How should I even attempt to begin this one? How does one even begin to review this past year? I reread my annual review from last year and chuckled. I used words like big plans, big goals, and big hopes. So earnest, so eager, and no idea.
I, like most others, was wildly unprepared for the grief, confusion, anxiety, and real anguish that would follow. How does one even wrap their head around a year when everyone around you is struggling? How can you not feel useless and unhelpful? How does tracking any habits feel remotely useful? How does the monotonous pattern of waking up, rolling out of bed and working for the next 12 hours feel remotely purposeful as you read about people dying en masse and struggling in the same city where you are just sending emails.
All the time that I normally would have spent drinking and laughing with friends, catching flights, maintaining a meticulous weekly schedule was instead spent zooming and crying and having too much time to relive every mistake and unavoidable memory in detail. But also, mostly unclear on how to behave because you are just overwhelmed and grappling with all these new daily feelings of doom, dread, and mostly guilt. Hesitating before posting or sharing. Probably spending too much time judging others actions and spending a lot of time doubting my own. Grappling with the undeniable proof of privilege. Recognizing the sheer amount of crises this country faces. Constantly feeling utterly betrayed and disappointed by leadership and by those who refuse to acknowledge fact. Trying to navigate personal grief in a world where everyone was grieving or still trying to live their lives like before.
But it was also a year where I felt such gratitude and awe. Being near bursting into tears of joy from such small joys like receiving a text from a friend checking in. Or being able to sit outside at a comfortable distance with a friend who you normally see weekly for the first time in months. Or having the time to read or tuck into bed early on a Friday night with a book that you crush. Or in sheer awe of the call to bravery you witness on a daily basis? While there certainly were equal parts joy and a lot of little and huge wins to cherish.
Most strangely, I also had to grapple with ethical decisions in the face of a global pandemic on a daily basis. A topic that I spent a lot of time debating and discussing with friends while also meticulously scrutinizing and judging every person that I follow online. The new found pause I have before sharing what seems like an innocent picture and wondering what others might think. The frivolity of posting something silly or beautiful or dumb when people are dying in your city? Questioning my every decision: to order from Amazon or to not? Is it okay to eat at restaurants? Inside? Outside? Go on a vacation? Drive? Camp? Fly? Post a picture of an outdoor hang? Celebrate while wearing masks? Celebrate holidays together?
So how does one even begin to write a 2020 year in review? Humbly. In gratitude. Proud for making it. Forgiving of oneself. Honoring every person who struggled or didn’t deserve to die like they did. Recognizing their sheer privilege. Serving others as much as they can. Radicalized by the injustices faulted from living in a capitalistic world built on white supremacy that is more concerned about the health of the markets than the common good of an entire nation. Just to name a few.
The following is mostly for my benefit so that I can look back and attempt to see how I was able to process the past year in reflection form.
For the first time ever, I attempted to use my Twitter for something other than shitposting and made a thread about the process that goes behind my review. It was a fun exercise to figure out how to vocalize all my steps and to reflect on how this process has expanded and developed over the past few years.
Basically this whole process begins early December where I start taking account of this year, I vision board, I reflect on the goals I set for this past year and reflect on progress, and start manifesting for the next year.
It’s with some guilt that I acknowledge that this was a year of a lot of professional accomplishments. I’ve been working towards for a few years now and it’s with a sigh of relief that I can finally cross them from my to do list. I am incredibly proud of myself and I want to give myself the space to recognize that.
I graduated with my Masters in Cybersecurity after completing 10 courses in the span of a year. It felt like a crash course in some ways and also the chance to reaffirm a lot of what I’ve learned while on the job. Highlights include my professors, the ability to apply what I was learning to my client work, and my capstone project where I focused on ransomware in the healthcare industry. After submitting a final exam I celebrated the completion of the masters with my family and soaked it in during a golden August afternoon.
Shortly after completing my Masters I finally got promoted from Consultant to Senior Consultant. A goal I’ve been working towards for awhile and felt such relief especially during a year where job stability was fraught. I also participated in my first cyber security panel alongside Latinx cyber professionals.
