Annual Reviews

2023 Review: Retreat

Note: My year runs from April to March. Each annual review can be found here: 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019.

Overall Reflection

2023 is the year I followed my true nature and allowed myself to retreat even more than I have in my entire life as an introvert. I enjoyed being a hermit and stopped feeling the need to constantly catch up with people in business and life.

I gave myself the space to upgrade the skills I’ve been wanting to master, not feeling like I must create content / marketing / business in order to make money. Instead, respecting my own body and energy, and allowing my brain and body to rest when I felt the need to.

In the last couple of years, it hasn’t been easy living with very little resources because I was no longer willing to make work / business / career decisions based on money. Once I understood what life is about, and the importance of living a spiritually conscious life, I realised how meaningless the material world and the rat race was. Our souls are here for something greater.

Choosing to be broke was a temporary circumstance I was willing to accept because I believed that money will eventually flow into my life once my energy is recognised and invited by the right people.

Even with the lack of financial resources, the experiences I’ve been wanting continued to manifest in my life due to the relationships and the connections I already have. It cemented my belief that life really gives you what you need if you just learn to surrender to it.

There is no need to exert extra energy, push or chase things down when you live in alignment with your true self — good things just magically show up because your energy vibrates on a different level.

My year ended with an unexpected big change — a move to Brisbane. I’ve lived in my current place in Oatlands (Sydney) since 2018, house-sharing with others. I’ve always desired to have my own space, but my financial means dictated my living arrangements.

This time, moving to a new environment (new city, new place, new house) requires less financial resources as my ability and willingness to house-sit for my sister allows her family to go on a new, exciting adventure living abroad in Saudi Arabia — win win.

I welcomed the change with both arms, as I sensed that life was moving me in the direction that’s best for me. New environment means new opportunities, and I will continue to “flow with life” in 2024.

Highlight of 2023

The moments that brought me the most joy in 2023:

Anny Catch Up
  • Saw my friend Anny again after 20 years. We met when we studied and lived in Tokyo in 1999.
  • My brother took me, and my parents to Cirque Du Soleil (Crystal) — The entire show was on ice and was much better than I expected. Super impressed with the lighting, athleticism & acrobatics displayed by the performers on skates.
Brisbane Trip
  • Brisbane trip with my parents to visit my sister and check out her new house
Elena Sydney Visit
  • Met my cousin Elena from LA for the first time when she visited Sydney — we spent 3 days together hanging out, eating and sight seeing
Taiwan Okinawa Trip 1
Taiwan Okinawa Trip 2
  • Taiwan and Okinawa family trip — my first overseas trip in 7 years. Saw some relatives I haven’t seen in years.
Christine Family Sydney Visit
  • Birthday weekend surprise — unexpected catch up with my cousin’s family over my birthday weekend

Things To Celebrate

Obsidian Transformation

Obsidian Transformation

Ever since I dived into the world of Personal Knowledge Management in 2020, I’ve been figuring out what note-making / note-taking app best works for my brain.

After trying 4 different apps since 2013 (Evernote, Bear, Apple Notes, Roam), I decided to stick with Obsidian in 2021 once I saw its potential to support all the things I wanted it to do in all areas of my life.

I wanted one app that allows me to do my thinking and writing for business and marketing development, content creation, creating field guides and references for learning new skills, food tracking, journaling, performing monthly and annual reviews, capturing meeting notes, doing client work, creating SOPs and more.

While I’m naturally good at designing systems, I haven’t had the time and space to really learn what Obsidian can do until 2023.

With the help of LYT 11 Workshop and Obsidian Flight School, I managed to transform one of the most important apps in my PKM ecosystem, and finally made Obsidian work for me with new note-making and map-making skills.

Upgraded Workspace

Upgraded Workspace

At the beginning of 2024, I sensed that something in my life was going to change but I didn’t know exactly what. The casual decluttering and selling things I don’t want or need anymore turned into a complete workspace and tech upgrade.

In order to better support the work I’m wanting to do, I wanted a more efficient workspace to set myself up for success.

