My 2015 — The Year Of Transience

By Ivan Vanderbyl

2015 has been the most impactful year of my life so far. I took more photos than any previous year, I quit my job, met more interesting people than ever before, and discovered things about myself which I would have never considered had this year started any other way.

Inspired by the recounts of Tobias van Schneider, I’ve put together a few stories and philosophical rants to look back on. It’s by no means inclusive, but because I hate writing quick takeaway points I’m releasing these as individual posts.

This is the start.


New York City — Winter

Starting the year in Winter in my East Village, New York apartment was definitely something portrayed better in the movies. For better or worse, probably more worse, this set the year off to a rocky start with my then girlfriend Hannah Wolff, an aspiring actress from Chicago trying to make it in New York.

While I was crazy about her and wouldn’t stop talking about her to friends, there was some pretty deep rooted problems from the start which I’ll gloss over. Although this was the early months of our relationship by any measure, she tried very hard to hold things together while I was longing to leave New York.

Looking back on this now, I wasn’t running away from her or New York, rather I was running away from the job I had at DigitalOcean. Work and life had collided so much that I couldn’t see the forest from the trees.

DigitalOcean sure had a lot of moments I could write about but now’s not the time or place. It was however an exciting time to be part of a fast growing tech company which more than doubled in size while I was there, and be at the center of all the problems this causes as founders and early employees fight to distill some sense of unified culture, process, and product direction in the fresh blood of new team members. But ultimately it left a sour taste in my mouth with constantly playing politics to get even the smallest product changes into production.

I also developed a fond dislike of the American work culture, and how everyone seemed to be a slave to The Company, and taking time off and not working 12 hour days was disincentivized.

I think NYC is an amazing city, where you can have unlimited potential to be anyone, just so long as you pay rent first, don’t piss off your landlord, and don’t get arrested for buying drugs outside Williamsburg bar at 2am (that bit wasn’t me, but it did happen).

Speaking of being a slave to The Company, I knew that if I quit, my Work Visa would expire 10 days later, so timing was tricky. But one day I’d just had enough and told my manager I was rolling out at the end of the month.

We played the usual dance of promised promotions and more interesting projects. But staying for the money would have been selling out my future ambitions, and I had at least one of those I wanted to pursue more than ride this rollercoaster.

The view from my apartment in the East Village, NYC. Early January 2015, capturing a bright sunset after a few days of snowfall.
A food delivery guy bracing the cold during the first blizzard of the season. 1st Ave, New York City, Jan 2015.
The view from the rooftop of the former DigitalOcean HQ in Soho, Manhattan. July 4th, 2014.

I hope you enjoyed the first story. Read next story Leaving New York