Reflections on 2020


Image of the bay

I'm writing this passage as I look out the window, towards the darkening San Francisco hills facing away from the Diamond Heights neighborhood. I think to myself - how the hell did I end up here? The economic and social impacts of the coronavirus pandemic are well covered by now, but one aspect that I am thinking about more recently is crazy turn of events that has occurred in my personal life due to these unique circumstances.

Summing up the big events and milestones that happened for me this year, roughly in chronological order:

  • did half of my 2A term at Waterloo, then went home (due to the pandemic) and finished the rest there
  • did a month-long hackathon
  • did an internship at Fractal Computers
  • started logging what I learned every day
  • bought an electric keyboard and started relearning the piano
  • got into growing succulents and cooking
  • joined the Mozilla Builders spring/summer batch and tried to change the food distribution system with my friends
  • went on a few camping trips with friends
  • started my 2B school term, and moved to a communal living house in New Mexico halfway through
  • lived there for two months, made a music bot and many friends and memories
  • climbed my first mountain
  • drove to San Francisco with a few of these friends
  • celebrated my first Hanukkah
  • sent snail mail for the first time by writing 20 Christmas cards
  • currently doing development work to build a better Discord for a game publisher based in Shenzhen

Writing these things down, I'm struck by how random and unpredictable these events have been. You can apply a slight change to several points in this timeline, and my life would have been totally different. If I had not made that spontaneous decision to go to New Mexico of all places, I could very well have spent the rest of my year studying at home, and most definitely not writing this post at all.

I think can be a few takeaways from what I have experienced this year:

  1. Spontaneity and uncertainty strongly correlate with the diversity of one's life experiences, and the rate at which one learns lessons and ideas
  2. Life is unpredictable, but you can always make it more unpredictable by acting in ways you normally would not
  3. The future contains planned, unknown and truly unknown events. Truly unknown events are the ones that you do not even know can happen to you in life
  4. There is so much to do and explore, and my life seems to pass by faster by the year. The question of whether or not I will find true purpose and fulfillment by the time I die seems to be a real concern that cannot be ignored

Life takes many unexpected twists and turns

When asked about my New Year's resolution, I shied away from listing quantifiable goals. During my interactions with my housemates in New Mexico, I have realized how little time I have invested in personal reflection. The pressures from school and work have pushed my mental state to hone in to only building and doing things. So the only goals that I have instinctively set for the past year were quantified by metrics such as # of projects, user count, and specific career/internship goals. I realize that without putting the time to critically think, I have made myself a lot more prone to chase after the "rat race" goals that society tells me is important.

I think I want to spend the next year properly digesting and reflecting, and to continue daring to try new things, so that I will have a clear conviction about what I can be comfortable doing for the entirety of 2022.

There some actionable tasks that I'll want to try this year:

  1. Write more
  2. Read more
  3. Go to a lot of totally different environments and places
  4. Get comfortable with sharing my ideas openly

I haven't put numbers on these goals, to encourage myself to focus on the purpose and theme behind what I'll do, instead of just the superficial counts and statistics. We'll do a postmortem next year and see how this approach works out.

Cheers to an awesome 2021~