2021 in review

by Randy Gingeleski

12 minutes to read

Annual recap of what happened in my personal life (2021 edition).

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For new readers, I’ve traditionally done year-end posts here on the blog that chronicle my own life.

This year felt much like my 2017, with a whole lot of memorable days and positive change.

Note 2017 didn’t have a recap here. It had a birthday Instagram post declaring global victory. A different time for me.

Beyond me, what started in 2020 kept rolling. Recapping my same general points from then that I deemed positive for everyone (who’s paying attention) —

- Unveiled a lot about the nature of people, politics, and life
    - The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry
    - Nobody is coming to save you so you must rely on yourself
- Catalyzed certain changes to happen maybe 5 years faster than otherwise
    - Transition to remote work may be the clearest example
    - Cryptocurrency as a legit investment vehicle is arguably another

As always I can only explain what happened around me for your possible insight.

Frolicking about in South Florida ocean water.

TL;DR

Last year we started off with a bulleted summary list. Something like “increased income 50%, ‘found God’, broke up with my girlfriend and employer.”

That seemed a fine format so will do that again 🌞 then go pretty much chronological.

  • Moved twice
    • Jersey City → Upstate New York → South Florida
  • Fell in love twice
    • Going on a (what I suppose you’d call romantic) trip to Africa in about a month 🌍
  • Doubled family and friends time YOY
    • Estimated, though 2020 was an outlier year
  • Increased income 75%+
    • Conservative estimate because I haven’t tabulated receipts or factored in tax differences after moving to Florida
    • Now at the life stage where an accountant is needed
  • Got a new “day job”
    • Intentionally blurring details because I am not supposed to expend any mental energy outside this new position 🤐🥵
      • Like blogging or affiliate marketing, one might say
  • Maintained sub-10% bodyfat for >50% of the year
    • May have been 100% of the year but I only started regular InBody scanning early June
    • All core lifts in the gym are also up 👀
    • Probably would’ve “fallen in love” zero times if not for these points 😛
  • Logged another 30 hours’ training towards my private pilot’s license
  • Presented at another major cybersecurity conference
    • OWASP Global AppSec US 2021
    • Plus a bunch of Google stuff promoting reCAPTCHA Enterprise
InBody scan at the end of my cruise in August 2021.
InBody scan at the end of my cruise in August 2021.

Cabin fever

In January 2021, I was still a resident of Jersey City on paper and maintained my apartment there, but living at my parents’ house in upstate New York.

My 2020 recap disclosed that’s where most of that year was lived out.

January and February are especially tough months in that area. It’s cold, snowy or slushy, gray and sunless. I had a predictable routine of doing my HBO Max work, breaking up the work day with regular training sessions at Edge Strength and Conditioning, borrowing my sister’s Honda HR-V without a car of my own, not really going out or burning money.

New York was still COVID locked-down to a large extent anyway. Followed my own guide to habits during such times.

I also tossed in some side work. Either off-shoots of my “day job” (web app hacking, pen tests, bug bounty, threat modeling) or one-off hustles like NBA Top Shot flipping.

Wrote about that here and here. I don’t even enjoy basketball but made some pocket change.

“Normal investing” continued, stocks and crypto. I wasn’t really trading at all — still don’t — but tend to buy and hold. Which doesn’t preclude staking or farming. 😉

Every so often I would take a break from my parents’ for a week or two, down at my Jersey City apartment. That was kind of a sad place, however, after last year’s break-up. I made plans to officially break lease early, move all my stuff into storage in upstate New York while pondering my next move.

View out the window of my old Jersey City apartment.

And I was pretty certain the next move was to Florida, even then. It just wasn’t clear it’d work out 100% for my HBO Max job.

Context — there was always this subtext to my job that one day all the WarnerMedia people would go back to the offices. For me, that was supposed to be at the Hudson Yards. I had never stepped foot in that office though and, through to this writing, still haven’t.

This all sounds boring? Yeahhh don’t I know it. Besides maybe a flight school sessions thrown in, weather-dependent.

Randy Gingeleski FAA pilots' certificate.

But what went on in the first ~13 of my year set me up to conquer the rest of it.

Florida prequel

At the end of March, I officially moved out of Jersey City.

Possessions all boxed-up inside storage unit.

