2022 Year in Review
A reflection on the most intense year of my life so far
This is my Year In Review. It's a self-indulgent post I make every year to reflect on the big lessons and experiences of the year. You can check out previous ones here:
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As for this year, it's been the most intense one of my life so far.
2022 was marked by some big life transitions, big struggles, and big joys. Let's start with the obvious:
Baby Lewis arrived
The first half of the year was dominated by preparing for baby. The second half was dominated by trying to get enough sleep.
My kid is freaking adorable and I love him more than anything. And, at risk of sounding like every parent ever, I have to say: They REALLY don't tell you how hard having a newborn is. (And it's made me feel more strongly than ever that no one should ever be forced to take on the responsibility of childbirth and parenthood against their will.)
I remember one day watching my baby nap in his swing (with careful supervision) and literally breaking down crying—because he looked so cozy, and I was jealous! I too wanted to be snuggled up in a gentle swing, snoozing away, not a care in the world...
We're past those days now, thank god. Baby is army crawling and babbling away and is so much fun, even when he's trying to grab everything in sight.
We've even managed to coax out a few pseudo-words. Rick has solidified baby’s first word as “dada,” but really the only word baby cares about these days is "eggy." Everything is "eggy." We don't know what it means, and I don't know if he does, but he's committed to the bit.
I was so scared of having a kid. And honestly? The fears were justified. Life is wildly different than it used to be. I rarely leave the house. I rarely see my friends. I look forward to my 15-minute shower like I used to look forward to the weekend.
But it was also the absolute best decision we could have made. These months have required me to grow rapidly as a person—something I value deeply. I know myself more. I feel like my understanding of compassion has grown. I have a new kind of relationship with my own parents, and of course I get to watch this amazing kid begin to engage with the world. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
Meanwhile, the ongoing saga of Rick's knees
This is an old topic. Are you tired of hearing about it? Because we're tired of living it. But here we go:
Since childhood, my husband has been someone who plays hard. The kind who slides into home base with a cigarette in his mouth, chops wood in spite of a pulled muscle, and dives for a ball with zero care for the literal rocks on the ground.
His laissez-faire approach to injuries has been the bane of our relationship... and also kind of hot? (Don't tell him.) But in October of last year, the wear and tear caught up to him. His knees said NOPE and he lost the ability to walk more than a few steps at a time.
Fast-forward to now. He's gone through surgery in both knees and experienced endless pain in recovery. It has been so hard—for him, the physical pain and the frustration of not being able to help the way he planned; for me, the exhaustion of caring for a newborn with limited support.
His healing journey has been a roller coaster. But now, he's finally able to stand for longer amounts of time and even has periods when his knees don't hurt!
We had no idea this process would take so damn long, and there were many days when everything felt hopeless. But we see the light at the end of the tunnel, and we're walking toward it.
Well, hobbling toward it. Slowly. And with lots of breaks.
WHAT CAN WE EAT?
Okay, at risk of making this post a complaint fest about 2022 (it’s okay! we’ve made it through!), I do have to share the final layer of crazy that has defined this year: the conundrum of food.
In January, Rick got a blood test that marked positive for Celiac disease. That meant no more gluten.
Luckily, Rick’s not much of a bread guy (can you imagine??). And we’re lucky to live in a time when more restaurants are aware of how to manage customers with food restrictions.
But gluten contamination is still a big problem. We have, like, three safe takeout options.
So I got in the swing of gluten-free cooking—or enough of it to keep us fed. We were moving forward! But then baby came along, and he got inspired to have his own food problems, too. At eight weeks, he started having really painful stomach issues from my breastmilk. I had to cut out cow’s milk and soy, and then other common allergens, and then everything except a few safe foods in order to get his stomach issues and eczema under control. (I ate the same meal every day for literally weeks.)
But it worked! Mostly! With baby feeling better, I was able to reintroduce foods one at a time to try to pinpoint the exact culprits. We then got them confirmed by an allergist. Right now, we know he’s allergic to at least nine different foods, including cow's milk, peanuts, and garlic. And probably more foods that we didn't get to test.
I expect he'll grow out of some or all of them. Already, I'm able to eat some of the trigger foods without him showing any reaction. But DUDE??
We found out my mom’s a twin
Alright, we need to make hard left turn here. This could be a post in itself, but here are the cliff notes:
I am half Korean on my mom’s side. She was adopted by a White family here in the US when she was a baby. She never knew her biological family.
