There are three main parts to this retrospective and a bonus part:
As a side note: I find writing these retrospectives pretty hard because it's not just a list of my accomplishments. To write these well, I have to think about all the icky, sticky parts of my life this year too. The ones I want to gloss over, because hey—it's a new year, new slate, new me! But I still do it, because I think it's important to figure out why those parts were sticky.
What Went Well
I'm mostly going to talk about the latter half of the year. I've talked about the first half here
When I started university, I really wanted to be able to travel to and live in many different cities. I absolutely love the process of getting to know a city—its public transit system, shortcuts, restaurants, museums, and history. This year, I spent four months each in different cities—Waterloo (to study), San Francisco (for an internship), and London (for an exchange semester). London, in particular, was everything I wanted to be. I spent a lot of my time exploring and met some wonderful people at UCL (my host university).
My work/life balance for most of 2017 was my best in a long time. Previously, my mental list of priorities consisted almost entirely of school/career related goals. Stuff like "eating three meals a day", "exercise", "travelling", "socializing" wouldn't make the list. They were things I'd do if I felt like it and/or if I had the time for it. This year, I made all of those things explicitly a priority and kept mentally checking in with myself to make sure I was attending to them. I cannot stress how much this contributed to my happiness and the reduction in the amount of time I spent worrying. It also motivated to timebox my work to make time for ✨ fun ✨ stuff, which I think make me more productive.
I'm usually the passive/shy/awkward one when it comes to initiating friendships. For most of my current close friends, I can recall a long period of time when I thought "hey this person is cool I'd like to be their friend" and proceeded to do nothing about it, except catch their eye awkwardly when I could (or like their tweets if I didn't see them irl). I don't know why I do this to myself? But this year, I DM'd people! I said hi! I was proactive af. And I made some friends :)
What Didn't Go So Well
So like I said before, I had a pretty good grip on my work/life balance and health for most of this year. There were a few months where that definitely did not hold. I've been spending this week thinking about exactly what happened and I think the answer boils down to one thing—overcommitting.
Every once in a while, I decide that I'm not doing enough, and in a fit of inspiration and enthusiasm, sign on to do way more than I can. When you overcommit, you end up with too many priorities and two things can happen: you either de-prioritize some stuff, or you try to do it all. I chose to do it all (shocker). The prospect of doing it all was so enticing that it genuinely kept me going for a while. I was all fired up and motivated and everything was great for a while.
But eventually, it caused all the things I'd worked really hard to prevent: irregular sleeping patterns, an unhealthy diet and unhappiness. Falling into a cycle of stress, half-assing my work, and stress again can make you feel pretty helpless at times. Many of my commitments also involved working with people and it wasn't fair to them that I wasn't delivering my best.
Overcommitting is a strong sign of either weak self-assessment or not being honest with yourself. I think in my case, it was the former. It's just something I have to keep working on.
Here’s what I’m looking forward to in 2018.
- Less school, more work: I’m only going to be studying full time for 4 of 12 months in 2018, which I’m feeling pretty great about. School was really important to me at one point because it provided me with a structured learning environment. But over time, I’ve become able to make my own learning environments, on my own terms. And I enjoy that freedom.
- Research: I’m diving into an area I’ve always wanted to experience: research! It’s a little scary because I was just beginning to feel comfortable with industry jobs and my next internship is pretty different from anything I’ve done before.
- StarCon: a huge part of my 2017 was working to set up the conference. In 2018, it will finally be a living, breathing, actual event GASP.
- Speaking: I’ll be speaking at CUSEC 2018 next month. HOW_EVEN.gif
- Run: I don’t have a very strict schedule yet, and I’m hoping to change that, but I know that running is something I want to keep getting better at. Excited to keep working at this ✨
- Attending more conferences: I have my eye on OSCON, SRECon, Strange Loop (again!) and DeconstructConf.
Here are some of my for 2018:
- Run 10 km (I can currently do 7 without stopping)
- Have a better understanding of operating systems than I do currently
- Speak at more meetups (I'm currently at a 0 so the bar is pretty low, haha)
- Blog more!
- Get better at tracking my monthly expenses
- Become more active in the Rust community (...somehow)
- move my website to HTTPS
Things I Like
I sort of copied this section from Alice Goldfuss’ year in review post. This section ended up being way too long, so I wouldn't judge anyone if they skipped it.
Due to the fact that (a) I’m beginning to get more politically and socially aware and (b) Evil People are now in power, I’ve taken a very keen interest in history. In school, we did a lot of European and Indian History, but almost no American history. Through documentaries (The Civil War, The Roosevelts, The Vietnam War) and books (The Cold War: A World History, If Only They Didn't Speak English: Notes From Trump's America, What Happened), I now have a little more context.
I’ve been wary of learning history because there is inherently so much bias in the recounting of past events. Even if you argue that history is just a summary of facts, there is bias in which facts are reported, which are omitted, which are glossed over, and which aren't accurate. Still, this is a start, and I’m going to keep trying to use as many diverse sources as possible.
2017 marks the first year when television replaced the position that books had held in my life for so long, and that was scary. I always viewed TV to be a source of entertainment in my life, and nothing more. But increasingly, television has become much more important to me (not that entertainment in itself isn’t a valuable pursuit)! I’ve indulged in intense debates, passionate defences and animated discussions surrounding my favourite characters, their motivations, their arcs, and grown to love TV as something that encourages me to think about people and understand them better. I think TV is a great medium to get you to think about people—their vices, flaws, motives, feelings, and the way they interact with other people. I especially love it when it's used as a medium for political awareness and social justice because there is never a time when those two things aren’t important.
(a subset of the) TV I enjoyed: Brooklyn Nine Nine, The 100, American Crime, The Bold Type, A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Good Place, West Wing, The Good Wife, BBC's And Then There Were None
(a subset of) What I’m considering watching: iZombie, Sense8, Big Little Lies, This is Us, Mindhunter, BBC's Little Women
I witnessed a shift in my taste from fiction to non-fiction, and from print to audiobooks. This is largely because I’m too damn busy to sit for hours on end to read an intricate three or seven-part fantasy series (my usual go-to). Non-fiction books are easier to read in bursts. Audiobooks allow me to "read" on my way to work/school and while eating or doing the dishes.
My non-fiction recommendations: Thinking Fast and Slow (Daniel Kahneman), Creativity, Inc. (Ed Catmull, Amy Wallace), If Only They Didn't Speak English: Notes From Trump's America (Jon Sopel), Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) (Mindy Kaling), and The Checklist Manifesto (Atul Gawande)
My fiction recommendations: Eliza and her Monsters (Francesca Zappia), Crazy Rich Asians (Kevin Kwan), The Naturals (Jennifer Lynn Barnes), The Dark Days Club (Alison Goodman)