PortfolioDev Agrawal

9 minute readYear in Review - Senior07-23-2023

Year In Review

“I had everything, then I had nothing.”

In the past year, I found myself uttering this overly dramatic sentence to describe areas of my life to myself and close friends.

Obviously, I didn’t actually lose everything. Broadly speaking, my life has certainly leveled up quite a bit since I wrote the last year-in-review. I have a new job as a Developer Advocate in a rapidly growing startup, I am making content about things I enjoy, I am traveling to conferences and meeting people that I look up to and enjoy chatting with, and I’m earning a decent enough paycheck to keep my mom and debt happy. I even graduated college and acquired work authorization in the US! Objectively speaking, I have more things now that I did 2 years ago.

Then why do I feel like I have lost more than I have gained?

Craft, Crack, Crash

In the last year-in-review, I decided the theme of the upcoming year to be Craft. I wanted to spend some time carefully crafting my brand, my content, my skills, and my network.

Where did I get this idea from? Why did I decide the theme to be “craft” and not something else?

I can sit here and say that for the last 4 years I have been reflecting on how my year went and logically deciding what the next step should be to come up with the theme for the upcoming year. That would be a lie. Maybe there is a subconscious part of my brain that actually is doing that calculation and helping me decide the theme, I wouldn’t be surprised if that were the case.

But I mostly feel like I look into a crystal ball to see what the upcoming year might be like, what I expect myself to be doing, and pick a theme based on that.

It seems like last year when I looked into the crystal ball, things were foggy and unclear, and all I saw out of it was an engraving with three letters - cra..., and then I made up the rest and decided on craft.

I wish there was a way to rewind the clock back a year so that I can take a better look at what the crystal ball was trying to tell me. Was it actually trying to show me the things I have crafted? Was it an indicator of the cracks forming in my life? Or was it a warning that things are going to crash?

What if it was all three?

The Cracks

The cracks in my life had already started to show when I started writing the last year-in-review. I had low energy and motivation, missed the first couple deadlines, then hastily wrote it past due date and sent an apologetic letter to my amazing advisor Ashley for not finishing the year in review early enough. I wasn’t very happy with what I had written, but I published it anyways because I couldn’t be bothered with it. I was tired.

I took some time recently to read back all my year-in-reviews, and apparently I did a pretty good job of structuring and formulating my thoughts last year, even while lacking the energy and motivation to do so. However, the cracks in my life subtly reveal themselves in this review if you know what to look for.

I had started to grow unhappy. Unhappy with my academics, with my job, with my relationship, and with my living conditions. This was causing more frustration and exhaustion than I would have cared to admit at that time. Needless to say, the feeling of “my life is perfect” that I had a couple years ago was almost gone - I just hadn’t noticed it yet.

I made attempts at fixing stuff - I tried to move out of my apartment and live at a new place with new people. I started applying to new jobs, and even asked my employer at that time to accommodate my requests. I tried fixing my relationship and make more room to enjoy each others’ company instead of getting annoyed by each others’ presence. All of my attempts failed, and led to the inevitable crash.

The Crash

In December, I decided to take the winter holidays to travel back to India and go on a vacation with my family. I had a great time - got to reconnect with my family and some old friends, met my brother’s newborn for the first time and realized that babies are kinda cute, and took some amazing photos enjoying snow on the top of the mighty Himalayas. For the most part I was just enjoying the moment of break from my usual life, and I wasn’t spending too much time thinking about the fact that I had just resigned from my job and broke up with my girlfriend.

Financially I was in a decent enough position that not having a job for a few months would not be a big deal - I was pretty confident that I would have a job by the time I graduated college. However, any idea I had of experiencing “the perfect life” crashed and crumbled, as the two biggest pillars that it stood on couldn’t bear the cracks that had formed over the year.

While I came back from that vacation in January with a fresh motivation to start crafting again, the crash caught up with me very quickly. I was feeling unmotivated, wasting most of my time doomscrolling and looking for those little dopamine hits, procrastinating and missing basically every single deadline. I had never felt this low and unmotivated in my life. Even my last breakup in 2020, which I expected to have serious consequences on my mental health, did not come close to what I was going through a few months ago, and still am at the time of writing this.

For the longest time, I was unwilling to accept that something was wrong and needed to be fixed. I kept chugging along, making promises that I couldn’t keep, setting expectations I couldn’t meet, and pretending to do things I wasn’t actually doing.

Finally, a couple weeks ago, I decided to stop everything else and ask some serious questions about what had happened to me. I spent an entire night trying to remember and note down every significant event from the last 5 years, and how one event led to another, in an attempt to pinpoint the source of the cracks and the crash. Weirdly, the conclusion was both satisfying and unsatisfying at the same time.

