2017: A Thrilling Montage of Me Sitting at My Computer Every Day (and Also Once on a Polar Bear)
It would have been hard for 2017 to top 2016.
After all, 2016 was the year of The Greatest Thing That Ever Happened to Me:
I got a life-changing job.
But 2017 was the year of The Second Greatest Thing That Ever Happened to Me:
I lost that job.
To get to a point where I was ecstatic to lose a steady (and remote!) paycheck, I need to go back a little further. I spent 2015 job-searching stateside. It was discouraging and expensive: Did I have enough savings to move cities? Could I afford to work part-time, without benefits? What was the point of trading one job with two weeks of vacation for another, when what I really wanted was to travel?
On Reddit, I saw people sharing stories of how they worked online while globe-trotting, but it seemed they were all travel writers or computer programmers. I was pretty sure “digital nomads” were mythical creatures made up by Business Insider.
But on one of those subreddits, I found a job opportunity half-way across the world, working for the very people I didn’t believe existed. I arrived in Saigon, and I saw it with my own eyes: So it wasn’t only bloggers reviewing hostels. There were endless types of businesses — super legit and even giant businesses — you could build and run from a laptop.
But that wasn’t something I could do — right? I hate sales. Business sounded scary, or at least like a dirty word. I’m a writer!
So I spent my first six months indulging in the magic of it all: I made friends with awe-inspiring people. I traveled to parts of the world I never thought I’d visit. I partied. A lot.
Seeing the community showed me it was possible. But it took a year of being steeped in it to slowly believe it was possible for me.
By the time my job left me, I had lost the desire to indulge and consume. I wanted to create.
I turned my focus inward, and it resulted in both turbulence and growth, highs and lows:
- My 2016 one-second-every-day video was exciting. A 2017 montage would have been mostly me sitting in front of my computer. As I built my book publishing business, I learned that the day-to-day work is not flashy or exciting. It’s just showing up, again and again, and doing the work.
- But that work paid off! I earned $100 in passive income in January, but December’s earnings will be the largest paycheck I’ve ever received. (I previously received paychecks as a journalist, not an investment banker.)
- I effectively quit social media. I stopped watching TV for 90 days. I read 66 books. That’s many more than the 5–10 I probably actually finished in 2016, which is embarrassing to admit.
- I was lonely. Once my coworkers moved away, I realized I knew few people in Bangkok. I learned that cultivating new friendships in a large city was basically a full-time job. I thought a lot more deeply about what it means to build relationships than I had before, though I ultimately threw in the towel on actually building them and invested that time in work instead.
- I stopped drinking, except for a few special occasions. I’ve somehow become a morning person after years of being an (often partying) night owl.
- I moved to a tropical island for a month and learned that the romantic idea of it was a bit more lovely than the reality.
- I signed a six-month lease, which felt like a life-time of commitment to one city, and it was especially nerve-wracking doing it with my boyfriend. But I don’t think I’d have done half the things I did this year without his constant support. We’ve extended the lease.
2018 will be about continuing to build my business, but striking a balance between work and cultivating community. I took myself a bit too seriously in 2017 and want 2018 to be a bit sillier, too.
Overall, I’m thankful there were many more highs than lows.
Finding that job and losing it both came at the time I needed them, and my gratitude for those opportunities, and the people who gave them to me, is boundless.
And as I took that opportunity to spend the last nine months building my own business, my own passive income, and my own freedom, it was no longer about the things that happened to me, but the things I could make happen.
The freedom is empowering. But it’s also now entirely my responsibility to use it well and keep it. Here we go, 2018. Let’s get silly.