Lastly, and what feels like the ribbon on top of my year of professional accomplishments was passing the CISSP exam. It’s been a goal I’ve been working towards since I began working full-time in 2017 and something I committed myself to as a semi-coping mechanism as I was working through some drastic person life changes. I spent months and the entirety of weekends rereading 1000+ page textbooks, handwriting hundreds of flashcards, and highlighting my notebooks. I took the exam feeling shaky but excited to finally face it and ;eft in relief that culminated with some solo tacos.
I’m guided by a few overarching thematic questions as I try to review the past year. Instead of focusing on events (because there really were so few) I tried to look at this year through different angles such as joy and disappointment.
What surprised me?:
Well. This whole year was a surprise but there were a lot of fleeting surprises that I’m trying to remember. I surprised myself by discovering a love of reading poetry. I was met with surprise when I settled into yet another Friday night of ordering pizza and saying in and enjoying it. I stumbled on a milk bottle for sale on eBay with my grandfathers name (still unclear about why it exists). I was able to attend multiple cyber conferences online. Watching folks actively seek to destroy the democratic process in the U.S. Oh and my long-term relationship ended during a trip (in probably the most beautiful perfect location I could dream of) that I thought would bring us closer and mend the growing rift. Hah very surprising. My friends rising to the challenge of checking in on eachother and zooming regularly and writing letters to each other and even sending presents. Finding my dream apartment and moving without problem despite unnecessary stress. How long it took me to readjust to full time working from home.
What brought me joy?:
Having the time for slow mornings before work. Preparing a big breakfast and coffee and sitting on the roof in the sun. Listening to Folklore on repeat and then Evermore on repeat. Laying on a stone beach in Maine late at night crippled with such sudden sorrow but also astonished by how clear and bright the stars were in that dark sky. The NYC Techqueria Black History Month celebration that ended up being a bit of a party. My friends in all capacities–via zoom, via handwritten note, and via frequent texts checking in. Ordering way too much craft beer. Running in Prospect Park in all types of weather–sweltering, cold, and foggy. Having the time to rewatch my comfort shows that include Avatar the Last Airbender and the Legend of Korra. Playing Animal Crossing with such fervor at the same time as the rest of the world. The communities I found online. Being able to see progress in my studies. Eating pizza at the waterfront. Baking! Earl grey tea cake! Lemon poppy seed cake! Toffee! Olive oil cake! Too much banana bread! Weekly pumpkin bread! All the birthday love and getting tacos and my favorite cake sent to me from a close friend. Online slack communities including Techqueria, CyberDEI, LABAC, and Victory2020. Riding the ferry. Finding out Biden/Harris won the election while sitting in McCarren and hearing the whole park burst into clapping and cheering.
What inspired me?:
I’d be remiss to not acknowledge the healthcare workers globally and especially in New York City. Hearing folks clap and cheer everyday. The Biden/Harris victory and watching the victory speeches with tears. Watching folks organize within their local communities. Participating in protests this year and being a part of the movement. Watching my friends engage in protests and being politically active. Reading about how the scientific communities came together to work towards a vaccine. Watching the donations pour into bail funds, mutual aids, and progressive political candidates. Participating with national organizing via Slack.
What challenges did I face?:
Definitely a year of challenges that include that initial month of quarantine when no one quite understood what was going on and. I struggled through a challenging project at work that ended with a lot of hard lessons. Postponing just about everything: parties, holidays, races, graduations, and I even ended up postponing the CISSP a couple times. I struggled with election anxiety and dread for pretty much the entire months of October and November. Working through more emotions than I ever would want to face. Struggling with sleep due to said emotions. Making impulsive decisions only to suffer the consequences.
What decisions and risks did I make?:
Combined these two because they ended up being short. But, the only notable decisions I made was committing to finally taking the CISSP and choosing to move. Some risks I made included moving alone and spending that time to do internal work.
Where did I grow?:
I love to joke that if you weren’t radicalized by this year you were not paying attention or you’re too comfortable in your privilege to wake up. I’m proud of the growth I made even though a lot of it wasn’t easy or necessarily my choice. I feel like my biggest areas of growth was recognizing the importance of asking for help. Saying you need help. Asking a friend for their time and support and not feeling guilty about it. But also, I am proud of the ability to help others, strangers, family, and friends while also struggling. Another huge lesson for me was the importance of focusing on one goal at a time. Often, I try to fit it all in. Career, friends, relationship, sports. But with fitting it all in, everything suffers. I finally recognized the importance of pausing all else and focusing on one goal at a time. In the fall, I stopped working out to focus on studying for the CISSP and packing to move because I finally recognized that I can’t get it all done. For that, I was successful and it was a good lesson to finally face.
