The 2019 Retrospective
Big, Closed Answers
- What do I value, and how much am I willing to pay for it? I’ve decided this question is a non-issue. Saying “yes” to everything I want leaves me with an acceptable budget (although this is largely contingent on the fact that I don’t want to buy very many things). I keep tabs on my monthly budget, which will serve a warning system if my habits change. There’s still room for improvement in understanding how to get the most bang for my buck, but I’m satisfied with where I am.
- What am I exercising towards? Being more comfortable in my own skin. I like exercising as a way of exploring my limits and learning to interpret signals from my body. I also gained compelling experience that regular exercise helps me sleep when I trained for a race this summer.
- How to I measure learning? Still an open question. The biggest issue seems to be how do you evaluate knowledge without spending an excessive amount of time doing so (ex. writing down everything you know would be a pretty good way of assessing how much you’ve learned, but would be a waste of time)
- What cause area do I want to get behind (for now)? Animal Welfare and Climate Change, apparently. I’m volunteering with The Humane League, who focus on farmed animal welfare, and EarthHero, an app that facilitates carbon footprint reduction and collective action. I didn’t end up using any rigorous method to decide on these causes – they were simple the first compelling organizations that came across my path. What makes them compelling is that I feel like I have a lot to learn from the organizations and people involved.
- How do I prioritize all of the incoming possibilities and information? Still an open question.
Did the skills improve?
- Writing: Marginally. My favorite new way to practice writing is to take random paragraphs from books or articles and try to dissect them for what the author did. I didn’t put in enough leg work this past year.
- Cooking: Noticeable improvement! It helps that I found a more stable cooking habit (see Equilibriums). My skills are far from gourmet, but I’m pretty happy with the general quality of my food.
- Putting myself in others’ shoes: Noticeable improvement! And still a long way to go. One of the more successful strategies I’ve found is to ask what state would lead to a certain behavior.
Cool things I did
- Ran a Spartan race (race + obstacle course) with my younger brother
- Went to the Lesbians Who Tech conference in San Francisco (as an ally)
- Took my first real vacation as a working adult in the Colorado Rockies
- Started thinking about what I actually want to do.
2020 Turn of the Year Snapshot
Equilibriums I’m satisfied with:
- Sleep: Has gotten even better since last year! I’ve started to only use my bed for sleep, and I seem to be falling asleep faster for it.
- Cooking: I started using Cooksmarts, a subscription service that provides a menu of weekly dishes. You what you want to cook and Cooksmarts compiles a shopping list. With Cooksmarts, I avoid the choice paralysis of trying to pick something to cook from the wide selection of “everything.” I’ve also started using Prime now to get my groceries delivered, which reduces the choice fatigue I get from going to the store. It turns out that picking a recipe and going shopping are by far my least favorite parts of the cooking process
- Exercise: I started lifting weights (three times a week) and doing yoga (once a week). I’m following weightlifting plans from the book “Bigger, Leaner, Stronger,” which gets a bit used-car salesman-y at points, but is generally full of solid advice.
- Spending: See “What do I value…” in Big, Closed Answers
- My team: I transferred to the Sustainability Technology department within Amazon and I’m much happier with the mission of the team. I’m also getting more opportunities to work with senior developers and project managers.
Top of my mind
- Putting myself in others’ shoes: Carrying over from last year. I still don’t feel like I have the strongest grasp
of how to put myself in others’ shoes, or what to do with that experience when I do manage a moment of empathy.
1. Being a better conversationalist: I often catch myself having nothing to say in conversations, which is not fun.
- Helping others and figuring out what makes an effective organization: After a couple conversations with senior developers at Amazon, it looks like the most important skills for me to develop are the ability to magnify the effectiveness on the team and help others. These group-oriented skills are going to be a departure from the individualistic work I’m used to exercising from college. I’m becoming acutely aware of the limits of what one person can do, and being able to help others seems like the next logical step moving away from trying to do everything myself. I’m also paying attention to these questions in the organizations I’m volunteering with
- Finding the time to write, edit, and publish regularly: I still think that writing will end up being a vital skill being able to have a broad influence, not to mention the fact that I enjoy sorting out my thoughts through the written word. I want to be able to publish some form of writing to a larger audience on a regular basis, but am dissatisfied with my past attempts at blogging.
- Prioritizing opportunities: Same from last year. How do I decide what to do with my limited time?
- Learning as much as possible: This includes the old measuring learning question, but puts the spotlight on what’s really important to me. I’m focusing more on how to find good teachers (be they books or people) and finding time to put in deliberate, effective practice.
- What do I want? How do I want to live day-to-day? I had one of those quietly life-changing conversations during a Spring Equinox party. I was talking about the importance of discipline to building skill and showing up even on days when you don’t want to, and someone mentioned that if you keep having to force yourself to do something, perhaps you shouldn’t be doing it regularly. More generally, they touched on the theme of “do what you want,” which is apparently not something I do. I’ve spent about half the year ruminating on what I want to do and what makes me feel good, and I think I’m on the verge of answering these questions. We’ll see how that goes in a year. 1. What’s memorable? Much more recently, during the holiday season, a friend innocuously asked me what my favorite thing I’d done since graduating had been and I drew a complete blank. Which tells me that nothing I’ve done has made a terribly large impression on. Which is mildly concerning. Although, I’d rather learn that I haven’t done anything memorable a year and a half into my adult life than twenty years in. I’ll hopefully be addressing this issue along with figuring out what I want.