At the beginning of this year, for the first time in a long time, I felt happy. After many months of wandering, I had finally found a place and a routine that was working for me. My mental, physical, and professional trajectories were, at last, aligned and on the up and up. I even did the impossible: becoming close friends with a total stranger while in my mid-twenties. Then coronavirus hit and everything fell apart.

It’s been really hard to stay positive over the past few months. The days all blend together and I seem to be sinking further and further into this quagmire. So, today, I decided I would write down the (few) things I have definitively accomplished since April.

My Spanish has noticeably improved

For several years now, one of my goals has been to become fluent in Spanish. I have always beat myself up for coming so close to fluency, yet never quite having the discipline to put that last bit of spit and polish on it. In fact, one of the main reasons I moved to Colombia was to try to achieve that last bit of mastery I was missing.

And while I will always be improving, it’s clear that my two months in Colombia were well spent. I still have a strong accent. I still make minor grammatical errors. I don’t know all the words I should. But my fluency, the ability to speak correctly off the cuff without extended pauses, has definitely improved. I can listen to 30 minutes of El Hilo at full speed and understand what’s going on. My phrases are more colloquial and I’m having an easier time retaining new vocabulary.

It’s been really special to talk to my friends in Spanish for the first time in a long time and have them comment on the improvements I have made. And while I still have a long way to go (La Casa de Papel at full speed is definitely still tough), I can finally rest knowing that I have achieved the level of mastery that I have longed for over the years.

I’ve lost 10 pounds

In Colombia, I finally turned my attention to addressing my long-neglected physical debt. I was the heaviest I have ever been, I felt crappy, and generally didn’t like how I looked. Fortunately, Colombia makes it easy to eat healthy, and I quickly set up systems to prevent me from falling back into old routines. But then, you know, coronavirus and stuff. I moved back home and things stalled out.

But, in the end, I was saved by my vanity. My buddy’s wedding was fast approaching and, as a groomsman, I knew I wanted to look as good as possible for the photos. Something clicked, and I got back on the wagon again. Since then, I’ve lost an additional 10 lbs, bringing my YTD total to approximately 23 lbs! I’m even more proud of this most recent drop as it was achieved entirely through self-discipline. Unlike Colombia, I do not have total control over what food is in the fridge and there are a lot more sweets around. Not only that, but I haven’t been able to exercise. Just two months ago, I was riding my bike ~50 miles a day and could bang out a 10k no problem. Then I got sick[1] and while I feel fine, my stamina hasn’t returned to nearly the same point as before.

I would love to get back to 165, my weight when I graduated from college graduation. Losing any amount of weight is daunting, especially when you’ve been trending in the opposite direction for the past four years, and 40 lbs might as well be impossible. It’s been really helpful to break that number up into 10 lb chunks. For this most recent stretch, my goal was to have a 7 in the 10s digit on the day of the wedding. I started at 189 lbs. And before I knew it, I was there! Now, I’m focusing on getting a 6 in the 10s place. And then all I’ll need is one last push and I’ll be over the finish line.

I’ve always harbored dreams of building a business from scratch, and I’ve had tons of (terrible) ideas over the years, but I never got around to actually building any of them. At the beginning of the pandemic, a mutual friend connected me with someone who was looking for a developer. He had already validated the idea with a Google Form and was looking to build something more robust.

I decided to take the project on and ended up shipping a Rails app that has totally migrated all the existing functionality and more. 10s of people use it every day! And not only that, but it’s helping move the needle in an area I’m passionate about. It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say it’s changed at least 3 people’s lives.

It hasn’t been flawless. I made stupid mistakes and encountered issues that were out of my control. There are still many more features I want to build and we still haven’t made a dime. But it’s certainly re-awakened a part of me that has laid dormant for a while and gotten me excited to do more.

I have increased my writing output and quality

Sure, my blog still has the default Jekyll theme. And yes, my drafts folder is full of half-baked ideas that really deserve a couple hours of focused thought so they can see the light of day.

But I’ve embraced spontaneity. When I wake up and can’t get a thought out of my head, I write it down. I’ll send drafts to friends and ask for feedback. I fiddle with the words until it sounds just right. And every so often, someone sends me a note saying they really enjoyed the resulting post. It never fails to make my day.

What’s next?

So yes, I have made forward progress in areas that mean a lot to me. It isn’t as fast or remunerative as I would like. But it is something to build upon. I’ll take it.