2023: The Rollercoaster Ride
Last year, I wrote my first year-in-review where I spoke about my journey from being completely broke to landing my first gigs as a technical writer, and how I'm on a trajectory towards the moon. The positive feedback and connections I received from the tech community encouraged me to continue sharing my experiences through these articles.
However, I approached writing this year's review with a sense of hesitation and scepticism, given the challenges I faced in 2023, which is why it's arriving later than anticipated. Nevertheless, I'm committed to being transparent and accountable, both for my growth and for the opportunity to reflect on my journey in the future. So, here it goes.
While last year was marked by a mindset of a straight upward trajectory, as inferred from the title "To the Moon". Life, as I discovered, rarely follows a straightforward path to success.
This past year was a very "special" one because it was essentially a crazy rollercoaster ride, which is a metaphor that means it had its ups and downs. Mostly scary but yet exciting. 2023 taught me a lot of lessons about myself and people in general, and I will share some of those lessons and my experiences in this post. I do hope that you learn some valuable lessons.
A Promising Start
This year started with exams. I started writing exams on the 28th of December, and they ran all through January, so I was more focused on school and making sure that I got good grades. I had not studied for most of the semester (I like to crashread🤫)
I also quit a job I was working at in February because I wasn't growing and felt like I was wasting time there. Also, I was actively writing articles which sorted the bills, so I wasn't bothered.
Overall, the first quarter of 2023 was amazing. I was super energized and enthusiastic about what I'd accomplish. My work, finances, academics, and social life were all good.
Then it came...
The First Dip
My primary goal for the year was to buy a MacBook, specifically the 2020 M1 MacBook Pro, so I started working hard and saving towards it. By May, I had saved up $1k (~₦700k at the time) for it - a sum that filled me with pride and excitement as I anticipated treating myself. It was a significant amount, one that I had never had at my disposal before, and I relished the sense of accomplishment.
However, my excitement was short-lived. Shortly after, I fell victim to an elaborate scam, losing all the money I had painstakingly saved. The setback was sudden and devastating.
"Progress happens too slowly to notice, but setbacks happen too quickly to ignore." — Morgan Housel
Initially, I found it difficult to accept the reality of the situation and chose to ignore it, focusing instead on my mid-semester tests and approaching exams in June. Despite applying for writing gigs to supplement my income during this period, I encountered a notable lull in opportunities. It was the first time in my writing career that I went an entire month without securing any gigs. Fortunately, I had some savings stored elsewhere, providing a temporary buffer.
July came, and I still hadn't gotten any gigs, so I decided to learn MongoDB and work on some projects. I had been too focused on writing for months and didn't code as much as I wanted.
Shege is a native Yoruba term used to describe hardships, and damn, I saw shege this year.
I was in denial for a long time, thinking "People can't be that heartless. Right?". At some point in July, I started to get low on cash and came to the fact that I'd been scammed hard, I opened up my goal tracker in Notion and added only one thing: "Survive".
This was very different from the preceding months where the monthly goals and achievements were filled up. At this point, I had little motivation and was trying to pick myself back up. I was tired and didn't want to do anything anymore.
During this challenging time, I confided in a few close friends about how the last quarter went, and their support and encouragement helped me get through my "Anger" phase. They also helped by sending relevant job opportunities.
Towards the end of July, I landed a contract job that initially seemed promising. Not just because I needed a job urgently, but because of how I got it. The client stumbled upon my portfolio and said she wanted features in one of my projects implemented on her project, so I accepted the offer and got on board.
What followed was a whirlwind of intense labour over the next four months. My schedule was consumed by work, leaving little to no time for socializing, engaging on social media, or taking care of my health. Why you ask? The workload was too much, and it didn't help that my laptop was slow. I was also trying to make up for the money I lost, so I kept on pushing and grinding.
It got to a point in August, I would just cry for no particular reason, which is extremely rare for me. I would keep saying "I am just trying my best". I'd be honest with you. Tech is hard, and harder for a Nigerian student without financial support, data resources or a good laptop, trying to hustle way through tech. In the end, the pay wasn't quite worth the stress and time spent.
So, I decided to quit and terminate the contract because I was losing my mind. After that, I travelled to Ogun for the RCCG International Youth Conference in October to clear my mind, see my friends, and fellowship with other young believers. The four days spent there were a balm to my soul. In those moments, I felt the reassuring presence of God, affirming that brighter days were indeed on the horizon.
Upon my return, I decided to take some days off to relax and wind off. Went through my goals for the year and decided to take on some of them. So, I bought a new laptop, started reading books more frequently, started weight training and became more intentional about prayer.
