best of me and numbed me with anxiety.
Reverse Culture Shock
This was the very thing that rocked my year. The emotional and psychological strain erupting from re-adjusting to life back home was one that I never anticipated. My reverse culture shock came in two forms: the first being back “home” in a place where people had evolved so much and had tangible objects to show for it in the form of a house, children, marriage, etcetera. The second was in the form of my identity. My cultural identity was a big part of who I was growing up in America, but that changed being an immigrant in the UK for so long. You might remember reading in my expat experience series, that I often felt I had to suppress who I was to adapt and find ways to relate to people around me. Over time, that continuous suppression erased a lot of what I was once comfortable with–so when I came back, it felt foreign and tedious to “find myself” all over again.
The reverse culture shock threw me in a whirlwind of emotions from anger, anxiety, sadness, and overwhelm. To top it off, I wasn’t sure what I was experiencing or could pinpoint the root cause. And just when I thought I found an avenue to help me persevere, I lost my support line. Two of my grandparents passed away just weeks from one another and just weeks before I thought I would be able to reunite with them again. A lot of my identity was shaped by them and I thought sitting down to speak to them and listening to their values would give me a starting point to re-adapt. With a combination of therapy, journaling, and self-assessments, progress is the direction I’m moving towards.
Pivoting in My Career
No year has left me feeling empty with career moves. Coming back from the UK with a whole new set of skills and a very different outlook and experience meant I needed to find something that suited me well into retirement. As much as I wanted to take things slow, I was motivated to do more, be more, and achieve more as it helped suppress my reverse culture shock. Career building was what I was becoming obsessed with because it meant I was establishing roots at home again.
I’m proud to say that 2021 was the most formative year of my professional life in terms of creativity, courage, and adaptability. Not only did I pivot in my career, but also took along everything I achieved throughout my professional life to build a set of services and offerings that truly set me apart. If you’re going through or looking for a new career direction, I’ve shared my tips and experiences on how to pivot in your career.
Crafting my Next Chapter
After a few solid months of therapy and positive affirmations, my mind started to elucidate the flurry of emotions that circulated in my head since my move back and the pandemic truly setting in. Eventually, I started making plans to set one foot forward, and then another, and then another until I was finally feeling confident walking on my own. With a pen and paper in hand, I drew what I knew, where I came from, what I wanted, what I demanded, and what I was not going to be afraid of. This is what birthed the start of a career trajectory that I could not have ever dreamt about. In under a year, I was asked to speak at global conferences, quoted in the national press, and became the go-to strategist in the AI and machine learning space. I’m still riding on the high, but I wanted to take a moment to embrace where I am.
My 2022 Word of the Year: Healing
Since 2021 felt tumultuous, I knew I wanted to take time to heal. There were layers of generational, cultural, and societal trauma that I was so fixated on that are finally at a place where I feel comfortable to look in the eye and acknowledge that it’s a thing of the past. I want this year to focus on the things that unlock my body’s ability to heal itself on an emotional, physical and spiritual level. As of right now, I’m not sure what that might look like, but I know that the value of self-healing is that I can tailor the process to my needs and comfort.