2023: My Year in Review

The highs, lows and everything in between.

11 min readDec 29, 2023
Nabhel posing for a selfie in a Korean restaurant

I started this series of documenting my year in review in 2022, and here I am again pouring it all out. Starting off 2023, I spent the new year with my family and it was one of the most happiest times. On New Year’s Eve, we had a party and buffet in front of our home and at midnight we sang and worshiped God. We held hands and prayed together as we crossed over into the new year. I and my nephews kept shooting fireworks and enjoying the view in our neighborhood. It was amazing. Here is a video of me screaming my lungs out on new year day.

Video of new year fireworks

Got My Permanent Residency 🪪

My temporary residency permits were set to expire in February 2023, prior to this time I had begun the process of applying for permanent residence in September 2022. I had faith that everything would work out, but as the days got closer, I started to worry about the procedure and the fact that I had to return to work. I therefore spent the next few weeks in January following up the processing of my documents. It was a lengthy process that involved applying to the immigration service, getting my biometrics taken, obtaining government approval for various requirements, and interviewing for residency. Finally got my permanent residency on the very day I had booked my flight to return back to work. It’s been a very long journey to get to this point and as an immigrant there was this relief and sense of stability I felt when I finally got my PR, it was a moment of joy. I documented my travel back to work on Instagram which you can view here.

Held a UX Design Bootcamp 👩🏽‍💻

In March 2023, I conducted my second paid UX design bootcamp. I had students living in different time zones from Europe, US and Africa while I was in Asia. My classes were held from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. my time because it was the only time that worked for everyone to be able to attend class. I was managing a full-time job and running a bootcamp at the same time, which was extremely stressful for me, as some days, I hardly slept at all. The curriculum for this year’s bootcamp was packed with new topics including utilizing Artificial Intelligence in UX design. I documented what we learnt here.

My highlight from the bootcamp were the testimonials from my students, their heartfelt words validated my efforts in impacting knowledge and made all my sleepless nights worth it.

Testimonials from Nabhel’s bootcamp students

Moved to a bigger apartment 🏡

When I first relocated for work I was living in a one-room apartment. My room was so tiny, I had only a bed in the center of the room and no space for anything else. The kitchen was a shared space with 3 other neighbors, the bathroom and toilet was so tiny it can’t fit in two people. I had no work table and chair in the room. I stayed in this apartment for six months while saving up to move. I felt like this space contributed to some of my mental issues. I remember feeling so down one day I made a reel about it here.

One Tuesday at work I was discussing with one of my colleagues and I told them that I was looking for a space cause I wanted to move. They showed me an online rental platform and assisted me in finding a place that looked suitable. Although the house they found was still a one-room apartment, it was much bigger than my current place and had a shared gym and kitchen. We made a reservation for a month in advance, and the person who listed the house (agent) on the rental platform requested payment. Since we haven’t seen the property yet, I asked my colleague if it was safe to just pay the agent. My colleague assured me that it was safe, so I paid and they assisted in chatting up the house agent (since I’m not fluent in the local language) and setting up a time for us to go see the apartment. All of these conversations took place on the rental platform. To cut the long story short, the agent blocked my number the day I was supposed to meet with them and check the house. I reported the issue on the rental platform, but they told me that there’s nothing they could do and that I can’t get a refund for my money.

I was angry but honestly what really pissed me off was my colleague’s lack of concern as they never asked me about the house or agent, if I actually moved or not, even up to this day I’m writing this article. Of course I have no one to blame but myself, I can’t confront them about this, it’s not their fault, I should have done my due diligence.

One evening while I was walking back home from work, I saw a sign post about house for rent. I called the number and met a guy who showed me the empty units. The house was a one bedroom apartment. On the ground floor there’s a kitchen, bathroom, toilet and a living room area . The bedroom was on the first floor, it was a one story building. The apartment had some amenities like a refrigerator, air conditioning, and a wardrobe. I asked about the price and it was within my budget so I selected one of the units, paid for it and collected the keys immediately. I moved in a couple of days later.

I fell sick 🤒

One midnight in June while I was awake browsing the internet, I started feeling a very sharp pain in my abdomen. At first I thought it’s going to stop after a while cause honestly, it’s not the first time I’m feeling such pain. But, it continued for more than thirty minutes, during that time I was unable to stand or move. I was not only in pain, but I was also feverish. My entire body was trembling, and I was shivering as well. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced. The time was like 1:03am in the morning and I happen to live alone so no friends or family to call for help. I was so confused, “should I call my landlord? Will I survive if I wait for the day to break and take my self to a hospital?” I thought about so many things.

At some point I kept thinking, is this how it ends for me? I was crying and just kept saying to myself, “you will be okay, everything will be okay”.

Around 6:00am the pain subsided and I crawled out of bed unable to stand straight. I went to the bathroom, showered and headed out to a clinic near by. I explained how I felt the night before and the doctor recommended I do a couple of test. I did the tests and came back the next day for the results. When the doctor was explaining the results of the test to me, the only thing I could think of was how I’ve not really lived. It’s like I’ve been existing but not living. I got back home from the hospital that day and I cried my eyes out. I cried so much that I got a migraine. My entire life flashed before my eyes and for the first time I realized how much I’ve neglected myself, my needs and my health.

