I’ve been joking that my version of the Ted Lasso ‘believe’ is ‘follow your curiosity’. It was something my mentor mentioned to me while I was talking about side projects that I was rabbit holing into. Since that conversation, it’s been something that pops back top of mind often.
It crosses my mind while I was break open a new IOT device, go through forums about Flipper Zero, read about AI and different approaches to writing prompts, and tweak my home lab.
It’s acted as a guide to help fuel my curiosity and also justify the many detours I find myself on as I work towards the overall goal of being a successful cyber security professional and generalist.
At times, it might seem like this will just give an excuse to get distracted and lose focus on the ultimate goal. But at least for me, my ultimate goal is to learn as much as possible. Learning as much as possible allows me to deepen my understanding and also helps me not get daunted by diving into unknown technical rabbit holes. Again, learning as much as possible definitely sounds vague. It is, it’s meant to be. But I can assert that on plenty of occasions that some random topic, or rabbit hole, or article comes back in handy often while working through the task at hand.
It’s also something I mention to my students regularly while I teach. While you’re starting out on a new career, there is so much to learn and absorb. And, that is something you should really lean into. Follow your curiosity and you’ll be surprised what you learn.
Summarizing this past year has been a little challenging. 2021 was so easy in comparison because it felt very neatly segmented: interviewing for a new job and then starting the new job, waiting for the vaccine and being vaccinated, mental health despair and recovering from that, and everything leading up to the roadtrip to after.
2022 was a bit more all over the place due to the fact that a majority of the world decided to push forward with COVID being a reality we cope with, less travel restrictions, and a variety of side quests that kept me on a detour. I felt as if I personally struggled to maintain control of my life as I struggled with sleep problems, maintaining a consistent routine, staying focused on goals that I kept missing, figuring out what I want out of a romantic relationships, and handling issues that I was resentful that were even my problem to begin with.
However, despite the challenges, I felt that I was able to overcome them with as much grace as possible while also doing the most. I will settle on the fact that this year embodied the word more in every capacity. It was a year of more fun, more traveling, more food, more time spent with friends, more time figuring out problems, more injuries, more running, more love, and and more life. For that, I am grateful and overall happier than I was a year or two ago (just more tired).
I have plenty I’m proud of this past year from hitting a 20 minute PR with my half marathon on an incredibly humid day, running my first marathon abroad/third marathon overall/and first Berlin marathon while jet-lagged and still making a PR, figuring out how to ask for help, admitting that I needed help when it came to my sleep problems, reintroducing water polo into my life again and playing and traveling for tournaments, reading fifty books, planning a 1.5 week trip to Europe a week in advance, and restarting French lessons.
When I list it all like that, it’s hard not to be impressed with myself, especially when outside circumstances made it even more challenging. I’m grateful and elated and still somehow dissatisfied which are obviously recovering over-achiever problems. It’s hard not to nit pick the accomplishments instead of acknowledging that I got it all mostly done and that progress is progress and meeting goals is enough. I’m happy with all that I got done and motivated to keep going.
What surprised me?
Participating and dancing in a traditional Pakistani wedding. Everything about Kauaii and the generosity of my friends hosting. How expensive lobster rolls were this year. How incredible the shaved iced in Hawaii was. The views of the Bogota skyline. Being open to love. Just every unforeseen family circumstance. Reintroducing water polo in my life and stumbling into a Venezuelan water polo community. How much I cried from gratitude during the Berlin marathon. How hard it was to fit everything in. How beautiful London is on a sunny fall day. Interesting job opportunities. Laiba finding out I was going to Amsterdam alone and offered to join me with only a week notice. How running and marathon training really are good metaphors for life.
What brought me joy?:
Witnessing my close friends marry their soulmates. All the different ways I got to spend time with my friends: during birthdays, bachelorettes, weddings, showers, reunions, and more. The sunrise over the Kalalau Trail. Sunsets in Cape Cod. Getting drinks with Anna and discussing how to navigate life right now and then the night always escalating into a story. Cheering giant steins with strangers at Octoberfest. Making tiktoks with friends. New York on marathon Sunday. Meeting my parents cat. Getting to tour Bogota with Ross. Watching my friends transition into new phases of their lives including moves, getting into new relationships, and starting PhD programs. Running through Rehoboth and catching the sunrise. Seeing Bad Bunny in Yankee stadium. Marathon cheering in general. Becoming a WNBA and NY Liberty fan. Sitting at the beach in Marthas Vineyard with Daniel. Visiting museums in D.C. with my high school friend, Sam. Every shocking win at the World Cup and watching the final in a packed biergarten. Being driven around my college campus in golf carts.
