The end of the year is always a time of reflection for me, and I’ve found that writing helps me clarify and preserve what I learned during the year. I’ve done a private “year in review” writeup for the past couple of years, and this year I decided to share parts of it publicly.
I went 10 days without speaking…
…or reading, writing, or using electronics. With much apprehension, I went to Lake County for a Vipassana meditation retreat.
I’ve been meditating semi-regularly for about 5 years, and did my first 3 day silent retreat with The Art of Living in 2015. For whatever reason, I fell out of practice in 2018 and decided to try a fresh start with Vipassana, which I’d heard a lot about but never experienced.
I found the 10 days of Vipassana to be incredibly challenging and rewarding. Waking up at 4am, sitting for 10+ hours each day, and not being able to exercise or eat dinner was tough on my body. However, when I look past the back pain and hunger, Vipassana allowed me to experience a feeling of quiet that is hard to find in my everyday life, full of technology and information overload, in San Francisco.
I got back into shape
After a couple years of dealing with chronic injuries and health issues, I started feeling better at the beginning of the year. I rekindled my lifelong hobbies of tennis, basketball, and skiing, and finished 1 sprint and 2 olympic triathlons (swim and bike only; running caused my knee problems to flare up). Along the way, I conquered my fear of swimming in open water and swam a mile in the Pacific Ocean at the Santa Cruz triathlon.
Although I’m not particularly good at any of these sports, I’m just grateful to be able to participate again.
I spent 18 days in India and Nepal
I go to India every few years, but this trip was particularly refreshing. It was nice to end the year by reconnecting with family members whom I hadn’t seen in a while. This time around, I paid more attention to the economic and political context in South Asia. During my free time, I worked on a personal software project for fun, inspired by my former manager’s habit of building something every winter break.
I switched jobs
A few years ago, after finishing my Masters degree in Bioinformatics, I was excited to contribute at the intersection of software engineering and bioinformatics. Genomics was exciting to me for a few reasons:
- The genome is one of nature’s most complex machines, and we barely understand how it works
- Recent advances in DNA sequencing technologies have exponentially decreased the cost to sequence DNA, and thereby led to an explosion of data that need to be analyzed using computational methods
- Working on genomic diagnostic technologies is fulfilling because it helps improve people’s health
- Because the field is relatively new, there are still opportunities to make even the simplest genomic diagnostic test more accessible to a broader population
I really loved my work in this space at Counsyl and Karius. At the beginning, I was still considering going back to school for a PhD in bioinformatics, but over the years my interests became more aligned with pure software engineering. In October, I made the switch to a seed-stage software startup, where I’m working on a different part of the healthcare system.
In 2019, I also became more comfortable sharing my work. My poster about some of my work at Karius was accepted at the Association for Molecular Pathology meeting, and I attended a couple Python (programming language) conferences and gave my first talk at a Python meetup. Sometimes I still have imposter syndrome, but these were small steps in the right direction.
I learned to play the guitar
I played the piano and saxophone growing up, but haven’t played any instrument for the past 10 years or so. I’ve found playing the guitar to be sometimes frustrating, sometimes cathartic, and overall a great experience. It’s humbling to be a beginner at something and rewarding to go through the process of learning.
Thanks for reading! 2019 was an eventful year, and I hope everyone has a happy, healthy 2020.