Reflections On the First Half of 2017

I wrote this a while ago on a plane.


So I’m on a plane from Ontario (which is a city?! In California?! America is weird.) to SF and I don’t have anything to do.

EXCEPT BROOD.

Half the year is over and a lot has happened. I really like doing retros and reflecting on how I’ve spent my time and thinking about how I can spend it better. I’ve gotten into the habit of doing them with teams I’m part of currently, so I figured I’d do a personal one as well. Sidenote: Atlassian has an actually decent article on team retros, which I find just hilarious because Confluence.

What went well?

relevant.gif

Academics

The first semester of sophomore year wrecked my average, and I've been trying to recover from it ever since (I'm halfway through junior year right now). I spent a lot of time thinking about what went wrong during the end of last year and came up with some actionable things to do to improve. Some things I did this time were attending every lecture (even on days I had midterms), asking questions during class (and not caring if it was obvious or silly or whatever), taking notes by hand during lecture (even if I never looked at them again), discussing assignments with professors before I started them, and starting to think about every assignment the day it came out. I’m really happy that my efforts paid off. More importantly, though, I started believing that if did these things, I had a good chance of doing well—and that, I attribute largely to the positive culture and impactful work I did at my last internship.

Giving up things that didn’t feel rewarding or impactful

I am learning to let go of the idea that you’re “supposed” to do so-and-so to fit into tech, into the student community at Waterloo, and so on. During evenings spent alone in Austin last year, I reflected on why I was so unhappy, despite doing everything “right”—being chair of WiCS undergraduate, working on side projects, hanging around MathSoc to keep up with the latest in the faculty. So I quit WiCS because I felt like my work wasn’t impactful, stopped hanging around MathSoc because conversations there quickly turned into arguments, and abandoned my side projects because I realized I actually hated web development.

Learning Rust

I started learning Rust a month and a half ago, and have only been regularly programming in it for three weeks. This is the first time I’m learning a programming language on my own, now that I think about it. But this is also the first time I’ve been motivated to learn a new language on my own. I was pretty satisfied and happy with Scala until I decided I wanted to (a) practice some low level programming (b) and not in C. Ashley Williams’ and Julia Evans’ keynotes at HelloCon 2017 and RustConf 2016 (respectively) sold me, as did Rust’s amazing documentation and community. Speaking of RustConf, I’m attending RustConf 2017 next month! :sparkles:

StarCon

I had the absolute pleasure of attending HelloCon and BangBangCon earlier this year, at which something that I sort of knew in theory—that there are so many possibilities and avenues to explore when it comes to programming—became something that I saw for myself. When you look at someone excited about what they're learning or building and listen to them explain that to you in a non-intimidating way—you honestly just want to feel as motivated as them. But more importantly, you end up believing that you can do what they're doing. Humble, friendly, and unbridled excitement was present at those conferences, and I wanted to bring that over to Waterloo. So my friends and I decided to organize StarCon! I spend nearly all my free time working on StarCon and I’m pretty excited to be working on a high-impact event at this scale for the first time.

Also if any of this felt like a formal pitch, my apologies, because I’ve been writing a lot of emails about stuff like this.

Health

I’ve started running fairly regularly. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t motivated by me wanting to be healthy as much as it was by me wanting to destress. At the risk of sounding ridiculous, it makes me feel like I’m leaving my life problems far, far behind. That, combined with Stripe’s healthy lunches (that, okay, I snarked about a lot about initially, but grew to like later on) have sold me on this whole eating healthy thing.

Sephora

I went to Sephora and Anna helped me buy green eyeliner and this deserves its own bullet point, it’s that relevant.

What didn’t go well?

This is a harder question. I’m going to try to contain this to stuff that I can actively work on. No point in talking about how my biryani will never be as good as my mom’s. Or my hopeless hair. Etc.

  • I don’t make the right decisions quickly. I wish I was the kind of person, who, when faced with a decision to make, makes a pro/con list, evaluates options and consequences, makes a decision, and then sticks with it. There was a decision that I had to make earlier in the year. And every time I evaluated the situation in my head, I knew what I had to do. I knew what the right decision was. But a combination of fear and desire for short-term comfort made me choose unwisely, every time I had the opportunity to decide. I eventually made it, and in retrospect, it is now clear that I should have made this choice sooner. I now have a sign on my wall that says “Have you faced your fears today”? I keep it there as a reminder to myself that I have fears—fear of failure, fear of not having a strong sense of identity, fear of giving into my impulses of procrastination and regretting my choices later, and that if I am not conscious of the way they affect my life, I will lead a life ruled by my fears, instead of in spite of them. I keep it there so that when I make a choice, I reflect on what is causing me to choose this way. TLDR; what didn’t go as well is that I spent a lot of this year ruled by my fears.
  • I abandoned some projects. I can still work on them of course, but I’d planned to finish them in this half of this year. Committing to side projects is hard, because there’s always a paper I want to read, or a concept I want to understand well. Over the past few weeks, everything I’ve been working on (reading a couple of technical books, participating in a paper reading group) has come to a halt because I started programming in Rust. I just want to start and finish one thing. :table_flip:

Things I Want To Do In The Second Half of 2017

  • Contribute to open source, preferably a Rust project.
  • Run six miles in a stretch.
  • Keep travelling! It’s hard to seriously travel since I’m almost always working or studying, but I want to plan ahead and make this happen.