2020: My Year in Review
A couple of setbacks but a lot of consistency(ish)
Thinking about 2020 makes me wonder whether this would be one of those “PG-13” and above articles for “strong language”.
It’s been a lot, but as far as my life is concerned I feel guilty complaining and you’re about to see why.
I had plans for the year but no idea how it would pan out. Was done with five years of Unilag (my final year story and the fact that I graduated is another whole ass article on its own) and finally had more free time to focus on this design thing that had been on and off for about three years. I had a job at a startup from the year before and while things weren’t ideal, I was optimistic about the year. I was made the team lead of the Product Design team and it was an interesting experience having to see beyond your deliverables and being in charge of others. I also had a banged-up laptop that constantly gave me grief (my WhatsApp contacts are no strangers to this) and a major goal was replacing it.
Financial troubles at my place of work, zero morale and so much was going on. It was just back to back bad news. This wasn’t what I dreamed about working with this company. We were going to do great things, you know? But I was exhausted emotionally and mentally and it wasn’t the good exhaustion you should expect from startup work. I was done. I made up my mind I was leaving but was going to chill till the end of the month.
In the midst of all this, I went for a Goldman Sachs interview that I forgot I applied for. (I went on an applying spree the year before and got rejected or aired for every single application) This was easily one of the best experiences of the year and it just reinforced my desire to work with more diverse people. These guys were so chill and fun to be around and made me wonder why Nigerians’ heads are so far up their asses. The funny thing was I almost didn’t go. See, it was for an internship as a software engineer and I had already made up my mind that I was done with coding. But the people around me convinced me to go. After all, many people weren’t selected. What did I have to lose? So I used the time to catch up on coding knowledge and try my luck.
Well, I didn’t get in. No surprise there. But this was one of those rejections that inspire you, you know? I emailed one of the recruiters to know why I was rejected after the second round and she emailed me asking when I would be free for a call. She actually freaking emailed me back. Can you believe it? Basically, she said that my interview was good and there were no red flags but it was just that other candidates had better technical skills than I did. So basically I did well in the behavioral aspect but not so much in the technical. This gave me confidence that I had the personality to do well in an international interview so again, this was a rejection I didn’t regret.
I often berate myself a lot. So it was until I started writing this that I realized my price went up by over 100% this year and it was all because of a referral. Their budget and advice from the person who referred me gave me the confidence to charge more for my work. If she reads this she’ll probably know it’s her. Not long after this, I got another contract referral from a friend that had a budget I wasn’t used to collecting (this was in March).
This brought up some confidence issues later in the year but we’ll get to that.
Anyway, back to my problematic time at the company I was at. It was my time in this company that I got to understand the importance of having the right team. You can have skilled people that don’t have bad blood but are just a bad fit for each other. I also saw in reality why companies ask for years of experience and since then, I stopped complaining when I see years of experience in a JD. Inexperience can affect the release of deliverables if you are doing more of learning on the job than actually doing. But if the team were a good fit, maybe the experience thing wouldn’t have been too much of a problem.
Eventually, the company let a lot of us go because they simply couldn’t pay all of us and it was a mixed bag of emotions. On the one hand, I was glad I didn’t have to be the bad guy by leaving. On the other hand, you’d have to really hate working somewhere to not feel some type of way that you just got fired, if you catch my drift. I really liked the people working there and had no beef with them. We just all together weren’t a good fit, amongst other things.
Moved back into my parents’ house because, I mean, they didn’t chase me out and I wasn’t financially ready to handle the cost of living alone now that my former company wasn’t handling that.
Anyway, Into the unknown that is freelancing.
Enter: March to December
Omo. I don’t know how else to say this but if you’re a friend that remembers me when you see a job then from the bottom of my heart, I thank you. Every single freelance job I got this year was some form of referral or the ripple effect of one. From March to September or October, I never went for long without having something I was doing that paid. Could I have done more? Yes. But I think in general my needs have more or less been met this year. My wants? Well, they’re insatiable anyway.
It was around March that the lockdown started. This wasn’t much of a problem for me because I was back home and I rarely go out anyway but I got to understand it was terrible for a lot of people. On my own, I put my new free time to good use and started drowning myself in educational content. IDF courses, articles, I was learning a lot. One of my goals for the year was to level up like crazy. Again, this was due to the people I was surrounded with for most of my final year and the beginning of this year. One got a job at Google. Another got at Palantir, one was retained by Goldman Sachs. Et cetera. None of them were designer roles but I chose to see myself like them. My multiple L’s the last year showed me I had to level up to be taken seriously internationally and that’s what I was going to do.
