Best content of 2020

Did 2020 feel like the longest year ever or what? Can you believe Tiger King came out at the beginning of the pandemic? It feels like a lifetime ago! 

After the hustle and bustle of the holidays, January is always a time to slow down and reflect. As I've gotten more knowledgeable at work, things that used to take me longer now take less time, and so I've had more free time. Plus, volumes are generally down due to the pandemic. 2020 was also the year of content! So much content. With all this extra time I've been reading more, listening to podcasts, trying to watch less TV (but still a ton), and trying to prepare for my move as much as I can 6 months before (which is not much). Before I forget and life speeds up again, I wanted to recap some of my "best of" 2020.  

Best books of 2020: I logged 25 books in 2020. I use the Libby app to check out books from my local library and I absolutely love it. It saves me having to buy books that I would never read more than once and I can easily "carry" multiple books with me at once on my Kindle. Whenever I come across a book I want to read I place a hold on it but it invariable happens that I get 2-3 holds all at once and then I don't have time to read all of the books by the time they're due, so I lose out on a lot. Nonetheless, I hope to read even more this year and keep better track of them. So far the two books I've read so far (Recursion by Blake Crouch and Doomsday Book by Connie Willis) in 2021 have been mind blowingly good so it's off to a good start. 

1. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett -- I usually value a fast-paced plot more than the writing, however this one was beautifully written novel about the relationship between a brother and sister and their relationship to their childhood home after they're kicked out by their evil stepmother. A modern day fairy tale, the book is really about the bond between siblings and I was so thoroughly touched. 
2. Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid -- a very popular book this year in the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement in America. About a young, Black babysitter working for a wealthy white family in Philadelphia.
3. Whisper Network by Chandler Baker -- previously noted in my best of quarantine post, about a group of female lawyers in Texas in the midst of a #MeToo scenario with their toxic boss. 

1. Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton -- a memoir by a 30-something British girl, kind of like a modern day British Carrie Bradshaw. Dolly is definitely going somewhere and will probably get a film or TV adaptation of her life someday, a la a London Sex and the City. 
2. Untamed by Glennon Doyle -- also noted in my best of quarantine post, about a woman's journey leaving her husband and falling in love with a woman, how she becomes untamed. 

Non fiction:
1. Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss -- loved this book about the art of negotiation, by a former FBI terrorist negotiator and now consultant/businessman. This book helped me gain the confidence to negotiate my first job contract! 
2. How Not to Die by Dr. Michael Greger -- a nutrition book that makes the case for a plant-based, vegan diet to prevent various chronic illnesses like hypertension, diabetes, and cancer. Inspired me to eat less meat and animal products this year. 

Best TV shows: C and I do not have the exact same taste in shows/movies. We each had our own shows (for him, cartoons and Korean dramas) that we watched in the background separately but these were the shows that we were really able to watch together. 
1. Queen's Gambit (Netflix) -- my favorite show of the year! Such high quality acting, production value, music, cinematography. I think everyone was surprised that a show about chess was the #2 watched show on Netflix this year but it really was such a high-quality story. And I am now obsessed with Anya Taylor Joy. 
2. Ted Lasso (Apple TV) -- a sleeper hit, feel good comedy that 2020 needed! About an American football coach who is recruited to coach a British soccer team. Very heartwarming and made soccer appealing even to me. 
3. Bridgerton (Netflix)-- technically an early 2021 show. A beautiful, juicy soap opera with lots of eye candy, named the main character the Duke. I loved the sets of beautiful balls set to string quartets playing modern pop songs every episode. 
4. Bling Empire/House of Ho (Netflix/HBO Max)-- like Crazy Rich Asians in TV show form! I love the increasing screen time Asians are getting on the small screen. These shows were basically interchangeable. More so than other reality shows I really felt kinship with the drama both the Ho's and the Bling Empire cast experienced due to their Asian American heritage. 
5. Love is Blind (Netflix) -- one of my earlier favorites even before the start of the pandemic (once again, I cannot believe this was in 2020. I remember watching the series finale on my flight back from SF right before the lockdown). 
6. Million Dollar Listing (Bravo)/Selling Sunset (Netflix)-- while I was applying for jobs in LA, I became obsessed with LA real estate. These shows are pretty much interchangeable but I did prefer Million Dollar Listing because the agents are actually some of the top agents in LA and sell millions/even billions of dollars in real estate where the Selling Sunset cast was rumored to be more actresses who do real estate on the side. 
7. The Politician and the King (Netflix) -- as I talked about in my best of quarantine post. The King was the only Korean drama I finished this year which I loved, but I couldn't quite get into any other Korean shows. C finished and loved It's Ok Not To Be Ok (Netflix). 
8. Safe/The Stranger (Netflix) -- Back at the beginning of quarantine, I binged these thrillers which were both written by Harlan Coben, the famous thriller novelist. He also wrote the Five, which I loved a few years ago. They're all police thrillers with big, satisfying twists at the end. 
Honorable mentions: The Flight Attendant (HBO Max), Emily in Paris (Netflix), Cursed (Netflix), Love Life (HBO Max), Never Have I Ever (Netflix), Married at First Sight (Netflix)

