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New Year’s Reflections

2021 was a really strange year for me. The start of the year marked significant improvement in my skills as a developer - working at doctorC, working closely with Karan and Neehar really changed the way I looked at writing code, and if nothing else, taught me to be ruthless with prioritization - when faced with a stack of fires, pick the one that’s most likely to burn the house down and go from there. At the same time, the first part of the year was marked with anxiety and dread thanks to Covid. All things considered, my immediate family was very lucky throughout Delhi’s second wave; while we lost people in the family, my immediate core - my grandparents, my parents and my sister were all safe. We were perhaps even luckier than usual because for once neither one of my grandparents needed hospitalization. While we went through some rough patches - my grandparents began to fall down relatively frequently, my biggest apprehensions were about how Covid would affect my visa to the US and if I’d get to start my master’s degree.

The second part of the year was very different - I was in the US, relearning how to be a student and I definitely bit off a little more than I could chew, taking three challenging classes, TAing a fourth all while trying to do research and find an internship. Covid was definitely less of a concern - for one I was no longer living with old and sick people, but also since the university had mandatory testing every two weeks, it gave at least an impression of safety. The challenges I faced here were quite different - I definitely didn’t anticipate how difficult it would be to integrate with the community or how hard it would be to be comfortable meeting people and making new friends after two years of isolation. Having my focus split so many different ways definitely made it worse and I found myself pushing myself back towards isolation and prioritizing the closest deadline meant that a lot of essential activities got left by the wayside. Every time I had a deadline, the first thing to go out the window was jiu jitsu and exercise - a consequence of which was that my diet also became considerably worse and I was eating a lot of trashy junk food. The end result of all this is that I’ve gone and gained back almost all of the weight I had lost while at BML.

Most importantly, despite all the great things that happened to me, I can’t say I ended the year significantly happier than 2020 or even 2019. I believe that this lack of happiness is because I’ve gotten too used to staying comfortable. Over the last few years, staying at home to support my family turned into a giant crutch. While being a primary caretaker to first my mom and then my grandparents took up a significant amount of time - I believed that my desire to isolate myself from the world was because of the added emotional load and stress rather than the more obvious lack of self worth that came from regaining weight and the lack of significant physical activity. Being isolated from the world was definitely comfortable, very deliberately, there was noone to call me out on my bullshit and I became incredibly self indulgent.

Which brings me to my goals for this year - overall, I want to push myself to go out of my comfort zone, build more effective feedback loops and focus my energy on excelling at a small set of activities rather than spreading myself out too thinly.

  1. Physically, I want to lose somewhere between 0.5 - 1 kilo a week for every week of this year.
  2. I’m going to ship something by the end of this coming semester - an API, an extension - something.
  3. I’m going to make working out a very high priority - I want to be so regular at my bjj class that if I don’t show up, I want the instructors to wonder if I got into an accident on my way over.
  4. I’m going to work on my leetcode skills and public portfolio until I find an internship for the summer.
  5. I’m going to contribute to an open source NLP project in a significant way by the end of the year.