2016 in review
Monday, June 5, 2017 :: Tagged under: essay personal year_in_review. ⏰ 10 minutes.
Hey! Thanks for reading! Just a reminder that I wrote this some years ago, and may have much more complicated feelings about this topic than I did when I wrote it. Happy to elaborate, feel free to reach out to me! 😄
I wrote most of this on the last day of 2016. Then I put it down and forgot about it. I'm publishing it late, but will throw color commentary in italics. Here we go.
My last year in review was received pretty positively, so let's try this again. Here's my 2016 in review (Christ, what happened to this year?) with hopes for 2017; a brief, mostly incorrect list:
I switched gigs
Thanks Reonomy! And thanks, ClassPass!
In October, I started at ClassPass. The transition hasn't been the smoothest; at previous startups, I was a much earlier employee, so had a lot more space to shape the culture, with less existing culture to accommodate. Furthermore, previous companies didn't have many customers, the activity of those customers wasn't very high, and the activity in any given hour had little impact on revenue. Jumping into a situation where your machines are actually taxed and the cost of outage directly leads to lots of lost revenue makes the ramping up take longer than I like to be patient for.
Still, this was absolutely the right choice for me. My current manager is fantastic with people and bleeds exceptionally for us. He read my opinions on management and looked at me as a partner, not a liability. Everyone I've worked with here has been a fantastic technologist and a pleasure to know, and this is the most confident I've felt in a product and company in ages.
(April 2017 Update 1: he's no longer at the company! RIP buddy. But the rest is absolutely true 😛)
Finally, I started training to be an instructor for Pon de FLO, my favorite workout. They recently changed from a Zumba-style business model of licensing instructors and letting it spread worldwide + monthly instructor dues to a boutique studio model (a la SoulCycle or Barry's Boot Camp), and if everything goes according to plan I'll be an instructor in their first studio.
(April 2017 Update 2: This is also no longer happening. Not for lack of effort or enthusiasm; the studio owner and I just came to believe it's best to not pursue this anymore. Hit me up for details if you're curious.)
The jumps in this workout can be killer.
Going into 2017, I hope to keep on top of it. There's an employee here at ClassPass who also teaches a few Zumba classes a week, and that strikes me as living the dream. I'd like to continue to succeed here at ClassPass while teaching throughout the week.
Much higher success rate on fighting off the depression
the best thing about twitter is u can tweet about being sad and nobody is like "try yoga 🙏" they're just all "I too yearn for death"— Brandy Jensen (@BrandyLJensen) September 22, 2016
It's an odd thing, but while 2016 was such a terrible year for humanity (the planet is boiling and we elected a pathetic orange fascist), I had one of the best years I can remember. I had my healthiest relationships, experienced career definition and growth, but as it pertains to this point, didn't want to die for most of it.
(I wrote about my depression three years ago, after already having spent a good number of years fighting it.)
I'm not claiming to be in the clear; I suspect this will be a fight for a good, long time. The initiatives I started last year (and alluded to in last year's post) are my best guesses for this change:
this, thankfully, remains true.
I got into much better shape.
I made some changes to my diet, and treated exercise as a necessary medication, rather than "a thing I should do, aspirationally." Much of it is spiritually modelled after this essay, one of my favorite things written in the last few years. In a not-so-different universe, both this post and last year's roundup read a lot like it. Key was finding exercises that pulled me back for more, which was mostly dance. Fact is, we live in our bodies, so as smart as you think you are, you can hack the feeling of happiness by doing right by your physical vessel.
i can't believe i have to keep washing this stupid body until i die— pascalle (@frenchielaboozi) February 27, 2014
Anyone who's friends with me knows that I never frame this as "it's the best!!!!" It's my second-largest expense after rent, and the person I see, while great, takes a "sit back an listen" approach, which makes it feel like I'm doing all the heavy lifting (which, I guess I am).
[In the gym] hey guys it'd be a lot easier to lift these weights if we worked together— Michael Raphone, Sr. (@michael\_raphone) November 10, 2013
That said, he is a good listener, and the space it gives me to work things out has been helpful. I've taken a lot of the work from there and made different, better choices because of it. I'm convinced it's helped me tremendously.
As a conversation piece, I often ask people melodramatically "what is 2017 The Year Of? For you, <NAME>, 2017 is the Year of the…?'", then I let them fill in the blank. It's usually fun, people enjoy the excuse to get reflective and goal-settey in a low-pressure environment. In my case, I'll steal the language of my current partner when I asked her this, and say next year I hope to Make It Stick.
One moment I had in therapy that shook my usually laid-back therapist was a sentence like "man, I really like all this dancing. I hope I keep it up," which got him to sit upright with "Well why the hell wouldn't you?!" I couldn't produce a reason, I just had a feeling: after all, I've stopped before. Many times in my history I've let myself rot. I could very well let this slip. But his outburst reminded me there's no extenuating circumstance that's forcing such an error.
I go back to his "why the hell wouldn't you?!" when I feel myself slipping. I also told him about this sketch, which I feel 11 different ways about (mostly positive):
This plays nicely into the last one:
Giving fewer fucks.
Harder to quantify, but this year I plainly gave fewer fucks about things I believed prevented me from feeling like I wanted to feel. I forget who said "people more often get what they ask for rather than what they deserve," but it hit me hard, and I subsequently asked for more, and more often. I spoke up to authority more often when I felt they hadn't earned it. I said yes to more adventures (some of which were a bit dangerous, in retrospect). In short, I lived more genuinely.
So we'll see. Here's to being alive.
Going into 2017 I damn well better keep moving, I intend to keep up therapy, and I'll continue to let Pablo out with more frequency than I have at previous points in my life.
