the past 3 months: a review

Coucher de soleil, ciel orange, Felix Vallotton, 1900

Coucher de soleil, ciel orange, Felix Vallotton, 1900

The past 3 months have been a been a lot of change.

I harbored messy, intertwined strings of emotions coming back home, and upon shining a light on them, they started to take shape a month later.

It was a time of anxiety, fear, and uncertainty about my future, mainly two questions lingered in my brain "was coming back the right choice and would this surgery cure me?" and "will I be back in the US again?"

I came back to deal with my health issues, so it was week after week of doctors appointments. I would visit 3 doctors across 3 hospitals in the same week. There was pain and suffering, medications and dietary changes, frustration and resentment, gratitude for the treatments, guilt about the cost of self-pay treatments.

In between the doctor's appointments and operations, I got to see old faces from high school, spend more quality time with my family, dive into rabbit-holes the entire day on blogs and YouTube, obsessively learning about photography and art, reading books I like.

However, as a person who expects a lot from himself, the main theme that revolves around my time so far is expectations, low output, and the dizziness of freedom.

tiredness and guilt

Most of the past 92 days I was lethargic. If you read my journal entries you will find the word "tired" in probably 90% of them. It could be the result of all these changes I went through.

It's a deep sense of tiredness where your heart feels so heavy that you're paralyzed, rendered immobile. It takes insurmountable amounts of effort to channel the slightest bit of will and energy to do anything, like you're trying to push a wall. It's also the headaches and migraines where it feels like you're brain is on fire and you're staring at the sun. I loathe those days.

Most days I will barely get anything done. I would find myself anxiously switching between tasks, and flinch away from the hard things, and pick the easier, unimportant tasks to finish first, which ends up taking more time that I expected.

I suspect it's also about being home all the time. I generally am more productive when I'm out of the house. So on one hand while I do enjoy being home, because there's not much out there, a switch in my environment helps a lot. Interestingly, this doesn't apply at night. Most nights I get into flow. Flow is incredibly rare from the moment I wake up until 9 p.m. It only happens when I find an interesting project to work on.

This low output the past few months translated into guilt. I felt guilty about not doing enough. I had no school or work responsibilities that would steal away my limited time and energy for passion projects and interests.

It should be the dream. The entire day, week, and month, free to work on whatever I want. I don't have to worry about food or expenses. I just had to focus on learning and building. Arielle's syllabus was what I had in mind. But this freedom is dangerous without setting the right expectations, proper planning, and convictions in your ideas.

I found myself constantly asking the questions "Is this really the right thing to work on?", out of the 10 other ideas I want to execute on, which one will increase my surface area of luck.

I've been feeling pressured to achieve success (whatever this means). Especially after the fact that I only have the masters as the option, which in total, costs ~$75k USD for a year. I feel like I'm getting this my way too easily, and I'm planning my life too much. There could be other paths for me that are at least as, or possible even more fulfilling. I hope I'm choosing the right path.


Perhaps it's the redefinition of what productivity means for me personally. I recently learned that I should only expect 4 hours of focused, productive work. And I should do everything I can to protect those hours. Being home the entire day, I expect myself to achieve a lot more, since I have no other obligations. This leads to burnout and frustration.

I also need to do better at sticking to the right systems and habits and not rely on motivation and energy levels. That means tasks that I perform automatically, like writing this blog. I have to write this before I sleep. Unless I'm sick (like yesterday) or I'm travelling, I will not got to bed without updating this blog. I need systems in place like that for learning AI, building and coding, and studying other difficult things that increase my cognitive load.

It's also my inability to schedule time effectively and commit to my time blocks. I created a schedule and time blocked down to the hour at the beginning of January, and I did not even make it past the first few days. It's really hard to plan my time when I work on things impulsively, like I can come up with a project idea and just decide to work on that for the entire day. And put aside the articles and other learnings I have to do. I guess it's hard because the things I work on usually can't be packed into a time block, they always take longer than I expect, and it ties to my inability to stop working on something that consumes me. I'm going to try implementing the system of month, week, day scheduling, which can help me decide just 3 things to work on for a given day, and scheduling that into my day. Then document what I achieved.