With my mom’s blessing, my sister took a DNA test. And we found a match. Turns out she has some Korean cousins living here in the US.
After lots of messages and some sharing of old photos, we were able to find where she fits in the family tree. Her parents were rural rice farmers. Her mother passed away soon after her birth, at which point she AND HER TWIN were given up for adoption. Their father passed just a few years ago. But my mom has three older siblings in Korea.
Her twin was adopted out somewhere else in the world. We have no way to find them. The orphanage they were at was unofficial; it no longer exists. We can only hope that they, or their children if they have any, take a DNA test too.
This is obviously totally nuts. But we’re all excited. I’ve been messaging with my aunt (my aunt!) through a translator and utterly failing at learning Korean. We got to meet some of my mom’s Korean-American cousins (the ones my sister matched with) earlier this year, and we hope to meet the rest of the family at some point.
Anyway, I'm hopeful as fuck for the new year
I have walked through the fires of sleepless nights. I have trained in the depths of eczema-covered hell. I AM READY FOR YOU, 2023.
Really though, it finally feels like we're on an upward trajectory. Baby is sleeping better, eating better, and feeling better. Husband is walking better. We are all mental health-ing better. Of course, COVID isn't over, especially for those of us with young kids or immunocompromised family at home. It seems few people are masking up these days, and frankly that makes going out a real risk for us.
But now that baby's finally had his first COVID vaccine and is over six months old, I'm feeling a wee bit more comfortable about taking him to public places and having some kind of a life again.
We’re also hoping to meet my mom’s Korean siblings sometime this year. Maybe we’ll go there? They’ll come here? Not sure what’s going to happen, but it’s all just incredible.
What I learned in 2022
On an episode of the Bewildered podcast (I've listened to too many to recall which one exactly), Martha Beck and Rowan Mangan share an ancient parable of a group of Confucianists who see a man fall over the edge of a waterfall. Of course, they think he's dead and debate how to retrieve his body. But suddenly the man appears on the edge of the river and climbs out. "How did you survive that?" they ask. "It's easy," he replies, "I’ve learned the river. I go up when the water goes up, and down when the water goes down."
That's a paraphrase, but the story stuck with me. In the long nights when my kid gave a big middle finger to sleep, I would get so frustrated. I'd rock him and rock him, trying not to cry as I panicked over how awful I'd feel the next day.
But all this did was double the suffering. The sleeplessness would happen no matter what. But when I resisted it, then not only was I going to struggle the following day, I was struggling all night, too.
When I finally let go of all of my notions of how a night is supposed to be (i.e. I get sleep) and instead learned to ride the ups and downs, things finally felt a little easier. I was still exhausted, but I wasn't resentful. Come what may.
I've had to learn that same lesson in so many ways this year. For example, as soon as I was recovered from the birth, I wanted so badly to "get back out there." I set little challenges for myself to take baby to the store, to visit family with him, to go out with friends. And every single outing used up what little energy reserves I had. I eventually had to admit it just wasn't worth it. And when I at last let go of my preconceived notions of what the postpartum period should look like (the mom who brunches with baby in the stroller! the mom who has friends over and serves cookies she baked at nap time!), I once again found some peace and was able to enjoy this time for what it was.
My lesson this year was to let things be easy. To ride the wave. I don't need to force my life to conform to some image in my head. I'm just here to experience it all.
Favorite books of 2022
For obvious reasons, I have not had nearly as much time to read as I have in the past. However, there have been a few standout books this year that I'd recommend again and again.
(Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate and earn a commission on qualifying purchases when you use my links.)
The Kingdoms by Natasha Pulley
I joined a book club a month before baby was due. I haven't been back since. But this is one of the books we read, and it was such a treat. A fantastical, emotional, mysterious story set in an England that's not quite England. I'll leave it at that.
The Wandering Inn by pirateaba
The Wandering Inn is a web novel about a girl who walks into a bathroom and finds herself suddenly transported to another world—one that, mysteriously, operates like a fantasy video game. The first few chapters are deceivingly straightforward. But then the plot starts to get deliciously more complicated. It’s something akin to Game of Thrones meets Chronicles of Narnia meets World of Warcraft. My husband and I are reading it together and it has made both of us genuinely laugh and cry. It’s free to read online or you can get it on Kindle or Audible.
