“I have always believed, and I still believe, that whatever good or bad fortune may come our way we can always give it meaning and transform it into something of value.”
― Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

When I hear the phrase "Things happens for a reason", the rebel in me reject those words and believe that we seek reasons out of things that happen. We had an urge to seek comfort that somehow made sense, we came up with a story of tiger on a boat so we can cope with the harsh realities that was thrown our way. I agree with Hesse, and it's also a powerful feeling to know that at the end of the day, you have the power to create meaning from the good or bad fortune that comes our way. I remember a vision board exercise in 2023, and the two goals I had were to be a (good) child and to be a (good) parent. I realised that those "being" goals are not as straight forward as those "doing" goals. 
- Was I a good child to my parents in 2023? 
- Was I a good parent to my child ? 
My answer to both of these question was 'yes'. But, could I have been a better child and a better parent ? The answer to that is also yes. The 'being' goals will take commitment and recommitment, and I believe these two goals are still worth striving for in life.
Have I made 2023 into something of value ? 
I'll be truthful and say that there were areas that I was not proud of myself and felt like I did not make any progress. Now that 2023 is ending, I feel that if I can draw some lessons from the mistakes and omissions, I would at least make something of value from this year.
What a Happy Day looks like
I thought about the happiest day in 2023. What was it like? The image that came to mind is a day during my paternity leave where we were in a short-term-rent condo room by the river and there were no worries on my mind. I would wake up before the sunrise, went out for a run across the river, had coffee with mom on the other side then brought breakfast back for my wife. After that, I would play the guitar with my child as he wakes up. He would surprise me with his gradual development; he is full of pleasant surprises. That might have been one of the lessons I can draw from 2023—an archetype of a happy day for me to be able to construct these days again in the future. Isn't a good life a series of good days? 

The Balcony View on one of those Happy Mornings

Stop Wasting the Precious Attention
I used to think that there wouldn't be any free time after my child was born. Well, there is some truth to that; parenting takes time—more importantly, attention. When I went back to work after my paternity leave, the organization was smaller, and there were things that needed to be done. I was wearing many hats: the teammate at work, the parent at home, the good friend, the reader, the writer, or the hobbyist travel photographer. So I felt busy, but honestly, I still caught myself doing meaningless things like scrolling through media as a reward after work or watching a video after my son goes to bed, as the voice in my head said, 'You deserve some break.' The worst consequence came when I was holding my child and thinking about work chat, and that unchecked to-do list; I was then not present with him. I have never regretted being fully present with my loved ones, never regretted going for a run, never regretted writing or reading. That can serve as a prioritization compass: do more of the things that make you feel better after they're done.

Never Regret the Mountains I climbed

The Indirect Example
Last week we took A to a playhouse. There was a small mirror with make-up and skincare toys. He picked up the fake pencil and started pointing the wooden toy pencil to his eye. We did stop him and told him that's not a safe way to play, but it made me realize that he's always watching us and imitating what we do—not when we show him something but how we live and how we act. I do believe that indirect learning, the imitation, matters more than what we explicitly teach. If we preach one thing and do another, what we unconsciously do will have more weight. Learning this, I guess I now know why people say parenting makes you a better person, so I will strive to be a good example both directly and indirectly. Yo-Yo Ma said he wanted to live to pass on as few toxins as possible to the next generation—perhaps that's a worthy goal to pursue. So when all is said and done, he can live and grow and decide how he will feel the water around us and enjoy it.

That's a wrap for 2023, as we get into 2024 - I wish you more than luck. 

When you Stop Seeking, you Start Finding

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