The end of a decade, reflections on the past and future

In a few days, it'll be 2020. This'll be a mess of a post.


This was the song I had assigned to this decade 5 years ago. With the future unclear, this song provided a sense of hope and comfort for what was to come. It's funny, because along with documenting this song's choice, I made a bunch of predictions about what my future would turn out like. They eflected my outlook on the world and the time. I thought I was being objective and purely rational, which is hilarious looking back at it.

I predicted that I would become a doctor. Now, that prediction hasn't technically been falsified yet, but I don't think I'll become the kind of doctor that young me expected. I wrote about why I wanted to be a doctor. I wanted to save lives, and positively influence the lives of billions at-least indirectly. This number was important to me. Helping out a few million people wasn't going to change the world. Inertia would prevent changes from propagating. Deep down, I knew that it wasn't possible through just being a doctor. Most doctors are only known about within their city, and even then, their advice is often ignored by the patients that trust them. But I had a plan. As soon I finished undergrad and med school, I would ghost everybody that I knew and join Doctors without Borders (MSF). There, I'd help people who really needed all the help they could get, and then make connections with local political powers and United Nations officials in order to push forward policies that would improve public health. Model United Nations played a huge role in my life then. In fact, I got admitted to UCSD for a Public Health major, which I changed the applied major to last minute so my parents wouldn't notice, but I had to appease my parents and enroll at UW-Madison for a major in Biochemistry.

I switched the major in my application to public health not because I disliked medicine, but because I barely knew anything about the world. Politics was one of the few things I knew about. Science was what I was "good" at in school. Saving lives was something I cared about. Public health just seemed to encompass more things that I liked than medicine. But it wasn't just my choice. My parents wanted me to become a doctor. In fact, they told me since I entered high school that they strongly suggest that I become a doctor. I actually didn't enroll in Biology just to rebel against them. I didn't like being told what to do. However, I soon switched from Physics to Biology because I actually liked Biology and didn't want to miss out just to annoy my parents.

So I vaguely liked Biology. But I really liked Politics. Well, I really hated Politics. It felt like nobody was doing the right job. There needed to be people out there who did the right thing. If I didn't get involved, who would? These questions lingered in my mind when I made my predictions for who I'd become. In the end, I resigned to the fact that my closest friend in high school would become the politician and I could work on other things. If she couldn't change the world, what could I do? Besides, I have other things I can do too, and picking Biology would appease my parents.

I was so wrong. I'm kinda annoyed that I didn't predict this well. I loved psychology even in high school. I didn't receive a formal education in it, but the concepts were appealing to me. I think I knew that I would never study just Biology, but would try to integrate it with a bunch of other things. I never had "one" interest. I also wanted to become a chemical engineer. I also liked computers. I had all the evidence in the world that I was going to switch to a dozen majors, but I didn't pick up on it. Stupid me.

My prediction that I was going to become a doctor was written in a tone of resignation, that I only noticed now. "Oh well, I guess I'll become a doctor." I was passionate about saving lives and studying what was necessary, but there was something missing...

I predicted that I would eventually have a role in the United Nations. Well, this hasn't been falsified yet, and I'm not sure what the likelihood is like. It's not impossible! I still think engaging with political power structures out there is important to enact positive change in the world, especially when the power structures at-least allow you to make a change. It's a less risky way to do it. This can still happen...

I thought I would be friends with my best friend from high school till the day I die. Hahahahaha, the outcome of this prediction was a rollercoaster. A month later, I abruptly cut everything off with her because of a stupid minor difference in opinion. This was after I cut everything off a month before that and reconciled. 2 years later, she reached out to me, forgiving me, and giving me a chance to make amends. So yes! I'm still friends with her. I'm eternally grateful for this. I don't deserve these many chances...

So I was a professional pessimist during those uncertain days. I expected myself to remain the same, because I wasn't a pessimist, I was a "realist". It didn't help that I was right about many things I made pessimistic predictions about. I latched on to these pieces of anecdotal evidence. I was wrong on this prediction. It took a lot of contradictory evidence for me to realize that I was unreasonable.

I made a bunch of other predictions were completed wrong. This post is very long and I'm getting lazy. I think the common theme among them was that I wouldn't change. But I have. Mostly for the better, I think.

As passes, and as I reflect on these moments from the past, it has become clear to me that I've become "old". Time passes faster. My knees hurt sometimes. I sometimes can't get up after bending a certain way. I longer find joy in certain things that I liked as a kid. I find joy in new things.

I think I crossed a checkpoint this decade. I don't think they will be any more checkpoints in life. It's the end of stage theories for me. I recall myself being very explicit about changes I would be making to my life, maybe because it felt like I had more control over them that way. I would stubbornly refuse to part with my old ways. But now, stuff just changes gradually, and I only notice them after they happen. I don't think I've noticed a change that I disliked.

I've become a sponge. I am the people I surround myself with. I've changed into a changeable thing. Now that's a good level of abstraction for the next decade.