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2021 in review

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.

2020 year in review

2020 year in review

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

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. 

Review Process

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.

 

Accomplishments

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.

Internal Review

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.

The Hits

Travel

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.

 

 

 Notable Books

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

Notable TV

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:

  • Parasite
  • Your Name
  • Soul
  • Onward
  • Pelo Malo
  • Da 5 bloods

    Favorite TV shows include:

    • Mr. Robot
    • The Queens Gambit
    • ATLA/TLOK
    • The Mandalorian

    Notable albums

    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:

    • Folklore
    • Evermore
    • Plastic Hearts
    • YHLQMDLG
    • El Último Tour Del Mundo 

    2021?

    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?
    • Decorating!

    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.

     

    2019 Midyear Review

    2019 Midyear Review

     

    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).

     

    Looking forward

    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.

     

    HackForVenezuela

    HackForVenezuela

    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.

     

    2018 Year in Review

    2018 Year in Review

    I wrote my first official year for 2017 and a fairly brief one for 2016. I hope to keep these years and maybe be more timely with posting. However, this time I have the excuse of having the busiest past two weeks..

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    Water Bottle Review

    Water Bottle Review

    I’ve always had a lot of opinions about water bottles. At all times in my life, I’ve usually been carrying one and happily guzzling plenty of water throughout the day. I’ve tried out, lost, replaced, and used many interesting and cheap and expensive water bottles and I figured I could publish my thoughts on various bottles that I’ve been using. Additionally, this could be another non-guilty way to encourage more people to carry around water bottles and to further demonstrate their functionality, design, and style.  
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    What needs to be given up

    What needs to be given up

    I recently read that going forward, since nothing is being dramatically done to curtail climate change, that intensely hot summers like this past summer is not only going to be “the new normal” but it is just a sneak peak of what is to come. ah

    …the trend line is clear: 17 of the 18 warmest years since modern record-keeping began have occurred since 2001.

    “It’s not a wake-up call anymore,” Cynthia Rosenzweig, who runs the climate impacts group at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said of global warming and its human toll. “It’s now absolutely happening to millions of people around the world.”

    Be careful before you call it the new normal, though. Temperatures are still rising, and, so far, efforts to tame the heat have failed. Heat waves are bound to get more intense and more frequent as emissions rise, scientists have concluded. On the horizon is a future of cascading system failures threatening basic necessities like food supply and electricity (Sengupta).

    ah Despite these alarming facts, nothing dramatic or global or far-reaching is getting accomplished. The journalist, David Wallace-Wells who wrote the biggest story on climate change last summer for NYMag is now asserting that, ah

    climate change is not a matter of “yes” or “no,”…[but is] a binary process where we end up either “fucked” or “not fucked.”

    It is a system that gets worse over time as long as we continue to emit greenhouse gases. We are just beginning to see the horrors that climate change has in store for us —but that does not mean that the story is settled. Things will get worse, almost certainly much, much worse.

    Indeed, the news about what more to expect, coming out of new research, only darkens our picture of what to expect: Just over the past few weeks, new studies have suggested heat in many major Indian cities would be literally lethal by century’s end, if current warming trends continue, and that, by that time, global economic output could fall, thanks to climate effects, by 30 percent or more. That is an impact twice as deep as the global Great Depression, and it would not be temporary (Wallace-Wells).

    ah The facts are only becoming more and more dire and as reported by Wallace-Wells, journalists are trying to honestly report but are also still hesitant to attribute summer fires and more commonly occurring heat waves to the effects of climate change.
    All of these facts were incredibly heavy on my mind as I left for a week holiday with my family. My family had planned to go to Cusco, Peru for one week to explore Peru, visit our cousins, and to spend time together. I was excited to go back to the natural splendor of Latin America, the ease of la vida cotidiana, and to taste winter weather in August. Additionally, starting with this past trip, I planned to pause my news consumption to temporarily freeze anxiety and to use that extra mental energy to focus on a theme that I hope to learn and grow from. The theme manifested at an intersection between the environment, indigenous peoples, climate change, the harms of tourism, and the cost of plane travel. As of the past two years of my life, I have quickly redefined myself as a (somewhat) seasoned traveler by doubling the amount of countries I’ve been too, living abroad, and taking every opportunity I can to leave the country, explore, and push myself out of my comfort zone. I’ve grown immeasurably and everything I’ve seen and done has so positively affected my outlook and my life. And I’ve benefited from this privilege by having more social clout, shamelessly and boastfully posting online, and experiencing things that I’ve never thought possible. But there and many unavoidable and truths and pressures about travel that a traveler needs to reconcile with and they include the damage you manage to contribute to voluntourism, the influx of tourism in vulnerable locations, the mere carbon emissions from a single flight alone, the negative affects of climate change on those who contribute the least to it, and the “need to present a life free from the tyranny of a nine-to-five office job in the tight frame of Instagram” (Guardian Opinion).
    I continuously struggle with the question of how to be an intentional and sustainable traveler and to emit as little emissions as possible. Previously, I would argue in favor of traveling intentionally and like a local, carrying around reusables, offsetting your emissions from your flight, doing research, being nothing short of courteous and willing to learn as much as possible, to purchase from local merchants, and suggestions like that. Since finishing the genuinely insightful and delightful book Being the Change by Peter Kalmus I’ve concluded that those attempts are not enough. The emissions produced by being a passenger of a flight is comparable to all of the emissions produced by someone living in a rural area in a single year. Bottom line, you cannot claim to be concerned about climate change and reducing your impact if you are a flyer or a frequent flyer. I struggle with this non-negotiable considering that I am a consultant, I have family who live internationally, and the internal cost of my desire to travel. But it is something to consider especially because Kalmus continues to argue that attempting to offset your emissions doesn’t do enough.
    Back to Peru, I want to highlight vulnerable tourist locations and indigenous people by looking through the lenses of my trip. Peru is a country that was brutally colonized by the Spanish back in the sixteenth century and that has continue to shape its’ history. However, Peru is also a country with a 45% indigenous population that still has Quecha being prevalently spoken. In 2017 it was reported that, “tourism in Peru’s protected natural areas generated $720 million” (Zuazo). Due to the natural beauty and history of Peru there really is an abundance of (photographic) sites to visit including Machu Picchu, la montaña de siete colores, valle sagrado, la amazonía, and more. These sites are nothing short of a testament “of a longstanding harmonious and aesthetically stunning relationship between human culture and nature” (UNESCO). The pictures I took and instagrams I posted come incredibly short of actually portraying the real beauty of Peru and I cannot say enough good things about the people, the city, the country, and everything. Again, going back to the impact of climate change I want to focus on la montaña de siete colores. Interestingly, la montaña de siete colores was only added as a tourist attraction 5 years ago. Strange, right? Especially considering that you’ve probably seen plenty of saturated pictures of this colorful mountain….but it was because up until 5 years ago the mountains were covered by snow year-round and hid the mineral rich colors underneath a bed of snow. Due to the warming of climate change, the mountains are now visible and susceptible to an influx of tourists (like myself). ah