Someone even gave me money for data when it was clear I didn’t have enough.
I got my first gig as an unemployed freelancer and it was a contract job for three months. It was also around this time I got added to the Comms team for the Youth Fellowship of my church. It’s an experience I was grateful for because it got me to open my design tools when I otherwise wouldn’t have. Also, seeing your work actually serve a purpose has this fulfilling vibe it gives you.
So that was the cycle for a while. Work when work came, learn as much as possible when I had the time (and I had a lot of it). Along the way, I got inspired to try out photo manipulation again using Affinity Photo and eventually back to Photoshop and I went on to do a bunch of fun projects that were Cyberpunk, Afrofuturism, Vibranium, and Thor inspired. I also did a dark aesthetic poster series of some Marvel and DC characters. That was where my real fun was because most of my product design gigs were boring, even though some of them actually went live. I still surprise myself when I look back at some of the stuff I came up with and it’s crazy that they were personal projects.
Anyway, I was consistently working on stuff and posting them on Instagram almost every single day for a while until my engagement tanked for some weird reason and made me lose steam.
Speaking of which, Product Design became something I sort of dreaded doing. Maybe it was the kind of gigs I was getting but I can’t say. When you hear the Mudias and the Charles and The Derins talking about Product Design like it’s their baby, I can’t relate. I had no love for working and at a point, the work I was doing was just to collect money from clients. So you can imagine. Anyway, I’ve been doing some thinking and I’ll probably be making a career pivot to Art Direction in 2021 and making Product Design a side thing. Maybe. The last time I made a complete pivot, it turned out to not be a good idea so I’ll keep an open mind.
I Found Love
Actually, I didn’t. But I caught you at half a smile, didn’t I? If not, I’m at my father’s house. Come and beat me.
Like a lot of people with an extended stay at home, I began to gain weight and I hated it. I hate fat on my body. Hold on, let me repeat that in better terms so no one would misunderstand me. I hate seeing fat on my own body. It was the ginger I needed to try working out for real again. I had been doing some stuff inconsistently earlier in the year but none of them were actually intense calorie burning stuff. So, inspired by Ife and Mayowa, Lola, and probably Kofo’s consistent workout tweets, I picked up running. It was funny because of my zero excuse attitude towards it. I got tired of my personal bullshit. No running shoes, well, jog from end to end indoors till you find one. Bad terrain? Well, run in our compound. No gear? Run with what you have.
And I did. For three months consistently. I had never been this consistent in anything workout related in my life. It was fun to have one thing I could control in this clusterfuck of a year, you know? I got to learn about how diet is the most important thing and since I can’t control what I eat yet (owo ni koko) I can control how much and when I eat. So cue in intermittent fasting. Yesterday, I even downloaded MyFitnessPal to try out this calorie counting thing.
My reasons for working out morphed into wanting to have a healthy and fit lifestyle like The Rock and Kevin Hart. Wanting to lose weight is not a sustainable reason, to be honest. It became less about how my body looked, especially since once the right things are in place it won’t take too long for me to look how I want to look.
Also inspired by someone else on the TL who was pretty consistent with it, @T0bey_ I picked up jump rope and that became my main cardio ever since. That came with its own challenges because my rope kept getting damaged (and even now it has cut from one of the handles) but I committed to sticking with it.
I read a number of books this year. The larger majority of them were fiction, but I like that I got my reading habits back to a certain extent. I started a bunch of design related books but didn’t eventually finish most. For some, it was procrastination, for others it was just coming to the realization that you can’t stuff a whole book in your head just to satisfy your ego without putting what you’re reading to practice.
We all experienced this so I would not say much. It was at this point that a lot of the consistency I’d built to this point tanked. The one constant I had was working out. I still surprise myself about that fact. But like I said before, it was the one thing I could control so I did it. And in a weird way, it is therapeutic when the world is going to shit but you block that out and push yourself in a way that only working out can.
