2021 in review

My previous year ends include 20162017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.

I’ll maintain that while looking back on 2021, I feel incredibly grateful. Grateful for finally being able to get vaccinated, having a few months of more peace of mind than I’ve had since the start of this pandemic, and being able to reap the rewards of goals I’ve been working towards for years. At the same time, it was not an easy year by any means: living alone for the first time in my life, spending a fairly lonely winter in Brooklyn while intensely interviewing and having to stomach what felt like constant rejection, and hitting the lowest point in my mental health in my entire life. I need to be grateful for the bad because it makes the good even better.

Looking back on the past year, I segment it into 3 parts: the first half spent social distancing and interviewing, then I left for a month long roadtrip cross country with my best friend and meeting up with friends, and then returning back to NY after a month of very healing friend time and ready to start my new job.

Review Process

Last year I wrote this thread about the process that goes behind my review. It remains mostly the same but I additionally joined a review event that my friend Juvoni organized, used these workbooks (YearCompass, Ultimate Annual Review, 8760 Hours), and these TikToks (ChakraFinder and Latinapreneur) for inspiration.

Accomplishments

It’s thrilling to be able to look at my accomplishments of the past year because they consist of plenty of things that I hoped for but also includes plenty of surprises. Undoubtedly, my biggest accomplishment is finally getting a job offer for a cyber security engineer role in an entirely different industry. I do want to mention that it comes after 74 total applications and 65 total interviews (includes multiple rounds at the same org). To say I was exhausted, relieved, and elated feels like an understatement. But what made it even better was that I received the offer right before I left for my month long road trip and was able to start after some deserved time off traveling, exploring, and eating cross-country.

Getting that new job has been a goal I’ve had since 2019 and something that I have made moves towards starting then. I made a plan that started with applying to get my masters in cyber, getting accepted, working full time while completing my masters, graduating back in August 2020, studying for the CISSP and passing in December 2020 and finally feeling “experienced enough” to begin job hunting seriously January 2021. And yet, only after many interviews, trying to find the right fit for job and org, and plenty of self doubt did I feel confident that I found the right role and team to join.

I consider the road trip to be another major accomplishment because it has been something I’ve been scheming for awhile and successfully convinced my best friend to join me for. In May we traveled from CT to LA with plenty of stops in between passing through several news states. Multiple times during that month, when I was having fun I would momentarily panic and wonder if I was allowed to be having that much fun–can you imagine? That’s where a year of fear left me mentally: doubting my joy, questioning whether I was “allowed” to be with my friends and travel, and hesitant to laugh. At the end, I felt like I was finally back on the path to start focusing on my healing after putting it off to focus on passing the CISSP and getting my job offer. My choice to put it off left me at near my breaking point and the lowest in my with my mental health. It was a choice, probably not the most prudent, but I got through it almost in one piece. Looking back, I now know that I should never do that again. Wounds need focus and time to heal and time to grieve and stretching myself that thin almost ruined me–and while it didn’t I now recognize that it was a huge lesson learned.

After 5 months of interviewing and then a month of traveling, I was back in NY ready to focus on my next few goals: jumping into the swing of my new job and training for my first 70.3 race. I hit the ground running and got a personal trainer and was working out 6 times a week doing doubles with lifting, biking, running, and fitting in swimming when I could get access to water. From there I learned how to handle kettlebells, lift heavier than ever, run faster than before on the track, and bike for hours. I competed in the NYC tri in July (that turned into a duathlon because of the conditions of the Hudson) with all of my friends cheering, then a sprint tri at the Rockaways (and got my first placing, 2nd women overall), and then completed my first 70.3 in Atlantic City with my dad cheering.

Two additional, unexpected work opportunities came up this year as well. I was voted and elected to join the board for Techqueria as an interim member as it experienced transition and growing pains. And I taught an Introduction to Cyber Security class and an Introduction to Computer Operations class for Savvy Coders. I worked with students who are attempting to transition into tech and cyber security. I never have taught in a formal capacity like that before and was nervous leading up to it but found that I had so much to say and speak to, which was exciting and incredibly rewarding. I like to joke that troubleshooting remotely required a special type of patience and determination that hardened into a new skill that I didn’t realize that I needed.

In non-professional and athletic news, some other accomplishments include adjusting to living alone, making new friends, reading 40 books, investing in different ways, restarting therapy, adjusting my monthly and weekly review process, decorating my apartment, prioritizing time during my week for language practice, starting to date again, and incorporating time during my week to incorporate creative time and practice my cuatro.

Internal Review

I started incorporating more thematic questions last year and I’m keeping them because I like looking at my year from a different angle than just what went well/what didn’t.

What surprised me?

Plenty surprised me this past year but probably what I found to be the most shocking was discovering how difficult it was to find a new job. But then there were things like, how beautiful South Dakota is and that a petrified forest consists of what now looks like rocks. Navigating yet another year in a pandemic. Traveling with friends and scheming more ways to bump into others around the country. Discovering the extent that radical conservatism and denialism is destroying Democracy. Realizing that I like being alone more than I thought I would. Visiting Austin for the first time and liking it more than I anticipated. Going on the roadtrip and thinking that I would find myself falling in love with a new city enough to want to move there (it didn’t happen). Loving co-working with my friends and liking it so much that we did it three more times. Enjoying track workouts and learning how to lift. Getting to go the NYCC.

