A single word describing my 2022 is connection.
- To overcome day-to-day struggles and establish fresh life as self-employed, as well as permanent resident of Canada, I was continuously supported a lot by new and old human connections I, fortunately, have had across the globe.
- Through physical experiences like traveling, hiking, and kayaking, I deeply realized the interconnection between myself and the earth, which embodies complex history and natural environment.
- The dots from my nearly-a-decade-long learning journey in data mining, complex systems, and internet ethics have been linked to each other, and they surfaced actionable insights about locality and humanity in tech.
As always, I would like to thank everyone who interacted with me on various occasions. Every single conversation with any of you brought new perspectives to me, and regardless of whether it's positive or negative, I, as a dividual, am defined by you. In other words, the 2022 version of myself cannot exist without others.
Connecting to myself
Speaking of connection, I also learned how to connect with myself. Working more than 40 hours a week, being exhausted, yet feeling (unnecessary) pressure to work harder—These are NOT normal at all. We should realize the weirdness. The idea that rest is the form of resistance against capitalism came from a book Rest Is Resistance; the societal system enslaves us to be machine-like in a competitive, never-ending journey of pursuing hyper-productivity.
To get the desired state in which I can be empty anytime during the day, sleep eight hours, dream almost every night, and listen to my body and heart, I needed to spend a whole week on the remote islands without any utilities, quit my full-time job, and become independent over the past six months. It wasn't an easy task, but it was totally worth it. That's why rest is resistance, an intentional action we should proactively take towards liberation.
For the reasons listed above, while the summary of the past five years from 2017 to 2021 would be "divergence" with abundant new experiences, things have clearly started converging this year. I was able to focus more on this very moment, internalize bits of diverse learnings/experiences, and turn the thoughts into words and actions as a consequence. Notice that these highlights don't mean the year of convergence was boring. 2022 is rather one of the most exciting years in my life (though there must be a recency bias).
To be more precise, I obtained satisfactory outcomes for high-level objectives I set as part of the 2021 annual review—closing the learning loop, leaving the comfort zone, staying calm, and enjoying the moment—with a stronger emphasis of my identities—traveler, product developer, minimalist, runner & hiker. In particular, if we look at what I talked about on this blog throughout the year, it is clear that the product developer identity is playing a dominant role inside myself. Importantly, the discussion points weren't only echoing its positive side, and I've rather kept questioning the fundamentals e.g., what the use of word "product" implies and why we "productize".
Let me wrap up the year and prepare for 2023 with self-reflections as follows.
Keep: What went well
- Traveling about once a month. Starting from local trails I'd never been to in the Greater Vancouver area, I visited the Sunshine Coast and Okanagan in British Columbia, Banff in Alberta, several US cities, and my home country, Japan. In practice, it doesn't need to be a big international trip, and the traveler's identity is more about the willingness to step outside.
- Keeping my hands dirty in the industry. Since specialty is always experiential, I highly value my experience working as a software engineer at Big Tech and a freelancer at start-up companies, even when the position is not fully aligned with my belief; if we disagree with something, I want to be the person who directly faces the situation to seek the possibility of change, rather than taking a distance and ignoring them.
- Running longer distances more often. After months of preparation, I finished two full marathons, Vancouver Marathon and Royal Victoria Marathon. My personal best is updated to 3'57 at the latter.
Problem: Things I'm still struggling with
- Lack of counter opinion. Even though I luckily have a diverse set of friends and colleagues from a wide variety of backgrounds, it is still rare to hear disagreement with what I said. That is, my environment is constantly amplifying similar opinions, which ideally need to be more like critical and constructive debates.
- Recognized as a thinker rather than practitioner. Some friends introduced me to others like "He is a...thinker", which I liked. However, at the same time, I don't want to stop at that point, and I want to take more action as a practitioner so I can make real contributions to society.
- Uncertainty in my workload. Being independent enabled me to have more flexibility in what I work for. But, my workload still depends pretty much on the corporate's capitalistic targets (i.e., numbers to hit); as soon as I started being involved in a project, a little fish has little-to-no control over the client's business objectives, yet the responsibility itself doesn't look different from full-time positions. If this is the case, what's the difference between full-time and contractor?
Try: Towards the deepness
With the reflections above, my next year's challenge seems to be focusing more on the deepness of my activities as opposed to broadness.
- Build deeper, long-lasting human relationships. In my opinion, healthy debates can only happen when we trust each other, and ensuring psychological safety among random people won't be enough. Therefore, I might need to be a little more aggressive to get in touch with those who I already know, so that the connections can be deepened further.
- Work on larger personal projects, which take at least a month and require in-depth knowledge not only from books and online resources but academic papers and in-person collaboration. Consequently, I won't write a blog post as frequently as I did this year, and I'd prioritize quality over quantity.
- Settle down in the next step. After spending three months as a freelancer, I have a sense that I don't want to settle down in this very situation for a long time, though I'm really enjoying the flexibility. Right now, life is too quiet to envision and act against bigger issues. My question here is "Am I truly being a better version of myself?" Yes, I am being better in terms of quality of life, but how about other variables such as soft/hard skills and the societal impact of my work?
I need a bit more time to sort this out, but my current goal is to seek an opportunity that needs a deeper, longer-term commitment as a dividual.
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- My First Month as Self-Employed
- Paddling in the Life, and Currently I'm a Freelance Software Developer
- My 2021 Annual Review: A Year of Divergence (And Slowly Started Converging)
Last updated: 2022-12-18
Author: Takuya Kitazawa
Takuya Kitazawa is a freelance software developer, minimalistic traveler, ultralight hiker & runner, and craft beer enthusiast. While my area of specialty is in data & AI ethics and machine learning productization, I have worked full-stack throughout the career e.g., as a frontend/backend engineer, OSS developer, technical evangelist, solution architect, data scientist, and product manager. You can find what I am doing lately at my "now" page, and your inquiry is always welcome at [email protected], including comments on my blog posts.
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