I broke down 😞

The biggest lie I ever told is saying “I’m fine” while I’m not. I dislike people seeing my vulnerable side. I wasn’t born with a silver spoon and I’ve suffered so much in life. I grew up in a low income household and lacked many things. Over the years I’ve developed the habit of constantly delaying gratification for myself, never buying myself nice things. I put a lot of effort into saving money, solving other peoples’ problems, giving black tax, and trying to be a good daughter, sister, aunt and niece while neglecting myself. Most times when my phone rang, It’s usually someone on the other end complaining about their own issues and needs. It’s clear how I positioned myself as a solution to other peoples’ problems and have nobody to tell my own problems.

Outside family and work, I had no relationships. I hate to admit it but getting sick made me realize how much of a loner I was and from that moment everything about life seemed meaningless to me, the constant pursuit to make money, all the struggles I’ve faced, the degrees I’ve acquired, the skills I’ve learnt didn’t really matter.

My mental health was such a mess that when I looked in the mirror I hated myself. I wasn’t eating well and was dressing like a homeless person to work.

I never had eye problems growing up, I remember during my undergraduate days I would sit at the back of the class and still see the board clearly. Since I started using glasses I don’t feel the same. It got worse during this period of my life as I saw myself go from wearing a -0.5, -0.75 to a -1.0 eyeglass cause of nearsightedness. My eyes are one of my most valuable assets as a designer, and every time I wanted to go out, I could hear voices in my head telling me “you’re going blind”. Every time my mind would remind me of an accident I had in 2017 where iron pierced my eye.

My mind was like a battle field and I was drowning in my own thoughts with nobody to save me. I took medical leave from work and a break from mentoring to shutdown completely.

I stopped being active on social media especially twitter where I used to share my thoughts and resources for designers. Most days I only post encouraging words for myself. If you search the word “pushing” on my twitter profile and check my latest tweets, you will think I’m talking to other people but some of those posts where things I was telling myself to get through. I learnt about the ACEs quiz and took the quiz. I became aware of the trauma and baggage I had been carrying and I knew I needed therapy.

I picked myself up 🍀

This year I met the most broken version of myself, but also the strongest. During my leave something happened to me that I won’t share in this article which completely changed my mindset. I understood that I’m the one who can save myself so I began prioritizing and taking care of me. I started listening to therapy podcast and doing more outdoor activities. I signed up to a gym and spent time cooking quality meals for myself, making sure I was eating well. The only person I was concerned about was myself. I invested in my looks, spent a lot on skincare, bought clothes I liked, made my hair when I wanted and took satisfaction in how I looked.

I fall in love with the woman I see in the mirror everyday and I’m so proud of her. She’s my inspiration and biggest motivation.

Nabhel posing for a selfie

I stopped being so hard on myself, life itself is already difficult so why pressure myself with so much expectations. I found fulfillment in the simple things of life like dancing, listening to music, traveling and documenting memories. I repaired friendships that were worth it and blocked out toxicity from my life. I spent more time offline reading books, hanging out with people and less time scrolling aimlessly on social media. I also resumed mentoring other designers.

Traveled to Singapore 🇸🇬

My trip to Singapore was like a healing therapy that I didn’t know I needed. I purchased my flight tickets and reserved my accommodation at Hotel Boss. I traveled to Singapore on the 23rd of August and when I got to Changi airport it was really late at around 8pm cause I had a flight delay in Jakarta. My exit was at terminal 3 so I took the sky line and made my way through immigration to pick up my baggage. I bought a train card at the airport and took the MRT to lavender station. I highlighted the train station and walked to my hotel. I checked in at around 9:45pm, my room was on the 9th floor. I was so hungry when I finally settled in so I went down and took a walk around the area looking for where I could eat. I found a Korean restaurant where I ate dinner and also bought bread from a supermarket close by cause I had tea & coffee in my hotel room. I posted a video of my trip here.

The following day I went to the ACE center at Block71 for a work conference and later that evening I attended a dinner party with my colleagues in Singapore.

Nabhel and colleagues in Singapore

Being an introvert I’m not that outgoing but I visited some places to relax and just feed my eyes. I visited the gardens by the bay and explored the flower dome and avatar forest. I also went to see the supertree observatory, Art Science museum, and Jewel at Changi, taking pictures of the city view especially Marina Bay Sands.

Nabhel at various places in Singapore

The highlight of my trip was going to Merlion Park and seeing a Korean celebrity. Being a Kdrama fan it was so surreal to meet Go Kyung-pyo, I politely asked for a photo which he didn’t decline. Posted the photo on twitter and it went viral with more than 400K views and comments.

Nabhel and Go Kyung-pyo

In the End 🙏

I cried, I laughed but most importantly I lived and learnt to love myself. I learned to forgive myself and I’m genuinely happy.

My journey to staying fit, gaining weight and being healthy is no doubt my biggest achievement of the year. This year, I gained 5kg, bringing my Body Mass Index (BMI) into the healthy range; previously, I was underweight. I contemplated adding my gym photos in this article but I guess it shows my growth I’m proud of so…

Nabhel in gym clothes

Although I was inactive on social media for more than half of the year, I still managed to grow my twitter from 32,000 to 43,000 followers, my Youtube grew from 3,700 to 3,900 subscribers even though I was inactive all year. I’m most grateful to God for life. I’m a working progress but I’m so proud of me. I don’t talk about my love life, I’ve been single for the past three years but this year I went on a few amazing dates. Even though I didn’t find love I’m going to try again next year. 2023 was a good year and I’m grateful to have experienced it, I look forward to an even better 2024.

🖤 Nabhel.