What inspired me?:
Running the same race as Eliud Kipchoge as he broke his world record at the marathon again. The activism and resilience in the face of the loss of abortion access. Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva winning the election and fighting for the Amazon. The excitement behind Gustavo Petro and Francia Márquez. The resilience of Ukranians. Watching my abuela recover. New York being New York. The prevalence of bikes in Amsterdam. Watching my mom become an US citizen and voting for the first time. The way my friends showed up for me: Joe showing up to my apartment with a week of food meal prepped for me. The empathy I received.
What challenges did I face?:
Being unable to sleep despite being physically exhausted from training. Injuring myself while marathon training again. Struggling to figure out what I wanted out romantic relationships and figuring out who I want to have in my life. I felt as if this year was testing me with more and more challenging final bosses and instead of completing and idling I just kept leveling up on the challenges. Most frustatingly, I felt as if I lost a lot of control of the way I was trying to drive my life, routines, and decisions.
Where did I grow?:
Learning to think less black and white. Being more open to people, situations, and opportunities. Revisiting things that have brought me joy in the past like water polo and French. Leaning onto my friends and being more comfortable for asking for help and sharing what I was struggling with. Being a little kinder with myself. Learning a lot about dating in general and figuring out how to navigate this chapter in my life where I feel so young. Handling difficult situations with more resilience.
Where did I miss?:
Being able to run a marathon injury free and missing my goal time due to that injury. Spending my time exhausted. Every opportunity to communicate better. Remaining organized and losing control. Slacking on routines that I was maintaining consistently. Not getting enough opportunities to volunteer meaningfully and contributing to communities. Doubting my decisions and forcing myself to learn hard lessons again and again. Not properly studying and failing to attempt the OSCP. I didn’t learn how to surf or scuba again this year, it’s been on my bucket list for far too long.Not having enough time to race any triathlons.
A year of travel that ended up consisting of a monthly trip. I got to visit my friends in LA, Austin, and Cape Cod again as I’ve done annually. Plus I got to visit some more places like Rehoboth and Avalon for the first times and others like San Diego, D.C, Martha’s Vineyard, Philly, and Boston for the first time in a long time.
Most notably was of course Kauaii which was probably one of the most beautiful ethereal places I’ve ever had the privilege to visit. The trip included long hikes, lots of time reading on the beach undisturbed, eating plenty of poke, and whale watching. Next was a quick trip to Bogota to visit my friend, Ross who has become a restaurateur and in a whirlwind couple days went hiking, had incredible food, saw a lot of the city and, did not drink at all, and played tejo. And the biggest trip, that I somehow only ended up finalizing booking everything for a week in advance was a European voyage that involved running a marathon within 24hrs of landing in Berlin, going to Octoberfest and frantically searching for a dirndl, doing almost everything in Amsterdam in two short days, and then heading over to London to cheer for another marathon and to tourist. It was my first time visiting all those countries, and the art, history, and architecture was more than I could’ve ever asked for (but in the food department, it definitely was lacking).
Most hilariously was the fact that I went to Miami twice in three weeks on two very different missions. The first to play in an international water polo tournament against fairly serious teams and lost every game spectacularly and the second was to celebrate my birthday with all my friends.
Initially, I was disappointed with myself when I was trying to remember great meals from the past year and didn’t have a ton of big memorable ones. Ultimately, I lost focus on finding good new food in NYC and resorted to a lot of the same due to laziness and feeling like I’ve exhausted everything in North Brooklyn. Outside of NY, standouts from months ago remain from Hawaii and Bogota which says everything you need to know.