I wrote code in new languages
The side projects were a bit more of a dry well this year; my Ghostlight of this year has slowed down a bit (and under wraps, but the not-so-hidden truth is that it's me playing with ideas I've blogged about before).
Ghostlight stuttered for a few reasons, but one of them was I tried to be a bit too ambitious with the technology. I spent Innovation Tokens too early. I also never considered whether the product was any good beyond "I think I'd want it." Apologies for linking pg, but I found Artix to be a great parallel for it. If I ever try to productize the current project, it'll be largely because I didn't try to write it in Prolog.
PG has gone full dril pic.twitter.com/njKZZQNwOU— bob (@bobpoekert) December 15, 2015
December 6, 2016
That said, I was surprised that a polyglot project came up, and that I had so much damn fun with it: 23-odd languages for Advent of Code. The ones I'm most proud of were my first Factor code, my first Mercury code, and getting to hack in C and C++ again.
I had healthier relationships
I think part of why my post resonated last year was because I stumbled into vulnerability writing about the end of a very meaningful relationship. Charly and I had a story involving real stakes (me moving my life out from Texas to Philly) with many hopeful elements (re-igniting our college relationship, to much support of our mutual friends + faculty). For many in our lives we were "the solid relationship," and I firmly believe we were damn adorable.
So let's try vulnerability again. Here's some backstory: my dating life, coming into 2016, looked like
- 2003-2004, then I ended it.
- 2006-2009, then I ended it.*
- Two smaller relationships in 2009 (4 months each) which I ended.
- 2009-2012, which I ended.*
- 2012-2013, which I ended.*
- 2013-2015, which I ended.*
Asterisks indicate that there were "Future" or "This Is The Big One" talks in the relationships. You could arguably even asterisk the first one through the magical optimism you can generate at 18 years old.
So for the past few years I've been pretty self-conscious coming into dating, because it felt more and more inevitable that entering a relationship with me has one outcome, and that's me hurting the person I still genuinely loved. They were all ready to take steps ahead, while I wasn't. My brother Robert was with the same person for 7-odd years before they got engaged (still happily married, they made an adorable baby); here I was dropping the ball after 2 years and change. After a while, it felt irresponsible to go forward.
(did I mention I'm in therapy? because this never, ever comes up)
So I already alluded to it, but I'm very proud that this year, I had (what I consider) much healthier relationships. I avoided codependency, maintained active communication, and was more clear and honest with myself (and my partners) about what I wanted, and what I could provide.
This isn't to say there wasn't (immense) heartache, nights of fits and starts, crying, or desperate loneliness. That… was all there. But it feels like I'm making new, better mistakes.
Another year with the pup
So now that I've kept him alive for over a year, I can tell the more nuanced story of Sapo, my little bastard kangaroo. Charly and I lived with George, who is a phenomenal dog. When first moving to Philly to reunite with Charly, I was sure I'd be okay with him, but I didn't anticipate the attachment I formed. He was so nice to come home to, and after the breakup, I knew I wanted a pup. The marvelous Rolando got his amazing dog from Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue, and helped work me through the process.
Not long later, I welcomed Sapo home. My friends… that first few months, I was not prepared. Sapo:
Chews. Everything. He's eaten two pairs of Sennheisers, about a dozen pens, a few pairs of shoes, three excellent sweaters, an entire bed kit (comforter, sheets, pillowcases), about 18 toys, a backpack, a few tubes of topical medications, a lot of mail + brochures, my college diploma, and a ton more I can't list. He's also knocked over several glasses and mugs.
Was prone to accidents. I used to joke "I'd say he will leave me a surprise but I don't call them 'surprises' anymore because it's semantically incorrect; I call them 'expecteds.'"
Requires a ton of walking. The little broseph has a ton of energy, and usually "goes" after 20-25 minutes of walking. He also used to pull hard on the least, in every direction. He was taking me for walks.
FWIW, this is also a huge plus. Hitting 10,000 steps a day is a breeze in large part because of this 😄
Has zero boundaries. He still climbs me on a regular basis, and jumps on any and every human he likes. After a few sniffs, he'll just lick you. The bed is his, you just sleep on it.
None of this was particularly hard; I certainly don't blame him. He's a dog! It was just a bit more of a disruption than I expected. The biggest fear was what he'd do my dating prospects, especially if I was "dude who sleeps under ribbons of ripped sheets."
Just as we were finding our rhythm, it all came to a head when he was climbing up kitchen equipment and turned on the stove, starting a fire in my apartment:
Not pictured: the entire apartment covered in soot, ash, and dust.
On the stove was his dogwalking equipment, so I'm calling this a political statement. I've (mostly) fixed everything, at considerable expense. And hey, he was trapped in a burning apartment, so a) he got the worse end of the deal, and b) he got to roleplay a famous meme!
All that said, wow did I get lucky with this dog. On top of being absolutely adorable, he's incredibly sweet, good to other dogs. This year is highlighted by many a day where this little kangaroo made me laugh, calmed me down, and kept me grounded.
[1.] If that sounds like a dig, it's not meant to be. It's just a true statement. I had marvelous times at those companies, and it's not an atypical situation in startups. Incidentally, I wish tech companies more often operated like traditional businesses. See this and this. ↩
[2.] "If you loved them, why did you break up with them?" Because the Beatles were wrong: love isn't all you need. Turns out loving someone and building a relationship to spend the rest of your life committed to only that someone are different things, much like the difference between loving someone and wanting to sleep with them. One formulation I liked was the Three Loves theory, which treats Lust, Passion, and Commitment as three different systems you can experience with a person, the combinations of which will vary and fluctuate.↩
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