Expecting Better by Emily Oster
Give this one to your anxious pregnant friends. Emily Oster is a economics professor at Brown University who is uniquely positioned to interpret health studies for the masses. She takes a close look at the studies behind the current pregnancy advice—everything from "don't exercise too much" to "never drink caffeine"—and shares the exact limits, or in many cases, explains why the guidelines are bunk to begin with. I'm a die hard fan.
Untamed by Glennon Doyle
I might have actually read this in 2021. But it really impacted me this year. If you somehow haven't heard of this book yet, author Glennon Doyle shares her journey of coming home to herself. It's the story of how she left a deeply fractured marriage and fell in love with her wife Abby—and how she, Abby, and her ex-husband have learned to co-parent their kids and create a truer and more beautiful life than they ever could have imagined. Her podcast We Can Do Hard Things has been in my ears this entire year.
What's coming in 2023
At last, the fun part! Here are my grand plans, loosely held. I seem to be notoriously bad at accurately predicting what I'll actually end up doing in the new year—big promises, poor follow-through, etc. But no matter. Here's what I'm most excited about right now:
THE OUTSIDE WORLD
Oh man oh man oh man. Did you know there's this whole place outside these four walls? They have trees there. Real trees.
I am so ready to spend more time out of the house. The weather just got cool enough a month or two ago for me to resume my regular walks. (In the desert, summer is our trapped-inside season.) And now, baby's awake long enough in between naps for me to actually take him places beyond our neighborhood without too much stress. I'm picturing art museums, lunch meetups, thrift store hopping...
Parties. I desperately want parties. I want afternoon barbecues, evening bonfires. Laughing over a board game, getting just a little tipsy. I want to bar hop, to feel young again, to remember there's a world of people beyond my little neighborhood.
I spend my free time lately thinking about occasions that deserve a party. Not because I'll actually host that many. In truth, parties exhaust me. I'll probably do one gathering and remember why I don't host parties.
But right now, all I want is to get people together and laugh with them. I think most folks, at least in the US, got over their COVID lockdown withdrawals last year. But aside from one jubilant month of DO EVERYTHING after the first vaccine came out and before Delta hit, I haven't done much since early 2020.
I want it all. Good people, good food, good drink. It's time.
In the aforementioned jubilant month of 2021, I’d gotten second ear piercings. I then proceeded to panic over their placement for three days and ultimately remove them in a fit of perfectionist anxiety. Since then, I’ve been a little freaked to get anything else done.
But I still want cool body stuff. I’ve been thinking about a tattoo for years. And I think it’s time. I believe I am a tattooed person at heart, if not yet at skin!
Maybe I’ll get those piercings redone, too.
Commitment to novelty
I remember as a kid hearing that "life goes faster as you get older" and finding it super depressing, if a bit unlikely.
But turns out that it does go faster. And it IS depressing!
I’ve let two years of my life go by in a haze. 2022 was only salvaged by a certain little someone who oozes memory-making by the minute. But I cannot let another single year of my life pass me by.
I think a big cause of the quickening years is that we get into our ruts of sameness. So my current game plan? Committing to one novel experience a week. It could be as small as visiting a new park, making a new recipe, or meeting up with a friend. But a weekly dose of novelty adds up to a year of memorable life experiences. That's all I'm after.
And my big plan: Starting a product business
Okay, this is the one that I'm nervous to share. I have dabbled in so many different career paths. What will you think of me trying out yet another? But then I remember that life is short, and all that matters is going for it—as many times as it takes.
I was listening to Dan Pink on The Unmistakable Creative podcast share his research on regret. He talked about how some regrets are things we wish we hadn't done—going into debt, for example. But far more regrets are the things we didn't do. Like starting a business.
I heard that and congratulated myself for a moment. Ha, at least I've done that one!
But then I realized, no, I actually haven't.
I did start a business… But it wasn't the business I wanted.
In 2017, I left my job to start freelancing. I was excited to be a business owner. Many of you have been following along with that journey ever since. But while I found some success in that path, it never really took off. It took me a long time to realize this was because it was never the right fit.
Meanwhile, for the past few years, every time I hear a physical product business owner talk about their work, I am enraptured. I feel like that kind of business is my final frontier. Or my next frontier, at least.
I don't know yet what form it will take. But I do know that if I don't go for it, I'll be disappointed with myself. So I’d better get moving.
Cheers to the new year
Thank you for being a reader of this little newsletter. I hope your 2023 is full of love, beauty, new experiences, and good people. May we all learn to be more honest with ourselves, take action in spite of fear, and chase after the life choices that feel like fresh air.