Too little introspection and too much imagination/wishful thinking when jotting down new year's resolution lists leads to an endless cycle of making the same mistakes over and over again. In this optic, I find it rather important to think about what I've been doing lately: new years' resolutions won't help against new mistakes (the 'unknown unknowns') - but might help preventing costly repeats of past mistakes.
I've been having this conversation every winter with close friends, family and (when available) partners, but it looks like this might be the first year where I write this all down in a (private, unlisted) Damn Amsterdam post: for posterity! But also because lots of things happened since the start of last year* and I don't want to ramble endlessly about myself. Clear and coincise, without further ado, here's my year* in review:
*. [cheating a bit, when talking about 'year', I'm actually referring to schoolyear + the short gap leading us to 2019]
This year's theme was work - since I went in the red financially (twice) I had to find an emergency job multiple times; and a large part of my final semester was also dedicated to finding a job post-graduation. Breaking it all down:
Health care: worked for two separate companies: a startup and one of the largest health care conglomerates in the world. My colleagues were brilliant and kind and cared about people first and foremost, so the next time you hear 'big pharma is out to screw us over', please be aware you're probably wrong. Technology in health care moves slowly, but once it changes, it's revolutionary. I love this sector and will be back some day.
Development economics: I decided I needed to go to a developing country and 'have an impact' (what the fuck does that even mean? Lesson learned). I ended up turning down two amazing job offers to go work in Africa for a company that was basically reverse Robin Hood led by psychopaths. What a shame.
But this job also had two upsides: one, I have now seen what the developing world really looks like, and one day I'll be able to leverage this experience to really be useful for the billions of people out there who really deserve it. Second, I met quite a few people which will have a lasting impact on me (both positive and negative).
Creativity: A super lucky break got me hired for one of the best design studios in the world. No idea how. I can't say I had much of an impact (the project I worked on was scrapped after a few months unfortunately), and I think the work I delivered was not worth the money they paid me - yet they still wanted to hire me afterwards. Lesson learned: be less critical of my own work.
Fintech: my current job, and it's great. I love my colleagues, I have great work-life balance, flexibility, freedom, and paid very well. Downsides: I'm not doing cutting edge tech like previously (more like people skills and project management) and we're mainly solving first world problems. Working on those two day by day.
Five + damns out of five.
While I like to be alone, I don't like to be lonely. In terms of friendships, this year was a partial success. Despite moving a lot (5 times total), I manage to forge a few connections that I believe to be quite meaningful. Additionally, I believe this is the first year in my life where I managed to have regular contact with all my existing friends.
This required, however, significant effort especially due to distance: this year alone the length of my Facebook chats is just below half a million words, which is four times Homerus' Odissey. This was a major driver towards starting the blog - if I write that much, I might as well write something meaningful.
Additionally, after moving to Amsterdam, the stream of amazing new connections has slowed down, and in general I have not yet met anyone that I know would have my back in case of an emergency. The timing of my move (winter/busy period) might have to do with it. Or maybe it just takes time to build up connections when you don't see each other every day. On that note, I am also a bit lost on how to make friends outside of university, especially since everyone seems so busy all the time (I am busy, but have time to meet. Market mismatch?).
A final note on Amsterdam: this city is structurally different from most EU capitals I've lived in so far. Not sure if I like it as much as say, Paris, but let's wait for next year's review :)
Three damns out of five.
I don't particularly care about money, but I care about being financially independent early so that I can focus on doing things for others instead of being just another pig in the capitalistic machine, oink oink 🐖
Partial success again here: on one hand, bad money management led me to being in the red twice despite significant earnings in the first half of the year. First time I was rescued by quickly finding a job, but the second time my parents had to step in which is definitely not good.
However, I now am on an unlimited duration work contract, with a fiscal break for the next five years thanks to some nationality shenanigans and am saving a significant amount of money every month - which makes me a happy pig, oink oink!
Four damns out of five.
A disaster. This year continues my pattern streak of quickly collapsing relationships, and while "it's not you, it's me" is quite the cliché, in this case I believe it's actually me. This year's breakups bring the total amount of times a partner has called me out for being 'an unavailable man-bear' into the double digits, which is insane given that they all come from different cultures and they have (mostly) never met each other.
The three people I went out with this year which I believe had potential to be something more, are quite representative of the issues at hand. Bad timing (moved across continents), bad radar for sticky situations (I was the rebound), bad value (relationship fizzles out after she realizes I'm not that interesting after all).
The main issue here is I don't want to be in love for the sake of it. Most people around me have, by now, a partner - some of them for multiple years. I would say most of them are happier than they would be on their own. But for me the issue is reversed - I'm quite happy with the status quo (large amount of freedom, no responsibilities), and it's quite rare I feel like being in a relationship is of added value to my happiness - which might be one of the core reasons why the whole thing unravels so incredibly fast. But I still really like all of the people I've been with.
On a lighter note, I recently asked a girl out with 'hey do you wanna go out together' and she answered 'I already go out plenty on my own, but thank you anyways', which I think is the coldest, most brilliant answer ever. Noting this down for future me, although to be honest it's quite unlikely I'll ever forget this burn :')
Zero damns out of five.
Some success stories here, such as the blog (which has proved brilliant to make new friends, getting out of the house and keeping in touch with friends as well!), and photography (some really cool pictures and locations this year).
As far as partial successes go, learning chinese has been harder than expected (no shit), there was little to no hardware building this year, which includes bikes (it turns out buying one instead of building one ends up being time- and cost-effective) as well as IoT/embedded hardware.
Also still no improvements on the cooking side, and no gym.
On the plus side, this year my French improved dramatically, I tried some new sports, had the first real careless summer since, well, ever, and I managed to travel a lot, which will continue into next year.
Three damns out of five.
Complete success. This year I published both my thesis and my research paper, both incredibly well received and work I'm proud of. I dedicated both to my family, which was important for me and for them. For a brief moment in time I was a world expert in a particular niche of an important sector, which felt really good.
I am still programming and have shipped a few really cool projects this year, including a chatbot that learns from your facebook chats (Black Mirror!), an article summarizer, and of course the blog.
Next year I'd like to build some projects that have revenue potential, probably by partnering up with someone.
Five damns out of five.
I'm really amazed at the amount of great stuff that gets made, done, shared every day around the world - I'm constantly in awe at what people can do. It's quite a shame that many people don't have access to this much information and beauty. When I came back from Africa I spent a full day at the Louvre, which was like jumping in a swimming pool after crossing through the Sahara desert. I think everyone would benefit if we could share this around.
This is why I write this blog and, in general, do the things I do (and also, because I enjoy doing them). I am very lucky in that I have something I enjoy doing, the money and time to do it, the freedom to share it, and of course people to share it with.
In any other year the uncertainty of being in a city I'm not sure is good for me and the chronic inability to open up to the people I love would bring me to rate this year negatively; but as I get old I also have a wider view on the world which allows me to put my life in perspective.
And in 2018 I have had an amazing life. On to the next year!