Oh well. This one didn’t go as planned. I could go on and on about all the places that I was supposed to go to and the smallest violin could play. It was a bummer, sure but I’m grateful for the time I got to spend not rushing around or being jet-lagged. Plus, it was worth it to hear that global emissions went down, so that’s a bright side.
This was the year that I finally got to read more. Initially, I thought it would be thanks to my new very long commute. During my first week of a 2hr round trip commute I discovered and crushed the Red Rising series by Pierce Brown and just….wow. Completely reinvented what science fiction could be in my eyes. I spent a decent amount of quarantine pouting that it wasn’t a HBO show yet. From there I spent a decent amount of time reading more science fiction, finally hitting Dune (I found to be dry, boring, and long but I understand its’ importance) and Murderbot. I loved reading Murderbot knowing that it was originally written online and that it was written by a woman, I felt like I could see the difference from perspective. I finally spent more time reading more fiction than non-fiction this year, a reverse from the past few years. It was necessary especially because I felt like a lot of the non-fiction books I had been reading should’ve been a chapter and not a book. I even managed to add horror, memoir, and poetry books into my queue, all I enjoyed. For fun, I was looking at data surrounding the authors I read and created a couple graphs below just out of curiosity. Most notably, I want to call out that I also managed to read a majority of books from female authors which also felt like an exciting win.
Favorites books include:
- Red Rising series by Pierce Brown
- Murderbot series by Martha Wells
- Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio
- Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
- Atomic Habits by James Clear
- When my brother was an Aztec by Natalie Diaz
- In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
- The Body by Bill Bryson
I spent more time watching TV than ever before which was fun because I finally was watching the same shows that people would be talking about and I started to work through my backlog of movies/shows I’ve been meaning to watch. Plus I was able to watch a bunch more foreign films too.
Favorite movies include:
- Your Name
- Pelo Malo
- Da 5 bloods
Favorite TV shows include:
- Mr. Robot
- The Queens Gambit
- The Mandalorian
I’ve never been one to have favorite albums, but again, with all the time, I managed to listen to way more music than ever before and also listen to the same things on repeat for way too long. Plus, my favorites, Bad Bunny and Taylor Swift blessed the masses with not one but two whole albums this year too. Interestingly, once I lost my commuting time I struggled to maintain listening to podcasts which is a bummer. But while I found it too hard to focus on work while listening to podcasts I found that I could just jam out instead.
Favorite albums include:
- Plastic Hearts
- El Último Tour Del Mundo
I want to be more organized going forward on tracking the articles I read and really impacted me. I ended up with the following list from looking at what I tweeted, reshared to my story, and sent to friends. Themes obviously include NYC, the pandemic, LoK/ATLA, and whales.
- The Arctic’s thawing ground is releasing a shocking amount of dangerous gases
- Black Birding Is About Hope
- Legend of Korra Walked So Queer Characters on Kids’ TV Could Kiss
- There are no good choices
- What have we done to the whale?
- Jerry Seinfeld: So You Think New York Is ‘Dead’
- The stunning second life of “Avatar: the Last Airbender”
- 3 Long (Haired) Months: Barbershop Before-and-Afters
- On witness and respair: A personal tragedy followed by pandemic
- The Confessions of Marcus Hutchins, the Hacker Who Saved the Internet
- A Brooklyn Hospital Mourns the Doctor Who Was ‘Our Jay-Z’
- A 425-Pound Tiger Living in a Harlem Apartment? Yes, It Happened
As many memes have joked, I have no intention of claiming any part of 2021. I walk with trepidation. But some things that I am looking forward to include:
- The vaccine!
- Being able to travel? A roadtrip?
- Spring and summer in the city
- Biking outdoors once it’s warm enough
- Facing the OSCP
- Reading 40 books
- Giving myself daily creative time (lol! but also I love playing with colors)
- Racing again?
- Working remotely in new locations?
Simple things to look for and all the gratitude in the world to be able to experience any of it. Looking forward to a year that’s more kind and sustainable.