2018: The Year in Review
December 28, 2018

As per my annual tradition, here’s a post about what this year was like for me.

In some ways, 2018 was one of the hardest years of my life. A single set of events destroyed a whole chunk of my life in some pretty terrifying and agonizing ways. I’ve already written about that stuff a little bit, so I won’t prolong your pain by rehashing it all here — and I’m not ready to discuss it in detail anyway. But let me just mention a few bits of the longer-term effects that those things have had on me. First, I continue to have nightmares about them, even though we’re several months out from it all. The nightmares aren’t as bad or as frequent as they used to be, but they still happen. I’m also, I’ve discovered, still very sensitive to anything that might signal a resurrection of that stuff. Second, my relationships with close friends and family have been strengthened immensely by having to rely on them, so I suppose that’s an unexpected silver lining.

So, what else happened this year? The primary thing that happened aside from the aforementioned stuff was that I discovered the Effective Altruism movement, which prompted me to leave education to look for work that would allow me to have a greater impact on the world. Applying for jobs at EA organizations was at times pretty depressing because I didn’t have the requisite skill set to join even as a junior researcher, so I felt like I was mostly trying to convince people to give me a shot out of pity and charity. Fortunately, one company that focuses on mental health eventually gave me such a shot. I’ve been working with them as a web development contractor for a couple of months now. I’d still like eventually to work as a researcher (if doing so would allow me to have a greater impact), and I’m not sure whether they’ll give me such an opportunity or not, but I at least feel like I’m heading in a better direction than before. I mentioned in a recent post that I have some skepticism about the exact causes that have been prioritized by the EA movement, but because EA is cause-neutral, I hope that they’ll eventually turn their focus to more systemic issues. (After writing that “Values Update” post, I came across this paper, which attempts to show that anti-capitalism and EA are not only a compatible but also a desirable match. In it, the author gives what I think are two important criticisms of EA. First, he says that EA focuses too much on individual action and responsibility, and that it should instead consider putting more effort into changing groups and systems. And second, he says that EA tends to want to work within existing systems, even if those systems are inefficient or corrupt, and that it should instead consider replacing or destroying bad systems. I was very glad to have read it; it reified and justified some of the vague worries that had been floating around in my head for a while.)

But anyway, the work that I’ve been doing allows me to operate from home and to set my own schedule, which is just wonderful. I worried a little at first that I’d have a hard time focusing when I had the options to watch TV or play games or sleep or whatever. But it’s actually been really good for me. I haven’t had any trouble focusing or getting stuff done, and I’ve instead experienced a lot of joy through building my daily routine and proving myself to be a hard-working, productive employee.

What else was there? Let’s see. Well, I don’t remember the exact date, but it was in late 2017 or early 2018 that I deleted my Facebook account. That was one of the best decisions I’ve made in a long time. Later, I all but shut down my Twitter account. It still technically exists, but I don’t use it for anything any more, and I deleted all of my tweets and unfollowed everyone. Most of my time is now spent on Mastodon at merveilles.town. If you’re not using Mastodon, you definitely should! It’s so much better than the other big, ad-driven social networks. I also started my migration away from using Google products. I can’t leave them completely because my work requires them, but my personal email is now primarily on ProtonMail, I use PulseSMS for text messages, and I use DuckDuckGo for search.

I published my book of poetry for kids, All the World to Me. It has made basically no money, but it was so much fun to make. It let me dabble in many areas that I find fascinating: programming, writing, design, art, etc. I would love to do something like that again, but I’m not sure yet whether I have the time or creative power to devote to it.

I have learned and still continue to learn that I don’t know myself very well and that I don’t have good impulse control. In particular, I’m not good at implementing beneficial habits like eating well, exercising, and meditating. Those are the things that I most want to improve about myself in 2019.

Thanks for continuing to read my stuff! May you have a wonderful new year!