You'll have to excuse the hyperbole. It's been a hard year, hasn't it? I've spent a lot of time over the last week in particular reflecting on the year and am trying to focus on the good. Where I haven't been able to find good things to focus on, I've instead focused my energy on thinking of ways to make changes in my own life to steer 2017 and the years that follow in a positive direction. This year's post is going to be more personal than last year's. I want something that I can come back to every once in a while to remind myself what matters to me, what I should be doing, and hopefully to gauge my progress.
A Year of Frustration and Confusion
I haven't really talked about this, but my last job ended in a pretty bad place. I won't get into that here, but the story is relevant to how this year's gone. When I left my last job, I was pretty upset with the way things went down, and I actually left it feeling pretty jaded after my poor experience with a human rights organization. As a result, for a long time I was living every day feeling like I didn't have anything really driving me. I wouldn't go as far as to say I wasted time aimlessly- I enjoyed the work I'd been doing- but I always had this feeling like there was really nothing specific that I was living to accomplish. That feeling bled into the very things that I tried to do in order to alleviate it. I went out to all kinds of meetups but often felt detached from things, and couldn't really give anything or anyone the attention they deserved. I would try to read things to pick up some of the skills I was interested in (particularly appsec books like WAHH) but could just never get into it. I also tried to start a couple of projects, but never had confidence they were worth working on and mostly just left them to wither away.
It's been very difficult to find the motivation to do things outside of work for a long time now, and that feeling had been growing worse and worse as the year went on. There were things I was passionate about but that aren't really shared by any of the people close to me. As a result, I haven't been able to figure out how to get a foothold in anything meaningful to me.
Not All Bad
Existentially, it's been a pretty brutal year. The good news is that, in a lot of respects, it's been a really incredible and good one, and those are the things I'm choosing to let be what I think of when I remember 2016. First of all, I moved to Toronto in February, and have spent a ton of time exploring the city and going about doing new things. I've made a lot of friends here and joined in on a few communities in particular where I've been able to meet people with a wide variety of interests and backgrounds. It had been a goal of mine to get back to Toronto (I was born here) for over a decade, and having finally made it back has been really great. The city is full of diversity, and there's a lot going on. Compared to the years I spent growing up in Newfoundland, it's like another world- one I feel a lot less anxious in.
I got to meet one of my biggest inspirations, the one and only Nicky Case pretty shortly after moving to Toronto, and we had a good romp around downtown. I got to start writing in the exciting and now production-ready Rust programming language at work and have been having a whole new experience with programming as a result. I also got paid for my first web application vulnerability discoveries, and the team I participated with won Defcon Toronto's first Capture the Flag event. During the middle of the year, I volunteered some weekends helping the manga translation world by doing some peer review for Imangascans. I also built Defcon Toronto a Scoreboard application for use in CTF events (it was used in the group's second event), and have been participating in the organizational core of the group. Then, the year ended with a tremendous bang as I took my long-awaited vacation to Japan!
As for some of my favourite things this year:
- My fav. anime of each season were: KonoSuba, Space Patrol Luluco, Sweetness and Lightning, and March Comes in Like a Lion.
- I discovered Glitch Hop this year, and my favourite album was Kendrick Lamar's Untitled Unmastered.
- My fav. television show was by and far away the second season of Mr Robot.
- My fav. light reading was the Log Horizon light novel.
- Of the games I completed this year, my fav. was VA-11 Hall-A.
Towards the end of the year, I set aside some time to make sure I thought through the answers to some important questions that I think I've neglected amidst all the chaos of a changing life. I'll refrain from summarizing all of the thoughts I wrote down due to their deeply personal nature, but it suffices to say that I finally feel relieved of the need to set some critical goals for myself.
The resolutions I am setting for myself for 2017 are:
- To find meaningful projects to work on that I can learn from and that have positive societal effects.
- To invest more into my most positive relationships.
- To try to stop dwelling on bad things. Take everything in one at a time and reject meaningless things.
- To be less fretful to explore things- to stop worrying too much about outcomes and instead enjoying the process.
I could probably write at length about a whole host of more specific things that I'd like to focus on this year, but I really wanted to nail down a small handful of general principles to follow. Since it has been feelings of frustration and desperation that have crept in the shadows of my life for too long now, my top priority is to try to eliminate some of the self-doubt that has caused me to hesitate when I could be doing things I actually care about. I know that progress can only be made through consistent and deliberate efforts and that, by making such efforts, there are large and vibrant communities of people doing great things that I know I can and hope to contribute to. I look forward to this year with optimism that I can let go of the hesitations that have plagued me through 2016 and that I can build on all of the wonderful relationships I've formed and the work I've done and hope for 2017 to be a year full of growth.