The 4th Round
In high school wrestling, you get 3 rounds — 2 minutes each. The goal is to dominate your opponent in those three rounds. However, when the whistle blows and the score is tied, you then enter into overtime. Overtime is simple: the first person who scores, wins. In this round, each wrestler has an additional opponent that enters into the fray — themself. All of the noise blurs into one constant buzz. The only thing you hear is the rhythmic pulse of your breathing. The questions that matter are few. Can you push through the pain? Can you fend off the advances of your opponent? Do you have the cardio to outlast them? But you're too busy at the moment to entertain any of them, so they tend to be running in the mind of your coaches, teammates, and, if you're lucky, your fans.
As we enter into December, I'd like to think that we're entering into the overtime of this hellish year. This is the last leg of the very, very exhausting marathon called 2020. If you're reading this, more likely than not, you were able to overcome many newfound obstacles. Whether it be working from home, moving in with your parents, or, more seriously, avoiding death. Bear in mind that many have not been as lucky. I'm not saying that to be edgy or fatalistic, but to stir a bit of gratitude in all of us. This year has not been easy, but we still have a tomorrow, which can't be said for thousands in our country.
Unlike in the overtime round of a wrestling match, we can pause and reflect. Given that opportunity, I'd like to reflect on this past year. I started off the year with an eerie feeling, but nonetheless optimistic. The pandemic hit around March. I spent a couple months in SF before I decided to move back home to Orange County to stay with my family. In July, I was let go, and in September, I found myself without the tagline of an engineer @ co. I've been through this rodeo before, so I was quicker than most in spotting the silver lining. I took a deep breath and asked myself what I really wanted to do now that my head is above water.
I've been blessed to be able to do a lot of things. I took some time off to try my hand at different projects I've wanted to push out. I got to change my lifestyle! My friend Salaam introduced me to Empire Training, where I've been blessed to work with Chris, the gym's strength and conditioning mastermind. I could write an entire article about how strength training has helped me build a strong physique as much as a strong mind. I started meeting with a local therapist to better understand myself, confront my demons, and create systems that uplift me from my negative thought loops. I flew out to visit my older brother in Minnesota for the first time. I got to spend quality time with him that I'll always look back fondly upon for the rest of my life.
It hasn't all been rosy. But I've been able to push through the thick with the love and support of many people. I owe a great deal to my family, parents, and siblings. All of them have helped me weather this continuing storm with a great deal of empathy and understanding. I'm grateful for good friends — Aman, Khwaja, and Asad — who joined me Monday through Friday at 9 am to keep each other accountable. It’s thanks to our daily standup that made keeping a routine that much easier. Lastly, I'm grateful for the friends I've made over Twitter; shoutout to Tim, Calvin, Ash, and many more!
It's going to be really hard to ascertain what the future holds, not just for myself but billions of people across the world. I think anyone claiming the faintest notion of a complete return to normalcy is a fool. Predicting what's next is too hard of a task for me, but I can expound on what I think we have learned. Some have learned to be alone. Some of us are returning to our childhood homes where we have to learn to dig deep to be patient with our families as much as they have to with us. I believe we have also learned to become more creative in how we interact with each other. I think we have all experimented with something we otherwise would not have. Finally, I hope that we have learned to prioritize what or who matters to us at the end of the day.
Speaking more personally, I've learned particular things about myself. I've learned that I can put my head down for long periods to deliver work that I'm proud of. I've learned that you can't let others determine what value you bring to the table. To quote the sage words of Katt Williams delivered in 2008, another time when the world seemed to have been turned upside down, "you've got to be in tune with your star player." In the past few months, I've been able to breathe deeper and think clearer. I've arrived at the answers to those key overtime questions. Can I push through the pain? Absolutely. Do I have the stamina to outlast the ups and downs of this year? Yes.
I'd like to end the final newsletter of the year with a few notes. Firstly, I'd like to thank the folks who've subscribed and are actually reading my work. I've got 12 subscribers, and 3 of whom even open my newsletter. Thank you all! Second, I'm going to end this newsletter by beginning something that will spill over into the next year. I'm going to share articles + highlights of them (powered by Command!) at the end of each newsletter to spark discussions and give you an idea of what's been on my mind.
So without further adieu, I'll attach the articles at the bottom. Thanks again for reading fam. Stay up.
Haroon Aaron Dean
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Stuff to read:
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