I bought a car after many years of not having one. This might’ve also signaled the start of spending some of my money that had hoarded, compounded, etcetera.

BMW 440i - just before the 2020+ buck-teeth models came out.

And while visiting family in South Florida, early April, my moving aspirations there started to solidify.

Portrait in Florida circa April 2021.

Brief affair with Williamsburg

Unexpectedly in May I got a “day job” work promotion. It was well-deserved, looking back, given a lot of extra things I was doing for them but won’t get into.

All of that effort was exhausting though. I’d allotted a week and a half of vacation time at the end of May, unsure initially where to spend it. It felt like time to see how things were in New York City proper.

I reconnected with my good friend and former roommate after what was much too long. That was planned.

I also ended up reconnecting with a girl I’d known for years, just never felt strongly about before. After spending time together in Brooklyn, and suddenly I was in love. None of that was planned.

Years ago, in the earliest part of my last failed relationship, I remember this weird thought at one point like, “What if this is the last time I fall in love with someone?” Those are mysterious, powerful feelings. When you sort of forget everything else, not sure yet if someone else is into you, seeing where it goes. Hoping they are. The mysterious unfolding of all that seems like an unmatched feeling.

Contrary to whatever claims that ‘chocolate generates the same brain activity as sex!’ or similar frivolities.

Even outside all that, my time in Williamsburg was otherwise really enjoyable. That moment in New York City — late May, early June 2021 — was like everybody cutting loose. Getting back to normal. It was hopeful.

New York skyline.

Part of it may have been me cutting loose from the life discipline I’d instilled at my parents’ too. Drinking and drugs on weeknights, out until all hours, “phoning things in” at work. Still outperforming everyone else. Feeling invincible.

I ended up taking ~6 more Williamsburg trips this year, to the point where The William Vale hotel staff recognized me easy. That was my home base.

My mind grappled with whether to proceed on to Florida or set myself up in Williamsburg. I ran the numbers and it seemed feasible to do both even. Florida for tax residence and half-time, Brooklyn half-time.

That’s almost certainly what I would have done if my love life had panned out like what was in my mind.

In reality, things didn’t transpire ideally with either Williamsburg or the girl. 😐

And at least in the former I dodged a bullet. New York doesn’t seem like much fun right now. Plus, again, 2021 associated some degeneracy with my being in the city at all. Whether moderation would’ve prevailed had I full-on moved back there is unclear.

It was great while it lasted.

Moving on up

Even before my work promotion, since ~April, I felt like things could be better there. More money and stock didn’t solve what frustrated me at the core.

Blessedly, my professional network is quite strong. I started talking to someone who’d mentored me early in my security career about joining on where he was at. It was my ticket out.

Goodbye Randy slide show at HBO Max.

Won’t get into my reasoning for departing HBO Max, what any of that is like, or why it took so long to start at my new company as it’s all complicated and probably uninteresting.

As things unfolded, it wouldn’t be until August that we agreed to terms at the new place. One condition was that I needed to move outside New York state. We’re a cryptocurrency exchange and New York’s legislation for that is restrictive. So I procured a place in South Florida to boot.

This all transpired in the latter half of August — and more. It was my birthday. I took another couple weeks’ vacation, including a Caribbean cruise for my parents and grandmother. On that trip I happened to meet a different girl, falling in love again. After returning to Fort Lauderdale, I picked up the keys to my new home, then flew back to upstate New York with my family. A bunch of movers picked up my car and other things in storage there, all back down to Florida, and now it’s officially my home.

So a lot happened very quickly at the end of the summer. 🙌

Florida residence

How are things in Florida? Just as I imagined. Which is to say, pretty good.

Couple sitting on bench.

My social life is back, health is great, lots of sunshine and beach/pool time and reading. Finances are stellar. My new dedicated office setup has helped.

Florida office in one of my extra rooms.

I don’t want to jinx any of it. But after my visions for the most part not panning out in 2020 or early 2021, a bigger feeling of victory was back.

Randy Gingeleski legs on beach chair.

Fixing myself

My grandmother asked what I wanted for Christmas —

“A leather-bound bible.”

My dad thought this was interesting because, I guess the last he heard, his son was an atheist (!!).

Maybe that was true 2 years ago.

If your views haven’t changed radically in 2 years — and maybe the line is better drawn towards 1 year — then I think something’s wrong. You need to question yourself more.