Also, RIP Oke. I can’t pretend to have known you closely but I learned HSL from your Google Meet Asa session and I still remember your reply to my message on the Asa Coterie Community when people were talking about when Paystack would start hiring and shooting their shots. I expressed no confidence in myself but you said I should apply anyway when the time comes. Now I don’t think that automatically means I have what it takes to work at Paystack but I’ve come to understand that you inspire people to be better and it’s clear in all your friends. I’ll try to live by that, even though I have a coconut head.
My Mental Health
Most of my absence of major wins this year is self-induced. Lack of confidence, fear, depression, being incapable of giving a shit (this is a thing where you’d actually have things to get done but you just don’t have it in you to care). I didn’t open Photoshop for a while after trying to help the effort of #EndSARS by designing stuff. Even photo manipulation that I supposedly enjoyed doing eventually was difficult to get myself to do.
My mental health probably dipped this year. You would have probably seen signs by now. It was a long time coming, to be honest. I’m not an all-round happy person and my emotions move from “just there” to random tanks. It’s cumulative of a lot of things and part of my issue is not being able to open up as much as I should. It’s a weird dynamic from after that GS interview where I felt like I could do anything I set my mind to, to being the guy who barely had any confidence to apply for anything. I also had this confidence thing where I felt I was overcharging for my work because I felt I wasn’t good enough. I’ve started getting better though, so that counts for something, I guess. Plus I have people in my corner rooting for me and that really helps.
Even career-wise, I naturally struggle by myself. It’s my default mode and I struggle to turn it off. I just feel like I’m disturbing people when I ask for help and feel like I should get to a sensible point before I start disturbing people. This clearly had a negative effect on me because most people see the “badass” on Twitter posting his work but not many get to relate with the guy who is at most times highly disappointed in himself. And I can also imagine how far ahead I would have gotten with respect to where I currently am if I just knew how to ask for help. I usually feel left out when people are winning and chilling with their guys or just having bants but in the end, no one really left me out. I just didn’t ask.
I’m a work in progress anyway and I feel my mental state is getting better.
I did the math and this year I earned the most out of any year in my life. And I didn’t even go out of my way to find work. My views on money also changed. I’m normally frugal to the point of starving myself if need be. Now, I ask myself simple questions like “Do you need this thing to help you achieve a certain goal or not?” or “Would this thing make you somewhat happy without stretching you too much?” Basically, money is an asset to be used. Holding on to it for a future that isn’t certain just means you’ll eventually spend it on something not worth the effort to save the money in the first place. Or you’ll just die and it would be a bonus for the bank or something, I don’t know. Invest? Yes. Have emergency funds? Yes. But starving yourself for something you want or need because you’re “saving” stopped making sense to me.
At some point, I started paying for fuel myself. Our transformer in our area was bad so we had to run the generator to have electricity and this was the case for a while until recently. So yeah, that’s where my bills started, I think. Being able to charge my laptop during the day to work or learn and not wait till the night. It felt irresponsible to be earning money and still be leeching on resources for where they weren’t allocated. Also talking about bills, my data budget went way up because I had to work and also be able to open stuff like YouTube for some tutorials that were as long as 30–40 minutes without being conscious of data, as well as online courses I was taking).
I started taking care of my hair and also invested a bit in my wardrobe since most of my clothes were faded and I didn’t have enough shoes. People say I glowed up this year but to be honest, I think looking better is natural once you distance yourself from the sufferhead school that is Unilag.
Eventually, I started to see where I could chip in with funds in the house. Like I said earlier it feels irresponsible in this day and age to be living in your parent’s house, having a good relationship with them, be earning, and not contribute where you can. So I started. There was an aspect in the house I decided to take responsibility for and even though it meant being perpetually broke, it was worth it because I’ve moved to seeing beyond myself in the short term (we all believe we’ll make money and spoil our parents in the long term) and now I legit have no choice but to secure the bag in 2021. If I don’t, how will I pay for Disney+?
And that was my biggest win of the year. I moved from being the guy whose biggest challenge at the beginning of the year was how to replace his laptop to being the guy who actually had bills to pay in the house. It’s a different dynamic. And while it’s not a job at a Fortune 500 company, it’s a hell of a milestone. It’s also funny how some of my biggest worries always find a way of sorting themselves out in ways I don’t expect. I guess in a weird way, even though I really don’t deserve it, God’s got my back.
Even in my questionable emotional state, I’m still very very optimistic for 2021.