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NYC, building an app, running, and learning a few things along the way.
I wrote my first ever, public review of my year last year, as a way to reflect and also look back in years to come on how I felt during this time. I was a bit nervous to share online so openly my thoughts on what happened to me that year. But it was really encouraging to hear from those who reached out and told me they related to a certain part, or had similar experiences.
So this year I wanted to write a similar post, and additionally share some of the things I learned from various moments in 2021.
Spent a summer in New York City
While reflecting at the end of 2020, I had an idea. Hopefully if the situation around COVID improved enough, I could do a “work-cation” (a concept that became more popular during the pandemic, with tech workers able to work from anywhere) in New York City. As the months progressed and more people in the U.S. were able to get the vaccine, moving to New York started to become more than just an idea, but something I could start acting upon.
Everyone was itching to have a sense of normalcy during the summer, after nearly 1.5 years of the COVID pandemic. So it seemed like a lot of people around me had similar ideas to go to the city as well. It felt like there was a collective migration of people from SF going to NYC for the summer — there was a lot of energy and excitement again in a particular city, for the first time in a while.
I had never had the opportunity to live in NYC before, and I’m thankful that the changes in remote work sparked by the pandemic that allowed me to try it out this year. I feel like I got to experience what the city has to offer (except Broadway, which I’m definitely going back for) and got a sense of what it would be like to live there.
I didn’t get it before when people talked about the greatness of NYC, but now I feel like I’m in on the secret.
Too many photos to pick from, but one of the best pizza spots in NYC + the Brooklyn Bridge skyline.
If you read my 2020 Year-in-Review, you might have noticed that I said I didn’t mention “one more thing” (hi Apple) that happened to me last year. This was something that I shared publicly a few weeks later — I was leaving my software engineering job at Twitter to join a stealth fintech startup (that at the time was known as “Silverback Ventures”).
Joining Silverback was one of the best moves I made this year. Around this time last year was when I first met Adam and Alejandro virtually, and took a leap of faith to join them. They had a grand vision to democratize access to donor-advised funds, and create a community of passionate givers in the process. This mission really resonated with me, and I could see myself working towards turning the vision into a reality in the years to come.
So on January 15th 2021, I joined Silverback as a founding engineer, responsible for designing and building the iOS app. Over the next 9 months, I worked with a small team of brilliant individuals to create the first version of our app under our new name: Daffy. And on September 30th 2021, our company came out of stealth and introduced the concept of Daffy to the world. It was one of the most exciting days of the year for me, getting to see people signing up for our product in realtime and following their positive reactions online.
(If you want to try Daffy out, you can use my invite link here. I also plan to write more about my learnings from working on Daffy over the past year soon, if you’re curious to learn more about my experience.)
Getting together on Zoom before the holidays.
Ran in a 5k race for the first time
Before this year, I hadn’t run for a long time. Over the past few years, I have tried all sorts of workouts, such as boxing, pilates, yoga, and strength training. My body type is naturally skinny, so I thought it was OK to skip the cardio (I was more focused on trying to gain muscle and get more toned rather than lose weight). Because of that belief, I hadn’t run a mile since high school P.E. There was a time when I actually enjoyed running, when I was younger — but then, I cared more about being fast rather than running longer.
TLDR: I never thought it was in me to run a 5k without stopping.
An important person in my life made me want to give running a shot again, and this time, helped me focus more on the health benefits (such as improving my cardiovascular health and increasing my muscular endurance). When I got back from NYC, I had the time and energy to work towards a running goal, so I signed up for a 5k to keep me accountable. I started a 5k training plan for beginners I found online, each week trying to increase my mileage and complete one longer run than I had ever run in the past.
By the end of about 5–6 weeks, I was able to run 3.1 miles without stopping, and I achieved my goal at the San Francisco Marathon’s 5k race. I’m not sure if running is a passion of mine yet, but I am more appreciative of the health benefits running offers and will be continuing to incorporate it in my fitness plan moving forward.
Next up: 10k.
