2021: A Year In Review
“Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die”
Did 2020 ever end? I’ve asked myself this question multiple times in the past 365 days. Maybe 2020 just has 731 days(and counting) and I was never made aware of that. But 2021 is its own year, with its own unique challenges and opportunities, and 365 days is not easy.
When I decided to write this, I wasn’t sure that I had anything worth reviewing. Naturally, whenever I try to account for a year, I focus on my books. The amount of books I read, the breadth and depth of the topics I read, nerdy stuff. This year, I didn’t read that much. In fact, I went for long periods without opening a single book. It didn’t matter whether the book was for leisure or school. I just didn’t read, and for someone who is oriented around books, that constituted an existential crisis of sorts, one that I’m not sure is over.
My thoughts about this year are a jumble. On the one hand, there’s a lot of recency bias (which means I’ll be recalling and placing more weight on events that recently happened compared to more “distant” ones). On the other hand, I didn’t do much in early 2021. I didn’t do much in 2021 generally, but early 2021 was mostly adaptation and change to a very different set of circumstances. So I’ll start with an account of the maybe good, the quite bad, and the very, very ugly and then go deeper into how I changed in 2021.
- I got through 2021.
- I completed a virtual internship with KMPG (in partnership with Forage) focusing on data and analytics. I didn’t know this before, but I love Excel and I use it for everything now.
- I also completed a virtual internship with Deloitte (in partnership with Forage), which focused on Technology Consulting. Less Excel than PowerPoint, and more challenging (9 tasks compared to KPMG’s 3), but I enjoyed doing that much research and I learnt quite a few new things.
- I got accepted to become a United Nations Millenium Fellow. My project, which was (is) conducted with a friend, focused on mental health communication and simplification. I enjoyed the training sessions with other fellows in UNILAG, and I look forward to continuing work on the project, which I think is quite useful.
- Participated in LMUN 2021 (LMUN meaning Lagos Model United Nations) and even won a Honorable Mention Award.
- Made some new friends and reconnected with a few old ones.
- I completed 5 courses on Coursera as well as a course on OpenLearn.
- I started my Data Analytics journey by enrolling in the Google Data Analytics Professional Certificate, which, I hope, will prepare me for a junior/associate role in the field of analytics. 2/8 courses so far.
- Also enrolled in the Microsoft Data Analyst Associate (DA-100) certification.
- Took some tentative steps back into tech by enrolling in AltSchool Africa.
- Worked up the courage and took a leap of faith by sending out some job applications. I even got to the interview stage with one.
- I got rejected for a few scholarships.
- I made it into two Zuri internship programs only to end it. Part of it was pure bad luck (both programs started during or before exams in both semesters), part was quixotic overconfidence in my abilities.
- I had to end a few friendships, not all bad.
- I think I got ghosted by the company I interview it. I really wanted to work with them, they’re top-class. If I didn’t get ghosted and they’re just taking their time, I take all that back.
- I didn’t start learning the extra maths I wanted to.
- Didn’t write much, or at all.
- Flatlined grades.
- Didn’t meet my financial targets for the year. We move regardless.
- I struggled with mental health, as usual. Setting unrealistic targets and then failing to meet them can result in a deadly spiral of self-doubt and inadequacy.
- Struggled with change. Adapting to radically different circumstances takes a toll, and sometimes the old is better than the new.
- I sleep a lot less these days and that has affected my physical health.
- Life’s tough.
The aspect of my life that has seen the most change in 2021, even more than my decrease in total reading hours, is my relationship to work. I used to think I was lackadaisical (to an extent, I still do), but I procrastinated on a series of assignments till the final week and then spent that final week writing and generating fictitious figures “for research purposes”. All in all, I think I wrote around 15 to 25 thousand words. I gained three things from that experience. First, an illness that lasted throughout the exams period and stayed in the background for much longer than that. Second, an A in the course and an A+ in the assignment. Third, a new source of meaning and inspiration. I thoroughly enjoyed the high-intensity work. If that sounds insane, it probably is. But it’s true. It wasn’t just the “upcoming deadlines” type of work, even the more mundane, banal aspects became exciting all of a sudden. It was like books, which formed a centre and an anchor when things were messy, were substituted out and replaced by work (this is a VERY general term, problem-solving is more illustrative). I still read upwards of 20 books, but that’s a far cry from last year’s 53 books.
Continuing the thread of subs, football has taken a relative backseat. I still look at match reports every now and then, but it is not nearly as important as before. As with the books -> work shift, I think I have a pretty good idea of what caused it, or at least firsthand knowledge of one causal factor. Watching the reaction to England’s penalty loss in the Euro’s Final, especially the real-time Instagram racismo directed at Rashford, Sancho and Saka after their misses in the shootout certainly played a part. Saka and I are the same age (20) and it wasn’t hard to see the outpouring of hate and think “I could be in that position”. Another incident that “disillusioned” me was watching the reaction of United fans (full disclosure: I do not support United) on Twitter when Carl Anka, a journalist working for The Athletic, pointed out some pretty obvious flaws in Ole’s team. Seeing the abuse, and seeing it live, made me go “This is pretty f’ed up”, and contributed to my gradual, ongoing detachment from the beautiful game. If I watch a match, I’ll still scream at the players for making irrational decisions, but that’s about it. I read more comic books now, which is kind of weird because I was never a comic book fan. But then again, I was never a work enjoyer. I mostly read DC (Action Comics and the Human Target are personal favourites), but I’ve taken a liking to Zdarksy’s Daredevil run (Daredevil is a Marvel superhero) and James Tynion’s Something is Killing the Children.
My relationship with technology has changed. Not just the “tech space” (which I left in 2018 after getting burned out and also because I wanted to focus on uni), but also gadgets. Put simply, I want more gadgets. Na sapa dey hold boys. I used to be a tech minimalist, but the tech itself has become minimalist, especially in design. In terms of functionality, most tech products, IMO, are maximalist. But that’s beside the point. The point I wanted to make was about my laptop displacing my phone as an “extension of my mind”. This is partly because my phone has gotten worse, but I just don’t rely on it anymore.
Finally, school na scam. Actually, that’s a lie. It’s just that the long COVID and ASUU strike breaks started the process of disentangling school from my priority list. Then the difficult, botched transition to online learning (I’ll never look at Zoom the same way ever again) accelerated that process by putting school in mind but very much out of sight. I could mute the teacher’s audio and sleep off but still be marked present because I dropped my matric number in the chatbox at the start of the class. I did this multiple times, and I’m surprised that my grades only flatlined and didn’t drop precipitously. But again, it was out of sight. I wasn’t worried. I had discovered other interests and I could go through school without ever moving out of first gear, mentally. The level of cognitive resources I dedicated to that one course notwithstanding, this was my experience for most of the year. All that fell apart when we had to resume the new session physically. What was in the backseat is now in the driving seat, and I haven’t figured out the “new normal” just yet.
If everything paused in 2020 and exploded with a dark flourish towards the end, then 2021 was dealing with the fallout of that, and trying to adjust and find a new place. It was very much its own year, and while no year is ever a full-blown success (or failure), every year is crucial. 2021 was a year of change, much like 2020, but unlike the rawness of 2020, this one was slow, gradual, and possibly more important. I have moderate hopes and expectations for 2022, but I am always wrong as to how it’ll turn out. Time will tell, ultimately.