 

What brought me joy?:

Going whale watching! Reading even more poetry and in different languages. Spotting mountain goats in South Dakota and waking up in a tent. Casually passing National Monuments and parks while driving for hours. Being on a boat with my friends on my birthday in Miami listening to Pitbull. Concerts–several! Hella Mega Tour with Greenday and Weezer, Enrique Iglesias and Ricky Martin, the Jonas Brothers, GovBall with The Bleachers and J Balvin. Dancing with my friends in crowded indoor bars and not being worried. Getting vaccinated and watching everyone I love get vaccinated and being able to hang more freely. Floating in Barton Springs then cheering for AustinFC. Having my friends move nearby and being able to get lunches with them and going on long coffee walks. Going to the farmers market and buying bouquets of flowers for myself. Being able to walk to the bookstore midday and leaving with a stack of books. Sunsets in Cape Cod. Getting to race again. Cheering for the runners during the NY Marathon. Seeking out the best breakfast burritos.

 

What inspired me?:

Watching my friends overcome hard times and move on to new chapters in their lives. New York coming to life again. Everything about the Olympics. The athletes, the organization, and conversations about the importance of mental health and failure. TikTok. The resourcefulness of scheduling, planning events, and carrying them out out despite the challenges that living during a pandemic continuously presents (especially in the wake of variations). Art in all capacities. Art continuing to serve as a mechanism to work through pain and help others through pain. Watching my teammates push themselves. Everything about the Secrets of the Whales…And honestly, myself.

 

What challenges did I face?:

Definitely as I’ve mentioned before, my emotional and mental rock bottom. The difficulty of job hunting. Preparing to teach my classes. Navigating being alone and facing who I am without someone else. Figuring out the intricacies of non-profits. Problem solving for friends and family.

 

Where did I grow?:

I like to think that I am kinder and softer than before. I have honed in on my discipline with my daily workouts, especially during a training block. Learning who I am outside of a relationship. Improving throughout my interview process, especially for technicals. After being fairly novice with hardware, getting up to speed enough to teach an entire class in computer operations and hardware. Acknowledging the need and importance for time to rest and recover and of course for help. Growing into a new role with a fairly different focus than my previous ones. Prioritizing the need for daily reading in my life and the richness it gives me. Troubleshooting at work and in life, figuring out what works and what doesn’t and iterating from there. Learning the importance of strength training and avoiding injuries

 

Where did I miss?:

I regret not choosing to run any marathons because I was concerned about pushing myself–on the flip side, I’ve learned how to avoid injury. I didn’t follow through with studying and taking the OSCP because I was too busy/distracted this summer with working out, going out, and adjusting to the new job. Spreading myself thin and having to learn the message the hard way. A lack of accountability of some personal sustainability goals/practices I had. Shrinking my social circle.

The Hits

Travel

Back to the road the roadtrip, it included the following: Greenwich, CT > Chicago, IL > Custer, SD > Big Sky, MT > Denver, CO > Santa Fe, NM > Sedona, NM > Los Angeles, CA > Joshua Tree, CA. The longest drive was from Chicago to Big Sky which was a whooping 19hrs and ended with me trepidatiously driving us up a very dark road up a mountain to a glamping campsite with a view of Mount Rushmore in 35 degrees fahrenheit. It also included passing through CT, NY, PA, OH, IN, IL, WI, IA, SD, MT, WT, ID, CO, NM, AZ, and CA and several of which were new states for me. Some notable national parks/monuments included Joshua Tree, the Badlands, Yellowstone (drive through), Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, and Petrified Forest National Park.

We also managed to pickup our friend in Colorado and travel with her up until Sedona, met up with more friends in LA and heading over to Joshua Tree for an unforgettable weekend, and then spent a week co-working in a self-proclaimed WeWork in LA. The WeWork turned into a WeQuit when I quit my old job and then spent the rest of the week running around, sleeping, hiking, sitting at the Costco garage, waking up at 5:30am PST to work EST hours, financially ruining ourselves, grabbing breakfast burritos for everyone who was still working, and watching all the Shrek movies. The road trip was the first breath of air I had in months, maybe years, because it followed the immediate relief of being vaccinated, getting my job offer, and then finally leaving the northeast for the first time since December 2019. My best friend and I were the happiest pair, not even disagreeing once, being able to be in a car all day together, talking deeply, listening to lots of Spotify and making each other endure our favorite songs, going on lots of hikes, eating great food, and just laughing.

Other little trips included Newport, New Haven, Cape Cod, Brigantine, Providence, and the Hamptons. A longer trip involved visiting Austin to visit one of my best friends who moved there, going to the first game for AustinFC, and being floored by the food scene there. And another trip that I’ve been scheming for awhile was going somewhere warm for my birthday after a lifetime of cold birthdays. It culminated in having 10 of my close friends meeting me in Miami for a debaucherous weekend that involved a boat, plenty to drink, and the best weather I could ask for. Forever touched to have so many kind people in my life who would make the effort come and celebrate me.

