2021 Reflection

A hazy orange sky with a blue mountain in the background and a mountain in the foreground from my trip to Joshua Tree

I haven't been posting here as much lately, as I've been doing a monthly newsletter on Rust here. However, it's the end of the year and so I thought I'd take some time to reflect on my life this year as a way to organize myself going into the new year. Sure it's an arbitrary point in time, but sometimes it's just good to spend time and think about what you've done. One of the things I do each year since learning about the concept of themes rather than resolutions for the new year is decide what my theme is.

This year I've decided that I want my theme to be Introspection. I spent a lot of time this year changing my life. It seemed small at the time, but in retrospect I changed and my life changed so much this year. In many ways I became unstuck. I'd fallen into stagnation in 2020 but in reality I had been stagnating for years. A lot of my 20s has felt wasted or filled with uncertainty. I make a ridiculous salary compared to most of the US, I had graduated college, I had done 6 years of the Army to pay for it, I had done the things society told me were good and I was intensely dissatisfied. Recently my girlfriend had shown me this quote by Bell Hooks that resonated with me.

I've been at odds with society in many ways my entire life, but never really stopped to think how or why. I didn't even really stop to think about what I wanted. I just went along the default path. Yet I never really fit that path from a young age. I was bullied in middle school so I never really fit in from the get go and even now I still deal with the impacts of that in my life that rears it's head in ugly ways to remind me I don't fit the mold. I am also neurodivergent and deal with seasonal depression amongst other things. What was supposed to make me happy never really filled me with fulfillment. I had not found my life's path, just temporary joy. Despite being a cishet white male, I tend to vibe way more with queer people and minorities because of that experience of not fitting into society. It should be stated that I do fit into society in other ways that are advantageous to me unfortunately just not in the sense of what society valuing making me happy. This year I learned a lot about myself and became unstuck. I finally started living.

At the end of 2020 I had taken all of December off due to burnout and came into 2021 implementing systems and eating healthier just to take care of myself at a basic level. I was in survival mode for so long that I was finally able to just get myself back into a place I could do more for myself. One of the best decisions I made this year was that I bought a car early in the year and so when I finally got it I was able to do things like go out and hike and it enabled me freedom that I just didn't have living in Boston without a car. Being amongst the trees became a healing thing and it made me more fulfilled than anything else at the time. I still was burnt out with my job though and so I began looking not long into 2021 and I ended up starting work at Fastly on the 24th of May which also happened to be my birthday. It has been a job that I've really enjoyed at least because of the team and that as a remote company it was able to handle the transition to the pandemic better compared to my last company. It enabled me to be able to leave MA if I wanted too. I'd been geographically tied to the region for ~7 years cause of my National Guard obligations and because of college. With me leaving the Army and having a remote job, I was now free in other ways.

Around March/April I began talking to my girlfriend Stephanie and we started dating shortly after. She has had the greatest impact on me not only this year, but my entire life. I'm madly in love with her and the time I spend with her is a gift. Her unique perspectives on people and life, as well as her drive to just do something she wants when she wants to has gotten me to move from "This would be nice" to also actually doing things for myself and thinking about my relationships with others more. After a few months of her living in Boston to be with me I eventually bought a house out in rural PA to live in the same town and to be closer to her. It's been the best decision I've made this year. I'm happier being in a place close to the woods. I'm happy to have my own house, a place I can always come back too and make my own. We've been able to go on many hiking trips and the amount of stress being surrounded by a city dissipated. I'm content in a way that I've not been in years.

This is why I've chosen the theme of Introspection. I want to be more intentional with the life I'm choosing for myself. I want to choose things for my life not because they were there, but because I truly want them. I want to think more about why I work on the things I do and my place in the world. I want to be a better person and work on my flaws and celebrate my strengths. I've found that this year freedom to choose, rather than feeling cooerced or locked into a choice, is something I value far more than anything. I want more of that.

2021 was a transformative year. Here's to seeing what 2022 has in store for me.