It was... inevitable?

Free will is an illusion. We are just a collection of terribly-designed bio-electrical machines capable of remembering and communicating ideas. Actions and decisions are purely based on past events and experiences instead of some internal choice making process that many people believe we possess and label as “free will”.

Subscribing to this deterministic ideology comes with some nice perks - the entire reason I am able to reconstruct the past and track my mental state through time is because that’s how I believe the world works. It gives me insight into why people do the things they do, and leverage that information for everyone’s benefit. This is why I study psychology - it reveals how determinism manifests within people, similar to how physics reveals the determinism of objects. It’s also a great sympathy building tool - at no point can I ever really blame someone for what they did, because I am fully aware that there are deterministic reasons that led to it. We can only learn from what has already happened and hope that we are better prepared for the next time.

But determinism is a double edged sword - it’s not that difficult to slip into nihilism from here. Do we have any control over our lives at all? If I am simply a cog in the grand cosmic machine, can I do something that I wouldn’t already be doing? Do I have the power to hold things together when fate is hell-bent on pulling them apart?

Maybe I was afraid of asking myself these questions, which is why I couldn’t accept that something was wrong and needed to be fixed. Maybe I was afraid of coming to the realization that there is nothing to pinpoint - it was one small thing after another that slowly caused those cracks, things that were natural, organic, and inevitable. My experience of “the perfect life” was never going to be permanent, instead it was a naïve portrayal of one short phase of my life when I felt very happy and satisfied with everything, a phase that would slowly slip away without me noticing, and I would just be left watching it happen and experiencing the consequences.

The general frustration with life and feelings of burnout seemed to form a feedback loop - I started to grow a little unhappy about things, which led to loss of energy and rise in frustration, which impacted my ability to cope with them and led to making more mistakes, which lead to even more unhappiness, and eventually to the inevitable crash. After the dust had settled, all I was left with were ashes, which I continued to carry around for months, without ever fully healing from the burnout.

The Craft

So far I have painted a pretty bleak picture of my life over the last year. And it certainly was at times. This is why I am very surprised at how much of my initial promise of crafting I was still able to keep up.

Content creation has been an absolute boon for me. I had zero expectations of ever getting even slightly famous or recognized in the industry. I had zero expectations of unlocking opportunities I didn’t know existed. I just wanted to look at a camera and rant about microservices for a bit. But as I dove into the world of content creation, I started to see more and more opportunities, and I tried to grab as many of them as I could. This is a legitimate industry now and I am excited to see how far I can push myself and what kind of content I can craft.

My venture into content creation led me to discover Developer Relations - an industry closely tied to content creation but with very specific goals. I decided to pursue a career in DevRel as an opportunity to see what I can learn about this fascinating new industry. This means that my career as a Software Developer has been put on hold and moved to the back burner for the time being. I am unsure if this was the best decision, and there are times when I wish that I still had my old job, or some other job that allowed me to explore the complexities and intricacies of developing software systems at scale. But, that will have to wait. I first need to explore this new position that I have crafted for myself.

I never thought of myself as someone who is excited to meet and talk to people. But throughout the year the benefits of professional networking and making industry connections have presented themselves to me like an angel visiting me in my dreams and granting my wishes. Soon enough, I found myself enjoying communities and industry events and random meetups. I also realized that to take the best advantage of these opportunities, I am in serious need of a mindset shift. I cannot be my usual shy and introverted self anymore - I have to actually learn how to make myself more approachable, more trustworthy, and most of all, a good and fun person to be around. I started crafting something that I always thought was immutable - my personality.

I have also taken my love for organizing events to the next level - by helping organize a pretty large tech conference, along with volunteering at others, and helping out with local meetups. I am starting to recognize the special role of these events in our industry, and I want to help craft events that have a meaningful long term impact on everyone.


I don't think this time I need to look into a crystal ball to figure out what I need to be doing. It's pretty obvious - recover. Recover from the crash, fill in the cracks with something stronger than whatever was holding it together before, and get back to a state of mind where I am free to craft whatever I want to without burning myself out. A lot of people are counting on me, and rooting for me, and I am not letting them down again. I need to get my act together push forward.

But recovering is not enough - it's not like I was in a great state even 2 years ago. Yes I was happy, but there were still things that I was doing wrong, things that led to the cracks in the first place. I hope I am able to identify these issues and do my best to ensure they don't ruin my life ever again. As a wise man once said,

Sometimes the best you can do is to help yourself.

Cheers, and take care!

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