This is a very abridged version of the end-of-year message I sent out to my friends and colleagues. This email is somewhat of an experiment for me - I’m inspired by my friend Tommy, who every year writes an email reflecting on his year, and my parents, who every year print and mail a letter with my and my siblings’ pictures and accomplishments in it. New Year’s brings a lot of thoughts and reflections about the year that we’ve had. This post of course is incredibly belated. But there’s nothing inherently special about January 1st other than the vibes we assign to it so I think a February retrospective is just as nice.
I’ve had quite a busy 2022! Here’s the highlight reel:
Competed on Jeopardy!
This was easily one of the coolest experiences of my life! I got to meet Ken Jennings, visit the Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune sets (the wheel is way smaller in real life), and made some wonderful friends out of the whole experience.
It was interesting being there as one of the younger contestants on regular Jeopardy!. My tape-date-mates were doctors, lawyers, writers, professors, and a court reporter, and I taped my episode not three days after having finished my last final of college (and with a mountain of grading to do for my computer architecture TA gig). It was certainly intimidating, and I don’t remember much of the actual taping, though I’m told I came across as confident and cool. When I watched the show, I wondered who would buzz in on the next question - surprise, it was me, and I got it correct! I did lose, but there’s a great Weird Al song about that.
When the show aired, the Internet was, well, the Internet. I still think it was a net positive, though - I gained a lot of confidence in myself and in public speaking through the experience. The real win was the friends we made along the way, though - the Jeopardy! alumni community is strong, and it’s helped me appreciate the power of social media to bring people together. I have met up with a few J! folks in Boston and hope to do more of that soon. I’m still really bad at pub trivia, though.
Biked to Albany for climate action
Sunrise Movement NYC, a climate organizing group I have been active with for the past two years, joined the Climate Can’t Wait NY coalition to push for climate legislation in New York State. Veekas, one of our organizers, conceived of a bike trek from NYC to Albany along the Empire State Trail leading up to an Earth Day rally in Albany. I was initially skeptical, but decided to take the week off school and do it anyways. I’m very glad I did — I’m proud of the work we did to raise the profile of this legislation, and we were able to connect with people across the state who believe in climate action and are willing to work to make it happen. I have never felt very comfortable as a “climate leader” — I don’t think I know enough about the science or policy solutions to be put front and center — and this was a key step in realizing you don’t have to know it all to speak up, because the more people who speak up in favour of climate action, the better a shot we have at literally saving life on planet Earth.
This trip was also meaningful to me as a cyclist. This was the farthest I’ve ever biked after only starting biking the previous August, and I got a lot stronger as a result. I’m starting to see myself as an athlete, a big shift for someone who has always hated the gym. The trail was beautiful, but I did unfortunately learn the importance of eating correctly and drinking enough water the hard way. Still, that trip gave me the confidence to bike longer distances and more consistently, and I completed my first century (100 miles) in June.
I now have a bachelor’s of electrical engineering from the Cooper Union with minors in computer science and philosophy! My college experience was far from typical, due to the pandemic, yes (COVID hit halfway through my sophomore spring and caused just over 1/4 of my classes to be delivered remotely), but also due to how Cooper Union is structured as an institution. The deep investment of faculty in students, the history of free tuition, and the simultaneous specialization and breadth of its offerings make attending Cooper an unusual college experience. I mean that in the best way possible - I benefitted from the strangeness, and I don’t think I would have felt nearly as comfortable expressing myself, or challenged to push research questions further, at a more traditional institution. At times, it was isolating and discouraging too. I am so thankful to the faculty and staff who created space for me to explore new ideas, promoted my work to their colleagues, and created opportunities for me. They went beyond mentorship and became sponsors, and they have changed my academic and career trajectory for the better.
Started a new job
Speaking of career prospects, I started a new job in August. I’m working as an electrical engineer at Formlabs, a 3D printing company based in Somerville, MA. It’s interesting work - I get to design circuits for our next generation SLA printer, and I work with mechanical, software, optical, and integration engineers to get that done. Although working full-time has been a big shift compared to college, I really appreciate the steady paycheck and going home at 5PM!
My manager has been great about putting me on new and interesting projects, and I am learning so much. My colleagues take me seriously and value my contributions, even though I am new. One anecdote about the kind of work culture it is - when we design circuit boards, we put our initials on them (so the ones I design say “AJ”). One day, I helped out our EE lead, Sam, with some layout on a circuit board, and didn’t think much of it. When he went to place the order for the boards, I saw that he had added my initials next to his. I told him that I appreciated it and thought it was kind, and he said that of course I was credited - I designed the board.
Moved to Boston and met a lot of new people
I moved for work (see above). Moving is always hard, but I feel like I’ve mostly landed on my feet. I see friends, new and old, fairly often and I enjoy my work. I have found little communities in different places, like social dance and swimming. Boston feels less like the centre of the universe than NYC does, but I don’t need that to be content —I like being around interesting people and places, and it’s been rewarding finding local niches here. I didn’t spend much time going to the Met anyways.
Lots of Personal Growth
It was a good year for me learning to take care of myself. I started sleeping better and more consistently, eating more healthfully, and getting outside more. Quantitative measurements don’t do it justice, but I biked 2185 miles and read 40 books. My interpersonal relationships got stronger, and I became better at making friends.
Though I experienced a lot of change, it was the result of active choices I made to align my life more with long-term goals, or in some cases, to follow what just felt right in the moment. And the cool thing is, making difficult choices (i.e. uprooting my life and moving to a different city) has proven to me that big changes are not inherently scary or harmful, and I believe I would be more comfortable making a similarly large change again if it would improve my life, rather than feeling stuck in the way things are. It’s a virtuous cycle, and I’m excited to see where 2023 leads me.
There’s so much I couldn’t fit in this post that made an impact on my 2022, but it was a year well-lived. I’m grateful for all the people, organizations, and things that made it special. Here’s to 2023!