2020: Year in Review

Major Accomplishments

2020 was an unbelievable year of non-stop growth for me. I am extremely fortunate to have had so many privileges during the pandemic that others have not. It brings me deep sadness to know my year has gone so well when others have struggled immensely. I didn’t realize my distaste for capitalism and greed could grow. 2020 truly brought out the worst in many that I feared was there. This only made me feel stronger about wanting to participate in this part of our culture as little as I am able. Which segues nicely into my key accomplishments for the year.

1. I quit my job!

Holy shit. After years of saying I would, I finally pulled the plug. I’m so fortunate for the opportunities my career has provided me: management experience, exposure to many parts of a large firm, autonomy to work on interesting projects and problems. But boy…I’m glad it’s over. My values simply don’t align with working for a large corporation capitalizing on the imbalances in our society. I want to dedicate myself to giving back in the world in some way, and working for a bank simply doesn’t serve that goal.

2. I began meditating

At the start of the year, I begin meditating with 10 minute guided meditations from Calm. They put out a new session each day. These really helped me build up the tool set I needed to venture into unguided practice on my own.

At the end of the year, I made a commitment to begin a serious practice. I ventured into daily 45 minute unguided practices. I have to admit, sitting around doing nothing for 45 minutes straight is much harder than I would expect. I’m learning to let go of expectations and make this a long term habit.

3. I went on a solo camping trip to the mountains

This year I focused a huge portion of my effort on developing myself as an individual. Discovering my interests, hobbies, and inner workings has never been a priority of mine. I was groomed to be quiet and observant and to please in order to excel. I fawned to the world around me and adapted my interests and needs to it’s demands. Unfortunately, this has served me quite well in life so it is a very difficult belief to leave behind.

Now has come the time for me to unlearn this toxic habit. Spending time alone to think and feel has become immensely valuable to me. Going on a solo trip to the mountains was the perfect way to really push my comfort levels. If you were talking to me a few years ago, I would have never dreamed of traveling alone. Developing my personality is going to be a very difficult lifelong goal for me, and I’m proud I’ve started on this journey.

4. I started teaching myself how to program

Working from home gave me the freedom to minimize the activities I’ve always dreaded in life: commuting, getting ready for work, meal prepping and lunchbox packing, bringing gym clothes to work….the list goes on. Reducing all these little factors that I had to prepare for every day gave me so much more “willpower” to focus on other things. I was able to have a schedule that worked better for me, thus making me more productive overall. I channeled this into programming and immediately fell in love. It was everything I had hoped it to be all these years I said I’d start learning. Being able to dedicate some of my extra energy a task that requires a lot of additional effort outside of work hours was amazing. It gave me comfort that I could find a new career before taking the big leap.

Other Notable Achievements

  • I deleted facebook and took a hiatus from all “scrolling” activities for a few months. I’ve since drastically reduced my overall media consumption and no longer consume any news. It’s surprising how much time you find you always had once the endless dopamine buttons go away.

  • I watched movies! I was functionally movie illiterate when this year started and now I’ve become a total film snob. I’ve seen a huge chunk of the essentials and have developed quite the taste.

  • I started roller derby. A lifelong goal to finally start skating. Unfortunately, this only lasted a couple months before practices were canceled. I am now the proud owner of a pair of skates that spend too much time in the closet. I’ll have to skate around the neighborhood more next year.

  • I developed a daily walking habit. I have multiple 300k step months. I don’t believe in step goals - usually because I spend my time doing other forms of working out, but when I first got a Garmin and saw I was only logging 2k steps a day I was appalled. More importantly, I’ve discovered walking as a form of therapy and opportunity for mindfulness. It’s fantastic for my brain to take breaks, get some vitamin D, and step away from the monitor a few times a day. The problem solving insights gained from walking have been truly astounding. This is the perfect habit to pick up for programming too. It’s insane how stuck you can get on a bug and walk out the door to an immediate solution.

  • I greatly improved my health and fitness levels this year. As I had hoped, working from home is amazing for scheduling my own time. Being able to go on a run during your lunch break and not have cut your run short to take a (still sweaty) public shower is amazing. Forgetting to meal prep because I’m trying to recover from a shitty work week is no longer world ending - I can just venture over to the kitchen! No more overpriced, poor nutrition cafeteria decisions.

  • I went to therapy for the first time. I no longer had an excuse to kick this can down the road. I’m proud that I finally stopped worrying about the cost and did what I needed for my mental health.

  • I got accepted into the Recurse Center! When I read their values I couldn’t believe this place existed. It was exactly what I was looking for and aligns with all my philosophies. I quit my job to teach myself how to program, later discovered RC, then found this quote on their site:

    (A funny thing we noticed a few batches in: the Recurse Center is as much a social hack as anything. You could quit your job and spend a few months programming for its own sake, but most people would consider you pretty weird. Of course, we also think we offer way more benefit than just being an easy answer to tell your friends and family when they ask what the heck you’re doing with your life.)

    I almost fell out of my chair. It was destiny. I couldn’t believe after only a few months of learning how to program, I found myself doing it during an interview. I’m excited to post about my experiences this year.

  • I finally started reading again and managed to finish 12 books!

  • I flexed my creativity muscles and took ‘Intro to Painting’ through my local art council. Turns out painting is super difficult. I really enjoyed learning about all the theory of painting and have a much deeper appreciation for art in general now. Next year, I’m going to focus on learning how to draw to reduce the difficulty level a bit. I found that working with paint as a medium is too difficult for my current skill level. I think removing the need to interact with the paint, the brushes, and everything else will help me accelerate my ability to learn and execute on my vision. I’m also thinking I may draw more often if there’s less set up required.

  • I started acquiring houseplants! Historically, I’ve killed everything I’ve touched. This year, I invested in some houseplants to revisit my assumption that I have a black thumb. I ventured into books, local classes, and online forums to learn what I could to take care of them. I’m proud to report that most of them survived the year thus far under my care. Hopefully that continues to hold true through winter.

Looking forward

I’m excited to see what 2021 brings for me. 2020 was the year I truly started to pay attention to what my body is telling me. Listening to my internal queues has given me invaluable information. I’m just going to keep turning up this dial and I can’t wait to see what I learn next year.