By NATHAN CONTINO
Looking Forward to 2018
It is now 2018, and I've been thinking about what I intend to accomplish this year. I've never been one to embrace New Years resolutions or anything like that, but I do appreciate the value of outlining some goals for the year, however inconsequential.
1) Own something. I don't care if it's a (probably computer) language, a hobby, a product at work, or some nontrivial responsibility-- I just want to own something. During my time at the University of Rochester, I learned a lot of lessons and made a lot of good friends through TAing and workshop leading. The sense of responsibility made a great deal of difference: I saw homework, assignments, and grading from the other side of the table, and that really helped me understand how college worked and how to extract the most value from my education. Sure, I screwed up sometimes-- as a head workshop leader, I probably missed hiring a few good candidates and hired a few bad candidates. I wasn't perfect, but I constantly tried to improve, and in retrospect I think I really did improve, and I learned a lot about teaching, delegating, and learning along the way. As much as I enjoy my job (I can't believe how lucky I am to work here), I want that sense of responsibility back. I don't know if that means becoming a team lead, working hard to get involved in the recruiting and interviewing process, mentoring, or just trying to become the best technical worker I can be, but I know that it's something I want -- no, need. If I don't accomplish anything else in 2018, I hope I manage to embrace ownership somewhere, somehow.
2) Cooking. On a very different note, I've been very, very, very, very lazy about cooking since I moved out of my college housing. Part of this laziness stemmed from funds: I wanted to pay off my student loans as quickly as possible coming out of college, so I hunkered down for a few months at the beginning of my career to accomplish that. I put about 90% of my earnings after housing and 401k contributions into loans and managed to pay them off after only accruing .02% interest, so I don't regret doing that. But now I need to start embracing cooking again- stir fry, chili, salads, burritos, sushi, among others were all staples of my diet before I graduated college, and I miss them. It's tougher now because finding fresh food in NYC can be a struggle sometimes, and I don't have anybody to actually cook with every night, but hopefully my next apartment (where I'll be moving in June) will have a bit larger of a kitchen and I can motivate myself to actually experiment with new meals on the regular.
3) Reading. I read a lot already- I'd estimate at least 2 hours a day on average, possibly more if you count the reading I do on the subway every day (note that this is exclusively books; if I was counting reading documentation, code, emails and webpages, it would probably be closer to 16 hours a day). I want to read even more this year, specifically educational/nonfiction books. Now that I'm out of college, it's going to be easier to stop learning and fall out of practice, and I don't want that to happen. My tentative goal is at least 10 textbooks this year -- I should be able to do that at minimum -- with at least 20 other works of nonfiction, to boot. That means I should be reading a new educational (more or less) read every other week, and I'm already making good progress on my first read, CODE by Charles Petzold.
4) Spending. Throughout college and my first 6 months of adult life, necessity has dictated that I be, to put it bluntly, cheap. My parents were decidedly middle-class, and eve though I had generous scholarships going to college, money was still tight. I had to take out loans, and that made me very price-sensitive. Through it all, I learned one thing: Being cheap sucks. I don't want to miss out on good food, a nice mattress, a nice pillow, or a book I'm really interested in just because of money anymore. Luckily I work in software development, and now that I'm free of student loans, I just might be able to afford the kind of nice things I've always wanted. I won't throw out the baby with the bathwater: I'm glad I've learned how to save money and live within my means. I'll always put away plenty of money and maintain a safe retirement account as well as an emergency savings account. But I'm young, I'm gainfully employed, and I ought to make some memories while I have the chance. So I resolve to spend excess money in a reasonable way to foster friendships and memories-- maybe not the kind of investment that can buy you food, but an investment nonetheless.
5) Decoration. In a similar vein, I currently live like some kind of monk. I have a bed and a rug and a laptop and a few other essential things from college, but I don't really have much to decorate my next place and give it character. By the end of this year, I would like to fill up one bookcase with at least 50 books I love and at least 20 records I love. For that matter, I need to buy a hi-fi system and a decent vinyl deck. And possibly a nice espresso machine, so I can have the full bookstore experience in my own home. Because frankly I can't think of a nicer way to spend weekends than reading a good book on a cushy armchair with some of my favorite music.
6) Friends. I'm living in NYC, one of the coolest places in the entire world. I have some work friends who I really enjoy spending time with, but I need to grow my social circle: I need to do more things out of work and have more experiences in my free time. I need to meet new people, and I need to reconnect with some college friends who are currently living in the city. By the end of this year, I hope to establish the beginnings of an adult group of friends to rival my college friend group, a truly fantastic group of individuals. And I ought to visit each of my college friends-- I'd hate to lose touch.
There you have it: some goals for 2018. Are some of these silly and useless? Of course! But so am I. And hopefully at least one or two of these goals will help me grow personally and/or professionally by the end of the year.