I also had a lot of uncertainty about what to focus on and to spend most of my time on. I believe I have a clearer picture of what to achieve now, and maybe it's less about thinking or planning my way out of this, and just being biased towards building and creating, and saying no to more things.

Since I'm at a midpoint of my time here in Malaysia before I go back for grad school in July, I thought it would be a good time to review the highlights and reorient myself towards where I want to go next.

January: 🌊 🦷

February: 👨‍💻 😬

  • built jiji with SwiftUI
  • went Port Dickson for CNY
  • wrote an AI roadmap that went viral
  • got braces

March: 🏥 📸

  • did surgery
  • got offered to USF (rejected everywhere else so far)
  • 📸 📹: Fujifilm x100s, Panasonic sd100, Sony Cybershot DSC TX1
  • reached 1k on Twitter
  • worked on embedcurius
  • went to Penang, Johor, and Malacca
  • made a vlog using DaVinci Resolve
  • started coffee chats on lunchclub met a few interesting humans

lessons + thoughts

  • I'm surprised by how fast time passes, the days felt long but these few months really flew by, and I don't feel like I achieved much. Committing to a TIL and done list is crucial to solving this. I should keep a document on my computer at all times for dumping this.
  • I need to do better at committing to hard things, I get overwhelmed by difficult topics and expect them to be easy and can be quickly done in a day, and find myself avoiding them instead of doing a little day by day. I should reimplement the practice of working on the hardest thing in the morning, and set 4 hours for learning and coding AI.
  • I also need to balance productivity and spending quality time with family. My time with them is limited, especially the shopping malls and lunches with my mom, I should always see with the lens of "this is not forever, you don't know when is the last time, appreciate it while you can". It's hard to train this, it requires constant reminders.
  • I've undergone all the big changes I had to go through, so now it's all about recovering, adjusting, and focusing on becoming better. I'm not limited like I was before anymore. I can't complain or sulk anymore.
  • I had certain people on my mind a lot the past few months, and it's pretty distracting. I need to spend more time reflecting and analyzing why. And not be afraid of facing these emotions. It could also be me clinging on to the past and my fear of letting go, or whether I should even let go. There's a lot of internal conflict and duality going on. This feeling of incompleteness and longing can get pretty debilitating. I suppose with time, this gets better.


  • wrote a few low-quality articles on Medium, optimizing on output = lower quality
  • stopped Swift learning habit
  • didn't start learning AI until today, I wrote that roadmap but didn't act on it myself, pretty hypocritical
  • didn't get Rundown AI writing gig, someone else with a lot of followers on Twitter got it, I need to start posting good content on Twitter more
  • couldn't rest properly after surgery, wasn't sure when was the right time to start doing work again, and felt like a failure not doing work, which in itself is a failure for not recognizing I still need rest.
  • never interviewed with Pantas, because I want to work on my own things and also focus on learning.
  • didn't put any effort into expanding Luminary

The next 3 months

habits to build

  • 3 things a day + done list + TIL everyday on Obsidian
  • exercise and eating (60kg before going to US)
  • start to cook and make meals (so I don't starve in SF)
  • 4 hours for learning + coding (by noon)
  • few hours at night for building
  • reading before bed (just 15 min will do)

things i'm looking forward to

  • shenzhen + hong kong trip (maybe Taiwan hopefully)
  • getting HP hardware and gaming + using GPUs (but not looking forward to Windows)
  • eating more good food as I slowly recover
  • taking more photos + making vlogs
  • learning Lightroom


  • reach out to more people
  • collaborate with existing communities
  • set targets and find person to handover before leaving.
  • 100 days of Swift (build Umi and Hikasa)


  • Code the youtube2article app with Wei
  • Google AI Hackathon
  • Cuepal project mentorship
  • hackathons


  • minitorch
  • Kaparthy lectures
  • finetuning LLMs
  • LLM evals and AI agents
  • kaggle competitions