reflections on a turbulent year

2020 what a year it has been. A year, which I initially felt that my life was held at stand-still, upon reflection, I have realized that it has been one of the years that have changed and helped me grow the most.

It was the year I finally stopped focusing a majority of my efforts in my career. I changed my mindset to “live to work” instead of “work to live”. That's not to say I lost my ambitions, I still chased down my career growth, but only “during work”.

live to work

There was a lot of movement in my life outside of just work, I moved into a place of my own and started living just by myself. I was finally able to indulge in my home decor obsession. That ultimately lead to learning a lot about what I like, what I care about and what makes me happy. But throughout more than half of the year, my focus and life still mostly revolved around work as I was chasing down a promotion. I felt burnt out, and started thinking a lot about what I even want to do career wise. The run was great, don't get me wrong. I was able to pick up a lot of skills, and learned a lot about what engineering in the real world actually is (spoiler alert: it's not algorithms or what they tend to teach at school). I greatly improved (imho) my document writing skills, being an active participant of a team with largely people more senior than me, as well as how to approach (and find solutions to) ambiguous software engineering problems. It was a fantastic year in terms of learning. But even a better year for realizations for what makes me happy.

work to live

I didn't know a lot of people in this city I moved into the year a priori before the pandemic hit. So social distancing resulted in me looking for entertainment in solidarity. I rediscovered my interest in my (non-technical) hobbies long forgotten, like reading books and playing music. The amount of satisfaction I got indulging in these made me realize that my priority in working hard was misplaced. I even put my technical hobbies on the back-burner since I figured throughout college they have gotten enough attention. To be completely honest, dissociating work for the sake of work and instead seeing work as a way to fund my life has been pretty good. I used to be worried that if I was not super passionate about my work I would not be feel the drive to excel in my work. But I have pleasantly discovered that making the distinction between living life and working has not affected my drive for career growth. I have started to feel that investing in my hobbies provides me with perspectives that give me unique insights into solving problems at work, especially reading (non-technical books included).

looking forward

Balance is key in making a content life. Too much time in leisure is just as harmful as spending too much time at work. I do feel a bit overwhelmed at times with the amount of ongoing life projects and hobbies I want to indulge in. Certain hobbies has certainly suffered during the pandemic, like fitness routines, and being more healthy in general. And there are yet even more hobbies I want to invest more time in, such as writing, reading books (most of my reading has been articles), photography, cooking, plants! ughh...

I think it's essential for me to build better habits around life come 2021 (tbh, at the time of writing this part we are nearing the end of 2021...) to make room for more in life, have more structure, lose less of life to meta-time.

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