As we entered December 2021, I felt it was the right time to start a couple of things that had been in the back of my mind. Since many of the “bigger” things in life were going smoothly.

  • Hypnotherapy / talk therapy / RTT®
  • Ketamine therapy
    • This is a lot different than “magic mushrooms” and I may elaborate on it in a future review post of Mindbloom

December presented a crossroads of work, and where my energy should go there. A lot of anxiety and pressure had built up throughout the year, manifesting in weird ways. Maybe because of business but I suspected it was deeper. My romantic thoughts were still split to an extent. I was flying continously between Florida and New York. Just a lot of divided focus.

It’s worth pointing out again this was “small” and all of the “bigger” things were alright, on paper. It’s just I knew there was more work to do.

Randy Gingeleski mean mugging post-gym.

Mid-December brought my first hypnotherapy session. Then another right before Christmas. Several days later, because it requires more supervision than when living alone, my first ketamine session.

The outcome? Certain subtle-but-persistent weaknesses in my thinking have gone away entirely.

For example, I used to have some baseline anxiety about most forms of reaching out to someone unexpectedly, whether trying to talk to them in-person, via phone, or on Slack. That has disappeared.

It was rooted in a childhood memory that seems silly to type out.

Another example. Since 2020 and working full remote (instead of my ~50% before), some weaknesses with time management and/or procrastination surfaced. Post-therapy, that’s much improved too.

Honestly, the hypnotherapy probably would’ve been sufficient for those things. Improvement was pretty dramatic based on that alone.

The ketamine — k-holing as others would say online — gave me something else. I have 5 more sessions left and am hesitant to write all about that quite yet. It’s hard to describe what happened to me on the medicine.

This may all sound like “woo-woo” nonsense. I don’t care. If one person reads this and improves as a result, that’s worth a thousand people thinking I am a little nuttier instead.

There is a tendency to think engineers like myself should adopt science, math, and numbers as religion. And that feelings, religion, astrology, hypnosis, plant medicine, and psychedelics aren’t worth anything. That computer engineers should look down on all that.

To me, that’s closed-minded. If that’s your worldview then you are missing out on a whole lot. My advice.

In The Road Less Traveled, aforementioned on the blog as one of my favorite books, Dr. Peck suggests therapy is the least human thing you can do. A precondition to successful psychotherapy is admitting you are flawed, that there are things you can improve or fix about yourself. Animals — dogs, cats, etcetera — do not ever have such thoughts. We humans are capable of doing so but it’s rare and it’s hard.

“Life is difficult,” goes the famous very first line of the book.

What are you missing out on, beyond the desert of difficulty?

Therapy first changed my life back in 2012. I spoke to that in my decade review, of getting arrested twice and the fateful offer to talk with a therapist about my doings. That introduced a pattern of self-analysis and reflective thinking that has served me well since.

And honestly, I would say it kept me out of prison.

Closing thoughts

My cruise ship love follows Hinduism. The day before one of our port leave dates in Fort Lauderdale, I happened to read the simplified Bhagavad Gita on the beach.

We were talking about that and she posed me a question like, “If everything is one and God controls all, how do you balance just surrendering with instead planning and imposing your will on the universe?”

My answer is — I don’t know. I spend a lot of time visualizing and planning, then striving to execute, but it doesn’t always work out. My break-up last year was the biggest burning of any set of visions and plans I’d ever experienced. A future that had been built over and over in my mind was obliterated, with me shook as a result.

That was also a relationship weakness but let’s not digress.

Yet I still envision the future. Maybe my schemes don’t run as long or as deep now, in totality. Things in Williamsburg not working out still hurt too. Florida, however, did work out. Work stuff did work out. That feels pretty good.

Randy Gingeleski 2011 passport next to 2021 passport.

So keep devoting yourself to life as you want to live it, moving forward even after taking some hits. Because not everything will work out. What does might be that much more beautiful in contrast.

Life is hella mysterious and all you can do is proceed, with devotion. Problems arise when you stop trying or get too comfortable. Laziness in thought and/or action is pretty much original sin.

Essentially that is the Bhagavad Gita, The Road Less Traveled, Will, The Book … a lot of praised, disparate texts from seemingly much different backgrounds pointing you in the same way.

Does this all make any sense? SHRUG. See you in 2022. 🕊

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