Food

Just realized that I haven’t included this section since 2019. Living in a food capital and being surrounded by friends who equally love food and seek it out is nothing short of a joy. List has strong pizza, Brooklyn, and taco representation.

  • Leo** (BK, NY) pictured right
  • L’industrie** (BK, NY)
  • Casa Ora (BK, NY)
  • Bernies (BK, NY)
  • Xixa (BK, NY)
  • Taqueria Ramirez** (BK, NY) pictured right
  • Birrialandia (BK, NY) pictured right
  • Sazon (Santa Fe, NM)
  • La Paloma** (Santa Fe, NM)
  • Riverhouse BBQ & Events* (Gallatin, MT)
  • Tacos in Austin: Granny’s Tacos, Velvet Tacos, Torchys Tacos

Notable Books

This is the fifth year that I’ve participated in Goodreads Reading Challenge and after increasing my book count per year I hit 40 books this past year. With my reading this past year, I tried to keep each book genre as random as possible which ended up being a fun game. Genres ranged from sci-fi, poetry, history, magical realism, essays, and nonfiction. Plus, ended up reading 5 books in Spanish with was an all-time high.

Favorites books include:

  • Resistencia: Poems of Protest and Revolution a collection **
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X, Alex Haley **
  • The BreakBeat Poets Vol. 4: LatiNext a collection
  • Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer **
  • How to Survive a Plague: The Inside Story of How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS by David France **
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  • Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport
  • Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir *
  • There There by Tommy Orange *
  • This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends: The Cyberweapons Arms Race by Nicole Perlroth **

Notable entertainment and more

Spiderman was good fun and watching Rachel Zegler and Ariana DeBose in West Side Story was extraordinary. I found Don’t Look Up to be effective and Tick, tick…BOOM! reminded me how much I love a good musical, something I also felt while watching In the Heights. I wish Hollywood would’ve given the people what they wanted which would be an 8hr long Dune movie. In binge news, Squidgames and Succession delivered. As for music, I listened to All To Well (10 minute version) and Happier Than Ever on repeat for self explanatory reasons.

After almost entirely forsaking podcasts once I lost my commuting time in 2020 I made more of a concerted effort to keep up to them while showering/cleaning/cooking. A big surprise in I didn’t know I needed this but I definitely needed this news was Bending the Elements with Janet Varney and Dante Basco. When I initially found out that they were going to do a podcast recapping every ATLA episode I immediately wrote it off–I’ve seen the show more times than I can count. But, after giving it a try I found it to be nothing short of delightful/fun/nostalgic/intersectional in all the best ways. Plus, they’ve done such an interesting job highlighting ATLA facts I didn’t already know and discussing all the behind the scenes of voice acting, directing, writing, and foley. Everything Ezra Klein does is superb and the Daily helps feed me information that I want to understand but don’t necessarily feel bothered with reading into.

My not so secret love, that I probably need to consider scaling back, is newsletters. I subscribe to 100+ that come at different times of the day and days of the week and I’ll forever advocate that they’re the best way to consume the news. They’re my favorite way to discover interesting long-form articles, meticulously follow what’s happening in the House and Senate, keep up with obscure stories (a favorite random one is the sleuth trying to steal manuscripts), read compelling opinions, and dive deeply on topics that I would have never stumbled upon myself. My list of favorite newsletters includes recent additions that I can’t live without.

After a few years of navigating this thing called adulthood, I finally invested in household items that make my life easier and better. My bookcase gives me a certain sense of my childhood dreams fulfilled. I use the projector to binge watch TV from my bed when I feel like it. The bidet gives me the excuse to buy less toilet paper. I use the vacuum regularly throughout the day because of how light and easy it is to use. I’ll probably reread this and roll my eyes but they still feel like notable wins because of their ease of use and improvement on my quality of life that’s just worth mentioning.

 

Favorite movies include:

  • Judas and the Black Messiah**
  • Don’t Look Up
  • Dune**
  • In the Heights
  • Encanto
  • Spiderman: Far from Home
  • Tick, tick…BOOM!

Favorite TV shows include:

  • Squidgames
  • Succession
  • Y: The Last Man

Favorite podcasts include:

  • Bending the Elements**
  • Darknet Diaries**
  • The Daily
  • The Ezra Klein Show
  • Radio Ambulante

Favorite products include:

  • Cold brew maker
  • West Elm book case
  • Dyson vacuum
  • Projector
  • Bidet

2022?

I look towards 2022 hopefully and I am challenging myself to think bigger and to start thinking about the next few years and next bigs goals that I would work towards. Keeping it high-level, some of my goals for the next year include:

  • Even more travel and going abroad for the first time since 2018
  • Traveling for races
  • A marathon or two
  • Actually facing the OSCP
  • Reading 50 books
  • Continuing creative time and language practice
  • Finalizing my next cycle of multi-year goals
  • More self care and rest
  • Spending more time away from my phone

Ready for this next year and despite all the things that I already have on my calendar feeling excited for whatever surprises come up.

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