We also discovered and watched a lot of Youtube this year!
Favorite Youtube Channels:
1. Eamon and Bec - Canadian Van lifers turned homeowners who are currently renovating a cabin in the woods. 
2. Kara and Nate - full time American travelers/youtubers who were traveling internationally before the pandemic and were grounded back in the states this year. They bought a van and drove it across America but hit a ton of challenges along the way. Some people find them grating/annoying though. 
3. Monica and Shelby Church - these girls have separate youtube accounts but they are actually twins. Monica lives in Seattle and Shelby lives in LA and they recently bought a house in Palm Springs that they are fixing up together. They film basically daily vlogs so it's fun to follow along their home renovations and lives but they also do more longform videos about living in LA or Seattle, real estate, technology, etc from a millenial's perspective. They're only about 25-26ish but they seem like they have their shit together (they own two houses together already!) 
4. Haribo the Shiba - C's favorite account!

I don't think I've posted New Year's resolutions since 2014 (unfortunately, it would have been fun to look back every year) but in the spirit of reflection over the chaos of 2020 I did want to pick a few things to focus my energy on. 

1. Simplify -- I watched the new minimalism documentary "Less if Now" on Netflix recently and it inspired me to take a deeper dive into minimalism. Minimalism isn't just about minimalizing things, it's about living a more intentional life and focusing on the things that really matter. I started listening to the Minimalist's podcast and their conversations really resonated with me. For example, everything you buy in life is really leased--you cannot take it with you when you die. So are you willing to pay X amount of money for something that is never completely yours? One of the first resolutions I had was just to buy and accumulate less stuff, most notably clothes. Whenever I do laundry I'm just overwhelmed with all my clothes and barely have room to stuff it into my closet. So I want to not buy any more new clothes until I move out to California. I've already noticed myself unfollowing many bloggers/instagrammers because all they do is sell you products. When I first started following bloggers I liked their authenticity but now I find that they are literally like walking advertisements. In fact, if it's free (Instagram, Facebook), you are paying for it with your attention and your money as those platforms are built to sell thing to you. I already find myself with more time now that I don't online shop as much. Part of simplying just means being more intentional with purchases, so thinking twice before I adding another knick knack or piece of furniture to my home, especially as I prepare to pack up for a cross-country move. 
2. Be flexible -- As 2020 taught us, we have to be flexible and adjust to whatever gets thrown our way. The whole world had to adjust to the unprecedented pandemic of the century. Health problems that appeared and disappeared on a dime, job losses, promotions, job offfers, all showed us that it's crucial to be able to adapt to rapidly changing scenarios. A few weeks after I signed my contract, my coworkers had all of their job prospects pulled out from under them due to a new bill that passed in Congress. It wasn't even on any of our radars, but they both had to start from scratch! Needless to say I was glad I signed my contract but that could have easily been me. This year, I actually want to plan less and take things as they come more. It'll be hard because C is actually more of a planner than I am but I think after the uncertainty of 2020 I just need to go with the flow more. Live each day fully. Don't suspend happiness until some nebulous future that will never come. 

3. Live in a house -- I've been more and more obsessed with real estate and buying a house. I know that will be my next big financial goal but I also know it won't happen in 2021. I want to be able to save up a 20% down payment for a conventional loan and 15-year mortgage and right now I don't have 20% saved up to buy a house in California where houses easily run $800,000 for a 1800 sq ft home. I've already built a solid financial foundation (nice to see I cared about that even in 2014 ;) so I don't need to worry about debt or retirement accounts. Buying a house will be my biggest goal once I start my attending position. I also don't want to buy a condo or another stepping stone so I am planning on renting for at least 1-2 years. But I think I'm just over living in an apartment! I'm sick of parking in a parking garage, carrying groceries up 3 flights of stairs to get to my apartment. I'm ready for more space, including outdoor space, and to be able to live in a neighborhood that isn't under construction all the time. The dream would be to rent a small house in Ventura with a nice backyard...I'm not sure that'll happen as there are many more apartments in Ventura but I can dream! 
$1.05 million for a 1880 sq foot house 😩😩😩

And that's it. I think my main focus will be on #1, simplifying. I don't know if renting a house will be possible in Ventura but we will see! 


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