Gone in a flash: January

I’ve chalked a plan to keep up my now nearly dormant blogging habits. It’s specifically an attempt to journal regularly as I’ve realized that this activity is indeed self-enlightening and helps me organize my thoughts quite well. To add to this, since the pandemic appears to be blurring days at this juncture, I’d like to sharpen them by summing each month that goes by this year.

2022 starts off on a neutral foot in this island country, though the rest of the world is rife with Omicron, the new variant to join the Covid party. Unbeknownst to many, the new year is welcomed modestly this time and we are fortunate to not be standing next to a very dark Sky Tower that does not burst into a brilliant display of fireworks. I almost miss the countdown and suddenly it’s no longer 2021. H and I get home after hanging out with a few other friends, eager to get into our comfy beds.

Barely a week passes by and I am consumed by listlessness in the absence of an agenda. I can’t wait to get back to work; it becomes increasingly clear that WFH isn’t my cup of tea and I can’t deal with more lock-downs. Thankfully, my supervisor gets in touch with me soon after to inform that I can move my workstation back to campus. Meanwhile, H and I voraciously consume K-dramas over dinner each night, and we contemplate on buying a Chromecast for the supposedly defunct TV in our living room (we do end up buying one).

I get a haircut from a new salon after downloading several reference pictures for the look I am excited to sport. Disappointingly, the style doesn’t live up to my standards besides making my hair look sleek and tamed. I am aggravated for having shelled out 75 bucks.

The very next day, H and I get our booster doses of the Pfizer vaccine. It reassures us to know that we are ready to take on Omicron when it invariably breaks into the community here. We are lucky to not have major symptoms post shot. My sore arm recovers within a couple of days.

While I resolve to not set unrealistic goals for the year, I toy with the idea of settling into a daily, simple skincare routine. I can’t remember – for the life of me – what fuels this thought, but it is definitely to do with my dark circles and the fact that I’ll be hitting 30 next year. I watch a bunch of YouTube videos tailored for beginners like me. I am attracted to K-beauty products, thanks to rave reviews and positive results from folks who’ve used them regularly. I look up a few sites that sell these products and voila! there’s a store close to my place. So I officially dip my legs into the Sea Of Skincare Routines and order myself an oil cleanser (I already own a water based one), a toner, an exfoliating essence for white head removal (to be used sparingly), moisturizer and an eye cream (because why not). After waiting impatiently for over a week, a package arrives. That night, I massage these products onto my face and pamper myself. I wonder why I waited for this long to care for my skin. Overall, my skin reacts well to them and I’m satisfied.

Meanwhile, I am eager to remain consistent with my reading habits. I download a few books from Libgen and wait for a copy of Sapiens A Graphic History, Volume 1: The Birth of Humankind to arrive at the library. I read a warm, comforting novel by Toshikazu Kawaguchi – Before the Coffee Gets Cold – that makes me crave coffee more than I usually do. Then, I switch to Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism – Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World as it has been a while since I’ve got my hands on a meaty work of non-fiction. I doubt my decision immediately; I feel like I’m channeling an IIT/Pilani techbro whose reading palette primarily comprises mainstream self-help books. Nevertheless, I attempt to be open-minded. In fact, I jot down notes in the hope that Newport’s tips will help me wean off my unhealthy digital habits. Half-way through, I begin to notice the lack of intersectionality in his strategies, served with a heavy dose of ableism and privilege. My notes eventually transform into a rough review of sorts, that I trim later and post on Goodreads. What stays with me the most is the advice to value my time and be aware of how smartphones and social media are designed to sabotage my attention.

By mid January, I’ve moved back to campus. I observe my productivity increase in leaps and bounds, and work hard at setting this massive MD simulation which naturally comes with its share of aggravating errors. I devote a big chunk of my leisure time to indoor bouldering and buy myself a ten-pass at the new boulder gym situated in west Auckland. I feel myself grow stronger with each session and notice myself get more into the sport. It’s a big deal as until now I’ve always berated myself for not having had an athletic bone in me. I bombard Alex (my coach/cool friend/ex-co-worker) – who is currently climbing hard in South Island – with my progress videos and she is stoked! On the flip side, I get aggravated with my other friends – who are a part of our bouldering group – for bailing on me all the time. While I rant to Alex about this, I spend hours at the gym on my own, projecting new problems, and drink delicious smoothies post workout. So I guess it isn’t too bad.

Moving onto food – H and I discover a chaat house down Queen Street that serves excellent pani puri, dahi puri and tikki chaat which make me ecstatic. Meanwhile at home, we experiment with Korean food. We stock up on food essentials at Lim Chour which is an Asian supermarket on K-road (goodbye Tai Ping on Beach Road, you shall be missed!) We are pleasantly surprised with our bill – we get stuff at half the rate as compared to Countdown. H cooks up a storm – doenjang-jjigae with rice, kimchi fried rice and fried chicken (from Chimac), and Philippine adobo. On the other hand, I am not too content with my chinese beef stir-fry and pad-thai, but oh well.

As the month draws to a close, community transmission of the virus appears to worsen, thanks to tens and hundreds of callous folks walking around without masks. After two years of being coddled by this government, it does seem scary to normalize these circumstances. Besides, it upsets me to watch H stagnate in the house with no solid news regarding her dissertation from the university. One drunk night she talks about moving out to a cheap hostel if things don’t look up which stresses me out quite badly. Of course, I don’t express my anxiety but I mentally prepare myself for the worst. Lately, I find myself getting nostalgic about her kind gestures – it doesn’t make sense – as though I know that these moments are short-lived and a future me – living alone – is already looking onto them wistfully. I try to bottle up these waves of melancholy that wash over me on bad days but I reckon that’s an unhealthy way to go about things.

To end on a positive note, I record a cover of Silk Sonic’s Smokin’ Out The Window. I pay 4 bucks on Patreon to get hold of this excellent karaoke track of the song scaled to my key. I spend a day and an almost sleepless night, recording harmonies and mixing tracks. I try to not be overly critical of my voice and for once I am successful. The mix sounds great, thanks to a free trial version of Pro Tools.

January has been good but has also whooshed past me. It’s time to ensure that I don’t make typos while writing dates. 2021 22 has begun for real.

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