Are you already sick of people writing their yearly review posts? I bet! I’m going to add more more to the pile though, but mostly as a milestone for myself, and for others who might find value in reading it.
To start, I have to say that 2015 has been the most unusual year of my life. I’ve experienced many different things and changed a lot as a person. This is also the year when I finally decided and went through the process of quitting grad school to venture out into the real world. I’ll try to keep it short.
What started in late 2014 as a series of depressive episodes turned into a full-blown depression that lasted for most of 2015. It affected nearly every area of my life, most notably my ability to work. Research suffered and I failed to make any meaningful progress, which in turn only made it harder to recover. My ability to make friends, and keep in touch with existing ones also took a hit as I became increasingly lonely. It took a lot of time to accept this and start taking steps to get better, and I’m still on it.
While it has been a very troubling period where I came in touch with some of the darkest emotions in me, it has also been full of trememdous learning about self and personal growth. It taught me to take a hard look at my priorities. It showed me which people are really well-wishers and were willing to help when I needed it most. I realized the value of community and investing in relationships, something I’d never thought important because I believed I could survive on my own. It also made me a lot more empathetic to the suffering of other people, and I think I emerge from it a better person. Probably more cynical, but better.
Perhaps as a consequence of my struggles, I became much more attuned to the struggles of other people, in particular underprivileged groups. I realized that the world isn’t always a fair place, and is heavily biased in favor of those already predisposed to success. Causes like equality (gender, race etc.) gained new meaning for me, and my opinions of right and wrong evolved to a large extent. I also started participating in discussions and voicing opinions.
I don’t think I was ever as productive in grad school as I would like, but 2015 turned out to be the tipping point. Things got to a stage where my lack of progress had become a chronic problem and nothing I was trying seemed to work. Changing research groups didn’t seem quite possible then, so leaving grad school completely was the only plausible option. It took me a while to come to terms with the decision, but it became clearer as time passed. I had some great interviews and got several job offers which was good for my confidence.
Still the battle was only half won, and consistent efforts to gain back my lost productivity have finally bore some fruit, and I feel confident I can do great things with my new job.
Travel wise, 2015 was a decent year. I managed to stick to my resolution of visiting at least one new country each year. This year, it was an amazing summer trip to the UK (England+Scotland), and a (just concluded) winter trip to Hawaii.
Goodbye Hawaii, it's been a meaningful trip! Time to go back to normal life and start afresh. pic.twitter.com/NzS1Pnftk4— Traveler Boy (@nrt_travel) January 1, 2016
There were a few other short trips too, but not nearly enough! The overwhelming guilt that comes from not being productive is a big hurdle for travel, and I’ve been trying hard to control it. Still, I’m proud and happy for the travel I managed to do, but looking forward to all the more that I will do in 2016.
I stopped running long distances after the hip injury I had in late 2014, hoping to get to its root before starting again. I picked up biking instead and started riding long distances.
Not having learned my lesson from running, I built up mileage too much too soon, and ended up with an overuse injury to the back that would keep me out for much of the year. What finally did put me in touch with my body was picking up Yoga, which not only showed me how ill-prepared I was to go through extreme physical stresses, but also gave me a framework to think about how to treat my body and be gentle with it. Most importantly, to listen to my body. Mental stress also contributed most likely, and is as much part of overall recovery as anything else. I hope to take these learnings into the coming year.
I think my work is laid out clearly. I need to rediscover my productivity by performing well at work, while simultaneously giving more importance to community both in my personal and professional lives. I will travel more. I will recover from my injuries and respect my body. I will remember to apply everything I’ve learned the hard way this year to similar problems. Life isn’t going to be any easier, but I will be wiser.
When I write this post next year, I hope there will be more positivity.- nRT