2019: A Year of Change


This morning, I woke up late, drank a cup of coffee, and prepared my 2020 journal. Admittedly, I’d cracked into it a few days early after running out of space in my previous notebook. A post from a friend made me return to my intentions and aspirations for my 34th year (2019) and hours later, I’m at the head of our dining room table with my scrawlings laid out in front of me, reflecting on the past year. My husband is in the living room, reading old articles he wrote for our college town’s hockey team and undoubtedly marveling at the progress he’s made in the area of sports journalism since the beginning of the decade.

2019 brought a lot of personal change. I quit my office job to pursue my passions. Thanks to a supportive life partner who earns enough to float us during this stage of experimentation, I began to reorient my life toward creative, artistic work. I took a big leap professionally, and so far, it’s working out (albeit slowly). I grappled with imposter syndrome, self-doubt, and the necessity of personal discipline and practice. I made new friends and chosen family, and we welcomed our first family member to visit us in Korea.

In 2019, I rediscovered witchcraft and spellwork, things I hadn’t considered much since I first read The Spiral Dance as a college freshman in 2003, sitting outside with my pagan roommate as she cast a spell to let go of an ex. In truth, I’ve been a hedge witch for some time, slowly opening my heart to plant medicine, to my inner voice, and to my lineage. I come from a line of gardeners and artists (painters, woodcrafters, potters), from the Irish and the pre-Christian Celts of Cisalpine Gaul. This year, I opened to my lineage, though I’ve barely dipped a toe into that great river of time.

I discovered the Strange Magic podcast and a number of beautiful books on spellwork and herbs. I hosted a Mabon celebration for some friends and we made magical teas and fire cider. We practiced divination and radical sharing with tarot cards. I was nervous; it was my first time sharing these practices with others. I started writing my own incantations and spells and gave two tarot readings to others, something I was terrified to do. I’ve begun to carve out a magical life.

Here were my favorite magical books I read (or started reading) in 2019:
Herbal Rituals by Judith Berger
Belonging: Remember Ourselves Home by Toko-pa Turner
Water Witchcraft: Magic and Lore from the Celtic Tradition by Annwyn Avalon
The Book of Celtic Magic by Kristoffer Hughes

Journal, April 18th:
More and more, I want to move forward in love, with love, for all around me and for what I do.

In 2019, I attended an improv class, even though it scared me. I started taking photos again, and made a bit of cash from it. I shifted away from toxic people. I journaled regularly for the first time ever and established a morning pages practice. I took a few nude selfies, after hearing about the power of such acts from The Sexually Liberated Woman podcast. It was interesting to see myself in this way, and it emboldened me. Taking inspiration from adrienne maree brown, I’ve begun to record the things I love about my body. So far, my brief list includes: 1) my hair (it’s thick and curly and I like the color); 2) the tiny body hairs that grow on the side of my abdomen, just below my hips (they look cute in morning light); 3) my neck and collarbone (I like the shape of them in boat necklines).

Of my 34 Things I intended to do in my 34th year, these were the things I actually did:
I got a TEFL certification. I ate more chopped salads. I wrote regularly. I started co-running a D&D campaign with my husband! I fermented stuff (specifically, kombucha). I made a fresh batch of my prized calendula + comfrey oil, which I will share with friends soon. I performed in a radio play! I embodied witchiness, not always consistently or perfectly, and that’s okay. I maintained my tarot practice, staying open to the story the cards had to tell. I brought color and character back into my wardrobe. My clothing had become so drab and depressing in Korea, and it was affecting my mental health.

Journal, April 23rd:
Living in the city, I’ve come to shut off a lot of my sensory awareness and enter a protective state. Protective against what? Pollution, sickness, even just people themselves, phones and signals. Sitting on the ground here on campus, I’m distracted by a loud noise – construction? Most likely. But I also heard the chorus of birdsong. I think there is a quality of duality needed to reconnect in this loud, busy urban environment. I saw an older lady feeding seed to pigeons. Why, I wonder? I think she just took delight in their presence around her, the heavy flapping of their wings. For a moment, I forgot that unrelenting sound in the distance. The city will always be besieged with these sounds. But change the frequency a bit and other layers reveal themselves: the cooing of spring birds, it grows louder the more attuned I am. I realize that there is nature all around me, it is all, it cannot be destroyed or drowned out by the city. It is the city. It is me.

This year, I struggled with feelings of loss and grief. My last remaining grandparent having recently passed away and a close friendship coming to an abrupt end, I struggled a lot with deep feelings. When my brother, a prominent film critic, published a highly personal piece in which he grappled with our childhood traumas, it cracked me open and led to a lot of healing and sharing. In 2019, my perception of our place on this planet, and the Anthropocene, shifted. I now wonder what the end of my time on our beautiful earth will be like. I sit with that fear and grief daily, pondering what I should do. All I can say for certain is that I must be of service to others and to the earth. On January 18th, a spiritual ancestor whose work brought me such comfort and joy passed away. I hurt people, and they forgave me.