Fell down the crypto rabbit hole
In February 2021, I bought my first NFT. By the end of the year, I had quite a few, and had gotten my first airdrop, learned what on earth a DAO was, and got discord fatigue. We saw BTC and ETH reach previously unimaginable all time highs (did anyone check up on Bitcoin pizza guy?), and almost collectively bought a copy of the U.S. Constitution (iykyk). The energy in this space was unparalleled this year.
For some context: in college and through the IDEO CoLab, I was exposed to crypto, and spent time actively thinking about problems that could be solved using blockchain. In 2017, I started putting money into cryptocurrencies, after which came the ICO bubble of that year. I’ve been interested in crypto for a while now, but it’s always been something that I’ve done on the side. And more recently, I hadn’t been too involved with crypto due to focusing more on topics such as iOS and design.
This year, I delved back into crypto and learned more about NFTs, DAOs, and web3. Web3 is compelling to me, as it aims to give users ownership — it fills in gaps of web2 and brings us closer to ideals from web1. Being a technologist, it’s important to me to keep up with trends in the industry, and as a builder, I love experimenting and trying things out myself just to learn at a faster pace. Although I grappled with finding my place in everything that was going on, I’m glad I got to get back to learning more about crypto.
Plus, we’re still early.
What Did I Learn?
Consistency & (sometimes flexible) focus
This year, I really learned how important it was to be consistent and focused in our increasingly distracting world. With our phones giving us access to everything going on at that very moment, it’s so easy to start getting pulled into a million different things. It’s getting harder to tell what comes out of genuine interest and should be pursued, vs. what’s just exciting us because of the surrounding hype. I wanted to work on this after dabbling in different hobbies, side projects, etc. through the pandemic.
I did best at the things I continued to stay consistent with and really focus on. In my work that was iOS and design, and in my personal life one example for me this year was my running. I’ve realized that everything new you commit to does come at a cost, and may be detracting you away from your focus on something else. However, I’m glad I noticed the opportunity in crypto and decided to hop in when I did to learn more. That’s why sometimes I think focus should be flexible, to make use of unique moments in time and also be open to trying new things.
Next year, I want to improve upon this balance and make sure I’m being mindful about what I’m giving my focus to.
Taking things slow and denouncing busy culture
Especially with a bit of normalcy coming back this summer, it felt like the pace of life went from 0 to 100. In NYC, I found myself trying to do “something meaningful” every single day, just to “make the most of it.” I joked to my friends about how after a particularly busy month, I needed to “hibernate” for another month just to recover. As quickly as things had shut down back in March of 2020, things seemed to pick back up when everything opened.
Whenever I found myself rushing from one thing to the next, or trying to accomplish more things than would be possible in a short span of time, I noticed a few things. First, I wasn’t able to enjoy the moment and the company of the people I was with as much as I really wanted to. Second, it left me feeling like I just didn’t have enough time and made me be late to things I didn’t want to be late to. A few wake up calls from this year made me realize how being late (yes, Berkeley Time is late, and Indian Standard Time is most definitely late) makes people feel that you value your time more than theirs.
In 2022, I want to relish the slow, simple moments. Busy culture expects us to always be doing the next thing, but perhaps it doesn’t have to be that way.
Proactive mental health
This year, I was reminded of how important it is to take proactive steps to invest in your mental health when life is good. 2020 was a big year in mental health for me. Most definitely not in progress (we were locked in our homes baking sourdough bread, if you missed that), but I could dedicate more time and effort in improving my mental health. I was able to proactively invest in my mental health instead of taking a more reactive approach by treating problems once they’ve already become larger.
Unlike 2020, in 2021 I didn’t really focus on my mental health. But when I was in stressful situations, I was actually able to deal with issues more effectively this year than I had been before. I think a lot of that was because I proactively invested in my mental health previously, and it was paying off now. This year serves as a reminder to me how important it is to go back to some of the habits I had built last year, to maintain a strong foundation.
That’s a Wrap
Thank you 2021 for teaching me some of my most valuable life lessons thus far. And thank you for reading this far. I’m thankful to have you as a subscriber! As always, you can find me @nithinaray on Twitter (feel free to reach out).
Happy New Year — here’s to a great 2022! 🥂