In all aspects of my life, I have been the recipient of God's grace and provision. Towards the end of the year, I received a few gigs through referrals that allowed me not to end the year completely broke 😂. I also received offers to work at two startups, however, the offered salaries didn't align with my values and worth. Recognizing the importance of maintaining my motivation and well-being, I chose to decline those offers. It was a decision rooted in self-respect and a commitment to prioritize my mental and emotional health over monetary gain.
Just because you can purchase it doesn't mean you can afford it. While I was recovering from the loss, I was able to secure some other gigs, which paid a decent amount of money, that could allow me to buy some items on my wishlist for the year. But I learned that's just a way back to the trenches 😬 I learned this from Morgan Housel's Psychology of Money.
Speak up for yourself. If you are highly agreeable or a people-pleaser, people will take advantage of you and do it over and over again with no remorse. So, please learn how to communicate your wants, and put yourself first, rather than making people treat you anyhow.
Save for the rainy days. This is something everyone says, but you really should take it seriously. Sometimes, your savings might just be the one to save you, to be honest. One solid piece of advice I learned is to have at least 6 months' worth of savings such that even if you were to lose your job, you'd still be fine.
"Getting money requires taking risks, being optimistic, and putting yourself out there. But keeping money requires the opposite of taking risks. It requires humility, and fear that what you’ve made can be taken away from you just as fast." — Morgan Housel
If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Of course, if you get a good job offer, I'm not saying it's untrue, but be very smart and rational before you agree to do any business. Always, peruse contracts well before signing.
As a freelancer, collect some payment upfront before starting any project. Some folks are just out there to waste your time.
Invest in self-improvement by reading books, honing your existing skills, and acquiring new ones. Save and invest wisely, making decisions that will benefit your future self. Engage in activities that bring you joy and fulfilment, ensuring that your actions today contribute to a brighter tomorrow.
The Bright Side: Wins
I grew as a Frontend Engineer. Had more experiential knowledge of integrating APIs, learning the intricacies of business logic and improving my efficiency in crafting pixel-perfect designs. Worked almost exclusively with React, NextJS and TypeScript.
I spent a lot of quality time with my loved ones and had a lot of fun too.
Started learning React Native, and it's interesting so far. Can't wait to build cool apps soon.
Wrote 18 paid articles and 5 articles on my blog.
I finally started building my library! I bought 10 books on Christian faith, Psychology, and Finance.
Although I planned to read at least one book in a month, I ended up reading just 5 in total 😅. Yes, it's a win for me 😌
I bought a sleek laptop with all the specs I need...for now 🙃
I had a set of dumbbells made for me, which helped me work out more. I'll confess, I'm tempted to work out my arms more.
I got myself a brand new guitar and posted a video on IG(after so long 😂)
The experience of the year helped to build my resilience.
Lastly, I'm grateful that I am still alive. When there's life, there's hope.
I let laziness and procrastination get the best of me.
Aside from all the shege I mentioned earlier, I also made a loss of ~1k CAD from a client who just wanted to get work done without paying 🤦🏾♂️, but that's a story for another day.
I didn't build some of the cool project ideas I wanted to.
Even though I had so many article ideas, I didn't write as much on my blog and Freecodecamp. Those ideas are still in my drafts, so I'd find time to work on them.
I applied to a lot of jobs, and consequently received tons of rejection emails.
Plans for 2024
In 2024, I'll approach my goals with a sense of flexibility rather than rigid absolutes, acknowledging that not every goal from the previous year was achieved. With that in mind, here are some aspirations for the new year:
Securing a full-time job in either Frontend roles or Technical writing, and I welcome any referrals! 😃
Explore new places and travel more.
Collaborate with amazing people, devs and writers.
Delve into API documentation to enhance my technical skills.
Explore more on mobile development.
Try my hands on some Backend technologies(Rust, Go)
Advocate for my achievements and skills more assertively.
Work on being consistent, despite the demands of my final year in uni and other responsibilities.
I extend my deepest gratitude to the following individuals who stood by me during the toughest of times: my girlfriend, my parents, Vee, Peace, Promise, Anu, Israel, Cess, and Vicky. Your unwavering support and love mean the world to me 💖
To those who have spoken on my behalf and offered encouragement throughout my tech journey, I am sincerely grateful for your guidance and belief in me.
I am sincerely hopeful for the future. I believe that 2024 will be amazing. I'd leave this quote with you, which I aim to imbibe this year.
"The best way to ensure that lucky things happen is to make sure a lot of things happen." — Bo Peabody
Here's to a year filled with abundance and success. Cheers to making great things happen! 🥂
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Happy New Year! 🎉🎉