Journal, July 29th:
I am feeling so much grief right now. It is a feeling with deep deep roots in my childhood wounds. I’ve lost so much, and now I’ve recognized the loss of my grandparents’ stories, particularly Granny. Losing such an intense friendship, and managing a new set of stressors and self-doubts, this life shit has been hard as fuck lately.

2019 was a highly creative year. I bought a violin, and plan to actually practice playing it this year. Baby steps, y’all. I was in a short film. I made a Dream Life list, and reflecting on it now, it’s pretty doable and mostly reveals a desire to lead a healthy, inspired, creative life. It includes things like: 1) publish modules on the dmsguild, 2) eat and cook good and nourishing food, 3) lots of romance, 4) live by the sea with a wood burning stove, 5) play the fiddle. And so on.

This year, we played lots of Dungeons + Dragons with our friends. We pretended to be mermaids for our friend Lisa’s birthday. I was accepted as a writer and editor for an upcoming D&D supplement about the Feywild. My husband and I started planning, then abandoned, a podcast about gaming with your partner. Maybe we’ll pick that back up in the future. I remained obsessed with selkies. The Uncaged Anthology was released and it shattered my assumptions about what gaming can and must be, and for whom it exists (spoiler: it exists for everyone). I performed in a short play in which I gave birth on stage, and our play made it to the final festival round! I produced a full length play and contributed to other productions in Seoul. I read a lot of great books and short stories. I met T’Keyah Crystal Keymáh!

My favorite books/plays I read in 2019 include:
All the Names They Used for God by Anjali Sachdeva
Wicked Wonders by Ellen Klages
Bloodchild and Other Stories by Octavia Butler
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
From the Sea to Somewhere Else by Monica Giordano
Pleasure Activism by adrienne maree brown
And all the delightful little stories I heard for the first time on Levar Burton Reads.

Journal, November 19th:
There was something special about today. Perhaps allowing myself to record my dream while still in bed, taking time to mop the floors and clean out my email inbox (mostly), discovering a gorgeous new book. It was a cold day, but I felt pleasantly content to be out on the subway, waiting for the bus, in this big old city of so many people! There are some recurring themes in my dreams and in the books I’m reading: cats, and I have to rescue them. Pleasure. Every podcast I listened to today related to pleasure and its importance…And I’m realizing I can introduce pleasure in so many ways, and it would be so wonderful to be more aware of and connected to my body and its sensations.

In 2019, I wrote constantly about my concerns surrounding health and my body. I was sick a lot, and this had consequences related to my work. I wanted more nourishment, but struggled to give it to myself. I wanted to move more, but was plagued with stress and overwhelm. I worried about eating well, taking herbs, exercising enough. These are concerns which will carry into my intentions for my 35th year, which begins in a mere 10 days.

Amongst the many goals and aspirations I have for the coming year (and decade), here are some that stand out: daily vocal and breath practice. Inner child work. Pleasure as a priority. Daily yoga, stretching, and/or exercise. Enjoying my food, avoiding other tasks while eating. Playing. Reading more books by non-white and non-cis writers. Living in accordance with my values. Moon rituals. Nourishing broths. Painting with my watercolors. Meditation. More than anything, I want to live a creative and magical life.

2018 was a year of magic. 2019 was all about change. 2020 is the year of the Rat, not only my sign in the Chinese zodiac but a beacon of prosperity for all. It’s an Emperor year. I’m filled with childlike anticipation as I look forward to this new decade and all its possibility. What is my path? What service will I be called to offer to the earth and its precious children? What pleasure and magic awaits in this new decade? I can’t wait to find out. In the meantime, I’m following Ms. Berger’s advice and taking January to rest, to be, and to listen (and to take a snow-walk, if we are lucky enough to get snow here in Seoul!).

For those who read this, thank you for bearing witness to my growth. Send me a message or a link to your reflections on 2019 and/or your intentions for the coming year! I have cherished and loved each and every conversation that has sprung from the posts on this site and on my instagram. It is a blessing to share the magic of the cycle of seasons with you – my friends, family, and fellow humans.

2 thoughts on “2019: A Year of Change”

  1. How beautiful, insightful, humbling, and inspiring to read your reflections, Mal. I’m sitting here with tears running down my cheeks (not uncommon these days, heh), marveling at everything you are and do. I’m so unbelievably proud of you, my dear friend, just opening yourself so broadly and wading eloquently and vulnerably through your triumphs and struggles this year. I take so much inspiration from you! Thank you for sharing. Sending you all my love ❤️


    1. Thank you, my dear friend, for your words of encouragement and for always reading and responding to my work! I am so thankful to have you in my corner! Let those tears flow, mama!! Let’s talk soon! Wishing you a happy, restful, bliss-filled start to the new year. I LOVE YOU!


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