- Poke from the Kilauea Fish Market in Hanalei, HI
- Shaved ice from Jojo’s Shave Ice in Hanalei, HI
- Hanalei Taro & Juice Co in Hanalei, HI
- Mesa Salvaje in Bogota, Colombia
- Pizza Paraiso in Bogota, Colombia
- Mesa Franca in Bogota, Colombia
- L’artusi in NYC
- Soothr in NYC
- Dishoon in London, England
This is the sixth year that I’ve participated in the Goodreads Reading Challenge and after increasing my book count per year I hit 50 books this past year. I’ll add, the 50 was a little bit of a struggle towards the end. I loved the diversity of everything I got to read including a Chinese inspired fantasy novel that was slow but rewarding, a riveting narrative about dinosaurs, the most devastating of prose from Vuong, some fun garbage delivered by Mass, and formative work from some pioneers of sci-fi from Butler and Le Guin. Most importantly, I felt as if I read several incredible-perspective changing books that really resonated with me. I did just realize that I didn’t end up finishing any of the books that I started in Spanish which is a bit of a bummer.
Favorites books include:
- She Who Became The Sun, BY *
- On Earth we’re Briefly Gorgeous by, Ocean Vuong **
- The Rise and Fall of The Dinosaurs by Steve Brusatte **
- The Essential June Jordan by June Jordan **
- We Do This ‘Till We Free Us by Mariame Kaba **
- The Fifth Season by N.K Jemisin *
- Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
- The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin
- Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin **
- I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy **
- Our Shadows Have Claws, a collection
- The Overstory, by Richard Powers
Notable entertainment and more
Struggled to remember other movies that mattered this past year outside of Everything Everywhere All At Once and Predator. Everything is an example of what movies can do when they commit to thinking and going big. Ultimately, it made me realize that I spent more time than usual watching TV shows and in particular, it took me awhile to get through all of Boba Fett and Obi Wan until I got to the spectacular surprise that was Andor. I very reluctantly watched HoD after refusing to watch it on principal, but once I finished RoP I felt a chasm that needed filling, especially after reading this profile on Mallory Rubin and hearing her passion on her incredibly in-depth recap podcasts she did for RoP, HoD and then later Andor.
My newsletter subscriptions are completely out of hand and it causes me a decent amount of stress worrying about the quantity of newsletters I didn’t get a chance to read through everyday. However, I did find a bunch of new newsletters that are essential reads for me. I love everything pop culture critique that comes out of Maybe Baby, Dirt, and Embedded. I also added some new security newsletters that were particularly fun.
I have limited music taste outside of Beyonce, Bad Bunny, and Taylor Swift and it served me well this year. All of their albums were no skips, constant relistens for me. I know I should probably broaden my range but I really am content for right now.
Favorite movies include:
- Everything everywhere all at once **
- Nope *
- Predator **
- Turning Red
Favorite TV shows include:
- The Bear **
- Yellowjackets **
- Andor **
- The Dropout *
- The Rings of Power
- House of the Dragon
- Los Espookys
Favorite live performances include:
- As you like it
- for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf
Favorite newsletters include:
- Maybe Baby
- Platformer with Casey Newton
- Where to Eat NYT
- Unsupervised Learning
- Hive Five by securibee
- this week in security
Favorite albums include:
- Renaissance by Beyonce
- Un Verano sin Ti by Bad Bunny
- Midnights by Taylor Swift
Favorite podcasts include:
- Bending the Elements**
- Darknet Diaries**
- The Daily
- The Ezra Klein Show
- The Ringer**
Favorite products include:
- Zwift and Wahoo trainer and accessories
- My two standing desks and 4 monitors
- Star Wars Legos
- Galaxy S22
- Flipper Zero (!!)
- Ceremonia Papaya Scrub
- A coat hanger
- Nespresso milk frother
- Body glide
- Osprey running hydropak
- Supergoop sunblock stick
This is my first time including this section, but art has always been a huge part of my life, enough so that I recognize that it deserves to be properly featured. What feels particularly special is that some of these exhibits were either featuring friends or artists I’ve grown up long admiring, or gave me exposure to art, history, and techniques I didn’t know a lot about. Examples include, the early work of Van Gogh, the moving of JAM throughout the decades, the precision that master ceramicists have, and the lens the Tate Modern exhibited their work.