This upgrade included an electric standing desk, Macbook Air M1, keyboard, mouse, trackpad and accessories. Most items were bought second hand on Facebook Marketplace, and I was able to get everything I wanted relatively easily and effortlessly.

Purged & Let Go of Old Emotions

happy new year greeting card

This isn’t just a win for the past year, but a huge victory that I’ve been needing for over two decades.

I had a significant on and off relationship that started at 18 (lasted 7 years). However, due to my immaturity, lack of understanding about love, inability to let people in, unable to effectively communicate and express myself, along with the constant suppression of all my emotions led me to unconsciously sabotage that relationship.

It wasn’t until I turned 37 that for the first time in my life, my love life finally made sense to me when I found out that relationship was a sun & moon soul mate connection. I finally understood why I kept getting pulled back to him despite all the time that has passed and all the distance we’ve had between us when we lived in different countries.

This was why I remained single and undatable in the last 15 years, because this guy took up all the space inside me since that fateful day we met in 1999.

Because of this failed significant relationship, my poor body harboured all the pain, heartbreak and trauma I wasn’t able to process for 25 years.

I didn’t even start to try to process the old emotions until 2018, and finally allowed myself to cry about it whenever I periodically felt the need to.

“Crying cleanses the soul.”

— A.D. Posey

At the end of my 2023, every old emotion that my body tried to process over the last 6 years finally all purged out of my system and was released through a massive 2 hour panic attack.

I’ve always known that this was going to be the final hurdle I needed to overcome in order to become the person I’ve always wanted to become, and truly live life the way I wanted to live.

This was at the core of the “transformation onion” that I had been peeling away layer by layer over the past 9 years. This feels like a completion of the last part of my personal transformation journey from “Jenny” to “Jen”.

Now Jen can finally open up to receive someone new.

What I’m Grateful For

  • Headaches became milder
  • Got accepted into LYT 11 on scholarship and participated in an apprenticeship program without monetary investment
  • Feeling open to the idea of dating again without my brain wanting to shut it down
  • Stopped spending money on courses, training and books without my curious mind feeling like it’s always missing out
  • Sold my Nord Stage 3 and replaced it with Roland FP-30X — my new digital piano made me want to play more because it’s a much better match for my needs and I like the feel of the PHA-4 Standard action
  • Allowed myself to enjoy trips generously funded by my parents and not feel guilty or bad about it

Things To Improve

Strengthen My Body

Scrapped Hands Knees

After I fell over and skinned my knees and palms running after my niece at Sun Moon Lake on our family trip in Taiwan, I realised that my legs can no longer move the way they can in my teens and 20s.

It was the wake up call I needed to start strengthening my muscles, improve my balance and flexibility to ensure I have the freedom of movement to do all the activities I want to be able to do in the last decade of my life.

Lessons Learned

Unclear About My Professional Best

I was invited to be a podcast guest on the COO Podcast, however I didn’t perform as well as I could of. The conversation didn’t flow as much as I wanted to and it felt contrived.

Being a slow thinker, I thought it would help me to know the questions in advance so I have time to think my answers through. However, the questions didn’t end up serving me as they were misaligned with my professional experiences.

Eventhough I wanted to talk about productivity, performance and flow and how it relates to our self improvement which ultimately affects how we show up at work, I wasn’t able to talk about it succinctly because I’m still refining my thinking.

I also should have confirmed whether the host was going to stick to her questions (which she did), or have a more natural conversation instead. Another mistake was not giving myself the time I needed because I wanted the podcast to be done, dusted and out of mind.

I felt off the next morning and found myself questioning my work and the direction I’m going with the work I’m wanting to do. I haven’t experienced self doubt for a while so it really threw me off.

What I’ve learned to do whenever I feel off is to move my body instead of trying to push through the problem mentally by continuously sitting at my desk.

I felt more grounded once I really started to think about what I’m exceptional at so I can organise the rest of my professional life around this single focus and activity.

Learning & Connecting Ideas Takes Time

I’ve been a student of marketing since 2010. Along with my Obsidian transformation, I’ve been wanting to create better notes and field guides for myself on the topic of marketing and how different ideas connect.

