It was the best of years, it was the worst of years…
If I could use a one word to describe the year: transformative. If I could use two words: a failure. I failed in 2015 more than I have ever failed in my life. But I learned a great deal too, and I dare say I am a different person now than I was when 2015 dawned. For one, I started off the year worrying about running out of brain plasticity to learn cool things. I ended the year worrying about how I am ever going to be as emotionally intelligence and socially adept as everyone else around me.
Highlights, in no particular order (though #1 is definitely #1):
- Storm Chasing. 3000 miles driven on the first trip, probably ~1500 on the second. Beautiful storms, beautiful scenery, and cool friends and music on the second one; I was made for this. Funny how I was so depressed in the beginning of May I almost failed to plan this, even though I told myself I should. Easily the best trip of my life.
- Canada trip. Family trip, and a very stressful one indeed, but added a few thousand miles of driving to my roadtrip madness this year! Note: both this trip and my second storm chasing trip in AZ covered portions of highways I had been on before. One can say I “re-vacationed” a ton this year.
- Other noteworthy trips:
- [Camping] March feels so long ago, but this was my first time camping. In an egregiously dry winter, we were lucky to encounter a hailstorm during the trip. The hail fell so heavily that it covered the entire ground in a layer of graupel. The scene was absolutely stunning.
- [September hikes] This alone is not that remarkable, but I went on two hiking trips in Marin County on consecutive days over Labor Day weekend totaling ~14 miles, give or take. And getting a girl’s number and subsequently asking her out on a date on the second hike? Go me?
- Promotion. This seems so long ago, but it did happen. I got promoted at work. Did I mention during the celebration with my boss at Happy Hour we both got super drunk with tequila shots – and I had to wake up early next day for my second storm chasing trip? Classic.
- Moving to my own home. I live by myself now in Walnut Creek which I moved into in June. Crammed between storm chasing and promotion (all happening around end of June – early July), moving added to the craziness of that period of the year.
- Fashion transformation. My work friends commented (read: sneered) on my less-than-hip fashion sense, so I decided to do some research on some good outfits, and I purchased some plaid shirts over Black Friday. I don’t notice people noticing me more but I think it was a nice upgrade.
- Reddit. I finally did it. After years of hearing about it, I finally opened up that url and created an account. It’s become my second-biggest time waster after Twitter, so yes, it constitutes a big part of my year.
- Ping-pong. I started playing ping-pong with coworkers this year. This accomplished: 1) keeping me physically active during work; 2) meeting new people who joined me and our ping-pong group; 3) deepening relationships with people on my team. [Note: edited to add this bullet point because I forgot about it.]
- Coding: Android, Python, Github. [Edited: almost missed this!] One of the bigger epiphanies I had this year was that I enjoy coding more than I enjoy interacting with people/managing. This year I started doing many more personal projects than I had before, posting many to Github. Additionally, I re-learned Python early in the year as part of a personal work project, and Android later in the year at home, developing an app to calculate split costs (still in progress).
- Depression/Loneliness/#ForeverAlone. Here come the negative parts of the year (so if you don’t like negativity, I suggest stop reading here). I struggled with depression quite a bit from Jan-early May and towards Sept-Dec. (Incidentally, the months where I didn’t have a trip planned.) Went weekends without doing anything in the former time period. Life can get tough, and loneliness makes it orders of magnitude tougher. With the latter period, first few months living by myself were great. Later few months, not so much. At times, the loneliness was overwhelming, so much so that it physically hurt. I tried countering my loneliness with meetup groups, but I just didn’t click with anyone.
Once someone is lonely enough for a long enough time the problem of romantic relationships percolates to the forefront. Especially if they have a crush at the workplace. I have been single for three years. Up until this year, being single wasn’t a big deal for me. I used to joke with yearbook friends about being foreveralone (some of those friends aren’t single anymore). Well, it’s no longer a joke, and I have gotten tired of being single. Latter on in the year I begin considering online dating again, but still have yet to implement a plan outside of asking a few people out (all of which ended up in rejection). But I’ll always remember 2015 as the year in which I started being bothered by being single.
- Socializing lessons. The other measure I took to counter my loneliness was figuring out how I got there in the first place. What had I done wrong in the first place, such that so few of the people I met in Berkeley cared that I still existed? I read articles, I even purchased a book, I watched YouTube videos. I learned first and foremost to listen better. After introspection, I realized that my best conversations contained prolific validations. People like to feel important and validated, and charming people strive to fulfill those needs. On the other hand, it’s also important not to filter what you say; sometimes it’s better to build momentum by saying anything instead of floundering to say the best thing.
Has it helped? I think so. The two bullet points below may have been helped by implementations of my learnings. On the other hand, it’s been a struggle to maintain my identity while training myself to be better at socializing. As an example, I listen to others more now, but honestly sometimes I’m not interested, and would rather express some flavor in my favorite combo of physics/weather/programming.
- (A brief return of positivity) – reconnecting with old friends. I don’t take any credit for this because I have no idea how it happened, but something magical started around August. Old Berkeley and HS friends started contacting me again. And this absolutely helped me when I was at my most lonely. Since then I have been bar-hopping, New Year’s fireworks watching, Mission pastry eating, haircutting and just overall reconnecting with these people.
- New work friends. I met one girl at a work party. Others were always there but it took until this year to develop deeper relationships. Yet others joined the team this year. Regardless of the circumstances, I doubled my social group at work this year, and my pool of lunch buddies. But if I were to be honest with myself, and I will be in this article – I think the effort I put into expanding my coworker social circle was directly spurred on by loneliness and my aforementioned crush.
- Work drama. I don’t like to post much about my work online, given the potential ramifications, but I feel compelled to in a year-end recap. Lots of drama, lots of politics, and turned me off to the corporate environment. Later on in the year, we released a bunch of quick-fix patches to a critical client that exposed just how many issues existed in our application. I think both of these demoralized our team quite a bit, me included. Not having the continued sense of purpose and achievement at my work likely contributed to my depression. And, as a result of that, my performance declined, which allowed a fellow team member to surpass me my boss’s list of highest performers, which augmented my depression even further, and so on…
- Failure, and Learning. The first half of this year was filled with success. But since then, it’s been absolute failure, and that’s putting it lightly, and it’s such a massive part of my life since ~Sept that it has to be the item that wraps up the summary of my 2015. My career is not moving forward, my work performance has not gotten better. My loneliness continues to grow every day, as attempts to mitigate it have only worked short-term. My love life is nonexistent. The way I dress was so bad my coworker friends decided to laugh at it. My identity is in question as I train myself to be better at socializing, whose progressed has plateaued in the past couple of months. Who am I anymore? How do I take the next level to become as good at socializing as my boss or my coworkers? I know I need to reignite my career again, but how? As I start 2016, the uncertainties weigh on me more than ever.