- Everything in David Kuraoka’s studio in Kauaii, HI
- Botero Museum in Bogota, Colombia
- RE[SURGE] BFA Integrated Design Thesis at the Aronson Gallery, NYC
- Maps of Desplazamiento at Mara Hoffman, NYC
- Van Gosh Museum in Amsterdam, Netherlands
- Everything in the Tate Modern in London, England
- Chroma: Ancient Sculpture in Color and Lives of the Gods: Divinity in Maya Art at the Met, NYC
- Sin Autorización: Contemporary Cuban Art exhibit at Columbia University, NYC
- JAM exhibit at the MoMa in NYC
- ‘Evolve’ by Paul Nicklen and Cristina Mittermeier at Art Basel in Miami, FL
I want to highlight the court case of Happy, the elephant I read about last year who lost their case on personhood this year, an incredible profile on Octavia Butler and the lasting legacy of her work, and the resurgence in bookstores that is indisputably due to booktok. Overall, I think I’m missing a couple long form articles that rocked me but these were all memorable in different ways:
- THE YEAR I ATE NEW YORK JUNE 6, 2022 200 Restaurants, 100 Tips What our diner-at-large has discovered after five months on the job
- I Treasure the Life I Live in the Subway. And I Am Afraid of Losing It.
- Southern fin whales have recovered to large numbers in the Antarctic
- Some Surprising Good News: Bookstores Are Booming and Becoming More Diverse
- Katya Echazarreta: la historia de la primera mexicana que viajó al espacio
- The Most Fascinating Birds Will Be the First to Go Extinct
- The Necessity of Hope Things are bad. They will get worse. But despair has never been an option.
- Title IX’s Next Frontiers in the Fight for Gender Equality
- The Institutionalist Dianne Feinstein fought for gun control, civil rights, and abortion access for half a century. Where did it all go wrong?
- Four Seasons Total Tech
- We’re Not Going Back to the Time Before Roe. We’re Going Somewhere Worse
- Why old-growth forests matter
- The Elephant in the Courtroom
- These whales are on the brink. Now comes climate change
- Gen Z does not dream of labor
- NFTs Are a Privacy and Security Nightmare
- RIP ‘Los Espookys,’ illicit lovechild of Pedro Almodóvar and ‘Scooby-Doo’
- She Wasn’t Ready for Children. A Judge Wouldn’t Let Her Have an Abortion.
- The Visions of Octavia Butler
- The Wrenching Moral Calculus of Watching the World Cup Qatar 2022 is rotten to the core, but ignoring the tournament is unrealistic.
- Andor Is What Star Wars Was Meant to Be
- After a Perilous Journey, Migrants Try to Make It in New York City
- This orchestra’s symphony found sweet harmony during Venezuela’s lockdown
- Half the World Has a Clitoris. Why Don’t Doctors Study It?
Honestly, I’m feeling a little ambivalent about 2023. The past year was great but trying so I’m just hoping to keep having fun, be able to sleep better, focus on getting to the next stage of my career, not be complacent when things are relaxed, and to be open to surprises. Keeping it high-level, some of my goals for the next year include:
- Traveling for more races
- Chicago Marathon with a doable PR
- Two more half marathons with some more serious PRs
- Ideally a 70.3 or two and the return to racing Tris
- Reading 50 books again
- If I don’t learn how to surf or scuba this year I swear
- Taking a water color class and continuing to practice French practice
- Prioritizing self care and rest
- Will this be the year that I publish a blog post that’s not just a review?
- Presenting on technical cyber topics in more formal capacities and maybe publishing some research
- Planning a vacation where I do nothing
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
- In the Heights
- Spiderman: Far from Home
- Tick, tick…BOOM!
Favorite TV shows include:
- 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
I have the lingering feeling that I’m missing many important articles but after looking through MyPocket and my Twitter feed so here are some notable articles that have resonated from me:
- The Exclusion of Latinos from American Media and History Books
- West Side Story Can’t Be Saved
- Why Is It So Hard to Be Rational?
- How ‘Lord of the Rings’ Became ‘Star Wars’ for Millennial Women
- ‘We’ll Never Make That Kind of Movie Again’ An oral history of The Emperor’s New Groove, a raucous Disney animated film that almost never happened
- Thank You, Dr. Zizmor The newest fashion trend in New York is — unironically, hyper-specifically — New York itself
- They Believe in Ambitious Women. But They Also See the Costs
- There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing
- How Does New York City’s Latinx Community See Itself?
