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Reflection on 2020

Monday, 4 January 2021

2020 has been a year of learning and growth for me, most of the time the painful way, but I feel that it’s also a year of gratitude and privilege. Here’s a recap, just written down by theme.

On life

  • There’s no more important thing in life than a family. Whatever happens to you, you always seek help and refuge in the family. Spend more time with them, and respect them more.
  • “Life is too short, do things that make you happy” rings true, but I would add, do things that make your family happy. Do the things that not only make you happy, but also others close to you. There’s no use if you are happy but your family isn’t. Everything circles back.
  • Mental health is as important as physical health. If you take care of the mental health, usually the physical health follows. It can be hard the other way around.
  • “Everything big is a collection of little things”. My wife said this and I agree. Appreciate the little things, and the big things will follow. For example — to build a good relationship, you need to pay attention to the little things, like making stupid jokes, keeping that old pair of socks that you love, or sending a pack of snack and food for families far away.
  • “By being present, mindful and aware, we can see everything.” I also agree to this. I am guilty of not doing this, often time I am trapped in work worries too much and not being present when my family is around. I aspire to prioritize this more in 2021.
  • “Losses could be blessings”. We don’t know what we need. We only know what we want. “Bad” is in our opinion, it might be good for our needs. With hardship, comes ease, if we know where to look.

On career

  • Separate work and life. Your work is not you. There’s a saying that there’s no such thing as work-life balance, it’s actually one. I disagree. No matter how much you love your work, it should be clearly separated. Your life is more about how you lead your life as it is and not related to what you do for a living or for a cause. Over-immersion is bad, and separating both context allows you to detach yourself and realize that there’s more to life than work.
  • Play for the long game if it benefits your life. If you think the work you’re doing will benefit your life or personal dream in the long run, by all means, do it.
  • Treat feedback first as opinion. Then, we clarify/validate this opinion against data, standard, or common sense. This allows you to feel better about it, be less defensive (for the receiver) and less offensive (for the giver) and potentially get to better places for everyone.
  • Career can be messy and unfair. Not everyone has the same trajectory, and not everyone is a good fit in the first shot. You can fast forward, or take multiple steps back. Do what you think is good for yourself.

By chronology

  • January 2020: I was so happy to have new team members in my team over at Vrbo, both of whom I have interviewed for months since around August 2019. Finally they joined. I also had my last travel, which was to Japan, before the pandemic came. Had fun in the Awwwards Conference Tokyo (here’s one of my favourite talks) and went to visit my favourite town yet: Kamakura.
  • February 2020: Got terribly sick for weeks after coming home from Japan. I guess it must be the flu, or maybe I got covid already? I was stoked nonetheless to start working with the new team/projects I was in. Terrible end of month though, I got laid off from Vrbo after 3,5 years. Leaving behind a team I loved! :(
  • March 2020: Shittiest month ever. I got laid off, and was scrambling for work. Applying to multiple jobs. I realized that my portfolio just wasn’t ready, but I kept improving on every interview. Every discussion was in the beginning of things, so no certainty yet, but lucky my friends over at Karyakarsa offered me a freelance opportunity. I started gaming like most of us in a pandemic, and started too late on Uncharted series. We also spoke to the landlord about the possibility of us ending the lease early.
  • April 2020: Still continuing to interview, now coming down to three companies. Was already preparing to go back to Indonesia by end of May in case things don’t work out. Luckily, Shopify got me an offer. One other rejected me, and I said to one Indonesia-based company that I need to stay in Singapore for a while. Circuit breaker/lockdown in Singapore, meaning we can’t go outside except for essential activities. Schools are closed. Started my new blog called “Unlearn UX”.
  • May 2020: Hardest days of waiting for my Singapore visa. If I didn’t get it in time, we all have to return to Indonesia first, which is not too bad but will mean we have to move things around, in a pandemic. Luckily, I got my visa in time, as well as my wife’s and child’s. I started at Shopify on May 26. Circuit breaker extended.
  • June 2020: Practically onboarding month for Shopify. Learned a lot about the breadth of the company, as well as the scope of the team here in APAC. Singapore entered Phase 1 of reopening, meaning we could do some activities outside, schools reopened. Got a letter from my permanent residency application that I needed to wait a lot longer because of the pandemic. Good side though: it’s not a rejection.
  • July 2020: Shopify had a lot of onboarding materials, and they allow any new-joiners to take it easy in the first 3 months. Started my first Youtube/podcast interviewing Indonesian designers: “Design 1-on-1”. Singapore Phase 2 reopening, meaning we can meet more people.
  • August 2020: Started working on my first big project in the company. Took our first staycation.
  • September 2020: Started to look for new place to stay since our apartment lease ends on October. A lot of apartment viewings. Big project work at work. Started playing Desperados III on PlayStation.
  • October 2020: Pretty much uneventful, but we decided to stay on in our apartment, after discovering that the owner prefers us stay — and he’s been really kind to us.
  • November 2020: The most stressful month of the year after March 2020, I can’t tell publicly why. However, the fun thing is, the kid graduated to K2!
  • December 2020: Started getting more Legos again after 2 years, and redesigned my personal website (this one!). Had a good 2-week break from work, which we went for another staycation, and explored a bit more of Singapore.


It’s a miserable year in many aspects, but I feel privileged and lucky. I hope in 2021, I could find a better mental state to face any adversity, and find more spark in work. I also wish to accept life as it is, appreciate family more and be more thankful in general.

Also on Medium

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