    The varicolored mountain, with sediment created from mineral deposits over millions of years, was discovered only about five years ago, locals say. But it has become a must-see attraction for hikers, bringing much-needed cash to the area but also prompting concern about possible damage to the previously unspoiled landscape…But there may be a high price to pay for the tourism boom….John Widmer….lamented the environmental destruction occurring from the large number of tourists, adding that “the beautiful and fragile alpine environment is getting completely demolished” by the hordes of eager hikers who journey to the mountain. “I’m ashamed at the fact that we, too, personally destroyed a bit of the Andes during our trek to Rainbow Mountain (Magra y Zarate).

    ah The struggle truly is, how do you balance the need to protect vulnerable sites but also benefit from “the flood of tourists [that] also brings with them a flood of cash to the small community of indigenous Pampachiri​ people living near the mountain” (Fessenden).
    In order to protect unique sites like these conversations need to centrally focus on preservation and the indigenous people who are most affected by tourism and climate change. Throughout the trip, I could not get over the irony that the wealthy and tourists, who contribute to exploitation and climate change and who harm vulnerable sites, negatively impact climate change the most. ah

    Indigenous peoples are among the first to face the direct consequences of climate change, owing to their dependence upon, and close relationship with the environment and its resources. Climate change exacerbates the difficulties already faced by vulnerable indigenous communities, including political and economic marginalization, loss of land and resources, human rights violations, discrimination and unemployment (UN).

    ah The irony is not lost on me and it is something that was incredibly heavy on my mind during my travels. How can I even pretend to claim that I care about the environment, empowering global majority groups, and learning from others when I contribute negatively to sources that will ultimately hurt the world and the people and places in it? The earlier article cited about la montaña also very hopefully suggested that “just as photos on the internet helped establish Vinicunca’s popularity, perhaps reporting about the dangers of over-tourism at the colorful mountain can mobilize preservation efforts for its future” (Fessenden). I definitely agree that reporting and raising awareness can be helpful but I am still unclear on where I stand and what I should do about air travel. Kalmus suggested that quitting air travel would help enormously and that alternate modes of transportation like “slow travel” would be sufficient replacements–suggestions I don’t disagree with. The disconnect and the denial is something I know that I and plenty of others struggle to grapple with…it’s easy to be busy with the rest of your life and dismiss your impact. But, I would argue that individual impact is huge and that anything you can do to ~reduce, reuse, recycle~ would help but I would encourage you to really think about what else can you do and to empower your decisions. Can you cut out air travel or car travel or change your diet or not use an AC? Can you recognize that using fossil fuels might not even be making you happier? Think about all the misery (and emissions!) caused by sitting in traffic and getting stuck with a flight delay. Doing something is better than nothing…because we can’t look back to 2018 and realize that all we did was debate about the harm of straws. You can’t rely on politicians, celebrities, and scientists to fix this problem because I believe that individual decisions and choices have an empowering impact that act as a ripple effect. As Kalmus advises, you need to try to make these changes out of a sense of joy and love because we love this planet, the beautiful places we visit, and people we meet and you can’t forget that they’re nothing but our neighbors and our community that we need to work towards protecting and preserving. Now consider what really needs to be given up–because the answer is plainly apathy.
    Radar & Update

    Radar & Update

    Again, been slow on the updates but it’s not surprising. I’ve been struggling with being on top of my other activities and maintaining a routine with all the recent travel (Guatemala, North Carolina, Mexico, Chicago) and work becoming busier. At times, it has been frustrating but at others, it’s been easy to just get caught up in it and completely forget prioritizing other important activities. The following is a a brief list of things I’ve been reading, seeing, thinking about, and listening to. It probably dates back to March when I originally intended on publishing this post but I did get around to it!
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