- ‘In The Heights’: Can one film bring joy — and spark a Latino conversation on race?
- Renting clothing is worse for the planet than just throwing it away, study shows
- Three American mothers, on the brink
- How Whales Can Teach Us to Be Better Humans
- Why Trying to Clean Up All the Ocean Plastic Is Pointless
- The Pain Was Unbearable. So Why Did Doctors Turn Her Away?
- I’m a climate scientist. Don’t Look Up captures the madness I see every day
- An Evangelical Climate Scientist Wonders What Went Wrong
- 9/11 was a test. The books of the last two decades show how America failed
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.
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
- 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.
I very simply stated some 2019 goals stated in my 2018 in review post. I additionally chose the guiding words of execute, simplify, and inward.
Hey, how has it been going?
Honestly, it was a rough start of the year for me. I started with broad but exact goals and felt confident that I could start off on the right foot after a quick and fun trip to Poland over the New Year.
But my life and schedule took control in a way that I was not best prepared for. Starting rightaway in January, I was traveling on a weekly basis from coast to coast for work, struggling with maintaining any semblance of a sleep and exercise schedule, interviewing and rapidly preparing for more technical interviews (therefore was overall distracted), and losing touch with a team of people who were organizing a hackathon for Venezuela in SF.
And as a result, I had to face immediate and painful rejection in multiple forms and then a sudden physical health scare. My habit maintenance was inconsistent. I couldn’t run or exercise without my knee. I was set back in multiple ways and was utterly disappointed and that resulted in a deep complacency that lasted from February to April. I allowed myself to feel very bad for myself and I couldn’t motivate myself to work towards any goals and just did a whole lot of nothing. I knew what was happening but there wasn’t a lot I felt like I had power to change.
It was the weather, I blamed. I was in between projects, I blamed. I had envisioned a different future for myself and with rejection it disapparated, I blamed. I made very early mistakes in management/leadership/structure org with working with the team based in SF that resulted in poor communication and the cutting of ties which I took very personally, I blamed.
It wasn’t my healthiest and happiest time and definitely not the way I had envisioned the start of 2019 for myself.
Is there a bright side?
Well, I was able to devote myself to physical therapy and recover quickly (and I was even able to participate in a duathlon, 5 boro bike tour, and the C-SIG). I was able to normalize my sleep schedule again. I decided that I was going to apply to graduate school for my masters in cybersecurity–and I’m starting in the fall! I’m starting a new client in a new industry working on things that I have not encountered yet and I’m incredibly excited for the change and opportunity. I read more. Also, I decided that because I didn’t have a creative outlet in my life, I needed to find one and cultivate it. So, I purchased a Venezuelan cuatro and I am slowly teaching myself how to play.
Now looking back I recognize, you know, I need to constantly remind myself that growth is growth, whether it is fun or not. It is necessary and sometimes uncomfortable and I am grateful for the opportunity and time to grow and learn.
It was my first time since graduating college that I encountered some “hardship”. And, in all honestly, on the spectrum, it really wasn’t that hard because I was able to recognize, diagnose, and overcome it in a fairly pointed fashion.
Sometimes being “unproductive”, is productive and I am excited to see how it’ll manifest after some meaningful complacent time. (I stumbled upon this and it was a helpful/healthy/fresh perspective that I needed).
I learned a lot and felt as if I set myself up for a stronger end of year that will consist of some more trips, learning on the job, meditation, cuatro playing, grad school, therapy, tris, NYMarathon, and putting some more work in with some results.
I want to tape my guiding words up on my wall to remind me of them on a daily basis.
Hack for Venezuela is a movement that I’ve been attempting to steer for the past year. The movement recognized the need to connect the diaspora to problems caused by the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela by creating technical solutions. The first hackathon was organized by Will Falcon in November 2017. When I met him at his event we decided to collaborate with Denis Cobos on a second hackathon in July 2018 at Fordham University. At that hackathon I connected with undergrad student Mikel Matticoli and he spearheaded the third hackathon at WPI in December 2018.
HackForVenezuela has acted as a catalyst and inspiration for the organization of multiple hackathons (including CodeForVenezuela), networking events, and collaboration. Following three organized hackathons in New York region we are looking to build out our team, mission, further scale, and potentially pivot as we scale into InnovateVenezuela.