This was a monumental task and it took way longer than expected due to the extra time I spent thinking about how to best structure my notes, so that my future self can quickly find them, clearly understand my notes, and be able to efficiently execute the principles and concepts as I work on marketing campaigns.

While I’ve spent a king’s ransom on marketing courses, most I found were either too tactical or didn’t resonate with how I want to do marketing.

The ones that resonated were difficult to implement because either the teaching style didn’t match my learning style, or the concepts were too high level. So I continuously experienced mental friction with all the materials I came across over the past decade.

After years and years of wading through marketing information, and realising that I needed to unlearn most things I learned in the past, I wanted to be able to effectively connect the dots on my own and create my own learning and implementation system based on what resonates with me and how I want to do marketing.

Not Forcing Creative Energy

When I attempted to work on my marketing campaign, the writing wasn’t flowing as much as I wanted to eventhough my mentor gave me the structure of what he thinks will create a great Season 1 of marketing for my business.

The work felt forced on the back of the research I had done. While I gave myself space to think and not force myself to write when ideas were not coming together, the reality was that the energy to create a marketing campaign just wasn’t there.

When I switched my focus to write about my health journey… the words, images and structure all came together rather effortlessly since all the ingredients I needed to create the articles were already there — the pent up energy of my desire to write about my health journey 3 years ago was already building in the background.

Once I accepted how I felt about writing on 2 different topics, it became clear to me which one was the right one to focus on. Because the creative energy to share my health journey was finally here, I was able to produce 3 articles (6,655 words) in 1 week that felt rather effortless.

Recap 2023 Intentions

Reduce headache & period symptoms

On track — continuously tracking my nutrition, buying and eating less processed food and being mindful about eating healthy has reduced the severity of the headaches and period symptoms I was experiencing.

Continue experimenting with being nocturnal

In progress — I am still trying to see how true this is for me, as I continue to follow my energy and what my body wants to do.

Deepen human design knowledge and skills

Nope — I never carved out enough time and space to be able to dive into this body of work, eventhough I am continuously fascinated by this knowledge.

Develop and hone writing & content creation skills

Nope — I couldn’t get to the writing and content creation because my PKM system was not working for me. It took a lot of time and energy to restructure Obsidian so that I can ensure it will continue to work for my future self.

Process and let go of old emotions

Done — This was the final nail in the coffin that I had hoped for. I was glad that my body was finally able to do what it needed for me to move into a new chapter of life.

More meaningful conversations with people and deepen existing relationships

In progress — Allowing conversations to happen organically rather than forcing catch ups. Seeing people reappear in my life this past year and getting in touch without me initiating has been interesting.

Build on and expand my online world

Nope — The focus in the past year hasn’t been on my professional life and I’m ok with that.

Start paying off debts

Nope — Because I prioritised my personal life, work opportunities and money hasn’t started flowing for me yet and I’m ok with that.

Improve piano skills

In progress — I’ve managed to start tackling more technically challenging pieces this year (Clair de lune – Claude Debussy), and I will continue to do so to maintain my skills and improve on my craft. Learned these:

More adventures and enjoyment, more fun with family

Done — Trips with my family has been a highlight this past year, and I plan on continuing to prioritise time with them as my parents become older.

2024 Intentions

  • Become stronger and fitter
  • Open up to love and receive someone new
  • Improve human design knowledge
  • Find remote job that aligns with my strengths and energy
  • Build my online world
  • Start paying off debts
  • Maintain and improve piano skills
  • Continue to allow adventure and enjoyment to come into my life

After 9 years of deep self work, I finally feel like there’s nothing left of “Jenny” that I’m carrying into the new year.

Everything that no longer serves “Jen” (the person I’ve worked hard at becoming) — the stories, resentment, guilt, limiting beliefs, negative emotions, unrealistic goals, material things and toxic people… have been let go.

I feel like I have a clean slate mentally, emotionally and spiritually to freely move into the new year with only the things I know I ultimately want, and to trust myself to live a life with no regrets.

I’m Jen Kuo — operational efficiency consultant, systems thinker, writer. But really, I’m a multi-passionate creator.

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