Year in review
It's that time of year where everyone is putting out their obligatory "year in review" content. I've never been big on New Year and making resolutions and whatnot, but due to the extreme circumstances I found myself in around this time in 2020 (November to be exact), I did make a list of goals for this year.
What do I mean by extreme circumstances? I'll put it this way: 2021 is the first full calendar year in which I have not had a single drop of alcohol. Well, at least not since I started drinking at 13. My (lopsided) battle with alcohol (read: ass-kicking) is something I intend to write about more in-depth eventually, but I mention it now to give you an idea of how I went into this year. Basically, the bar was LOW for 2021.
I like this image. It shows the paths of an unsteered bicycle being pushed 800 times. It's a lot how I imagined my year would go, which is to say I had no fucking clue what was going to happen. The only thing I knew for sure was that I had a kickass wife and the most supportive family and friends a drunk could ask for. With that in mind, I set out to make my list of humble goals beginning with the one that will forever remain at the top of each year's new list: "stay sober".
I realize that goals such as “buy a home” and “beat the market” are not the type of goals you’d expect to find on the resolutions list of a person who, just 10 weeks earlier, was sharing a room at a detox facility with an old eccentric Jewish man named Howard who was on his 3rd stint at said facility (opioids this time). I’m what you’d call a “functional alcoholic”, meaning that unless you were very close to me, you’d have no idea that my life was spiraling out of control faster than a coked-out figure skater spinning on melting ice. In fact, most alcoholics fall into this category, and not the disheveled-vagrant-drinking-out-of-a-paper-bag-under-a-bridge category that I swore I was going to see when I walked into Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) for the first time. Common misconception.
Staying sober and journaling everyday
These two go hand in hand for me because I wouldn’t be able to do the first one without the second. I started keeping a journal in August of last year. The first sentence in the journal was written on August 20, from rock bottom: “Yesterday I finally made a call to get help.” It took another month, countless pages of chicken scratch (I can look at any random journal entry and immediately know exactly how fucked up I was based on my penmanship), and a swift kick in the ass from my family and friends (read: intervention) for me to actually get help. This help came in the form of the aforementioned detox and AA, and mental health professionals. Each of these has played a role in helping me get (and stay) sober, but invariably, journaling has been the one constant I can attribute my sobriety1 to the most (after wife & family). And you know what? I’m not even sure why. I wish I could tell you. Maybe it’s cathartic? Therapeutic? Maybe when you start writing down your problems you find out that you yourself possess the solutions? That all you have to do is think. And what is writing if not thinking out loud (on paper)? Whatever it is, I felt it 365 times this year and I plan to continue that streak.
Incidentally, journalling led to the creation of this Substack. Eventually, after exhausting the subject of alcohol and sifting through the debris of related memories, I started writing about current events and the shit going on in the real world. This is all happening at the same time as I am reading every piece of content on the Internet that piques my interest. It’s amazing how my curiosity was sparked again once I stopped drinking — it’s like middle- and high-school brain all over again. Naturally, my high-info consumption diet led me to Substack, where there are a ton of talented people writing on just about any subject you could possibly be interested in. I was already writing the type of stuff I was reading on the platform, so I decided to start my own, and thus: Contemporary Idiot.
Take at least 1 vacation
The wife and I did our honeymoon in Hawaii in September. Well, no, that’s not entirely true. The wife and I did our minimoon in Hawaii in September. We are reserving our right to honeymoon abroad abroad when travel is less of a pain in the ass.
I flat out shit the bed on this one. To say I made an effort would be an insult to anyone who has ever exerted effort. I mean, technically, I joined a gym and stepped inside of it maybe a dozen times, but there was never any consistency. I’m just as out of shape today as I was a year ago. The only thing I’ve got going for me is that I look better than I did then, though that’s just the result of years of alcohol abuse finally fading away.
Buy a home
The real estate market forced our hand early on this one. Our plan (going back to early-2020) was to start our house hunt in the second half of this year, once we had built up more of a cushion/safety net. That plan was doomed before it was even put in writing though. Every new Case-Shiller report increased our FOMO and left us wondering if we would ever be able to afford a decent house. We pulled the trigger in late February, slightly overpaying, but getting the house (and location) we wanted. In retrospect, we absolutely made the right decision — inventory is still at record lows, we locked in our mortgage at 2.75%, and our property’s value has grown by nearly 15% since we purchased (according to Zillow). As for the cushion/safety net we wanted before making the move — we simply increased our production instead. By that I mean we accepted better job offers (wife; with significant pay raise because she’s a bad bitch) and created new sources of income (me; more on that below).
Removing the financial lens, the move was right for another major reason: it was a change of scenery. And for someone who’s trying to make a radical lifestyle change — there’s nothing better than mixing up your environment/surroundings.
Read 12 books
I failed miserably here which is surprising because in the 2-3 months after I quit drinking (Nov-Jan) I was devouring books like it was my job, reading 1-3 books a week. It’s not so surprising when I take into account these next 3 goals that are all connected (though I didn’t know they were at the time I made the list).
Find a hobby, beat the market, and reinvent professional career
One of the books I consumed during my reading frenzy in late 2020 (and the leading reason for why it came to an end) was How to Make Money in Stocks by William O’Neil. I know, a ridiculous title for a book, but it hooked me nonetheless. I’m financially literate and reasonably intelligent, but I had never really explored the finance world. This book changed that and led to that new hobby I was looking for before the new year had even started. This was in addition to my latest hobby of writing — after all, a drunk must have multiple hobbies to keep his mind occupied.
This newly found obsession with the stock market led to my goal of beating the market2. A naive goal, sure, but what was I going to do, try to underperform the market? With this new hobby and goal in mind, I stopped reading anything non-finance-related and started consuming as much information on the stock market as I possibly could. Blogs, Youtube videos, newsletters, articles, stock breakdowns & analysis, trading strategies, etc. You name it, I read it. Even the stuff that went over my head (an alarmingly high %) and the stuff that was clearly snake oil (search “options trading strategies” on Youtube). Over time, things began making sense, the bigger picture of how things work started coming into focus.
At this point, I knew that this was something I really enjoyed doing and learning about — this is where “reinventing professional career” comes into play. I already had a job and it paid the bills, but it wasn’t something I was passionate about — this was. That job also wasn’t something that took up all of my days — I could continue learning as much as I could about this in my free time until I found a way to make money from it.
That’s why when I logged onto Twitter one morning in early April and saw that one of my favorite finance newsletters was expanding and looking for writers, I jumped at the opportunity. The tweet urged those who “work in finance, have been investing for years and know how to write in a punchy fashion” to DM about the position. Naturally, I thought “this is for me”. The only problem was that I possessed a soft 1 out of the 3 criteria put forth (the one being that I had already started this newsletter, so technically I could say I had writing experience?). At best I was very interested in finance, had been investing for years only if you count my SEP-IRA which is 100% passive real estate, and published a free newsletter containing mostly nonsense.
A well-written DM pitching myself and a solid audition piece later, the job was mine. Now I’m getting paid to learn and write about the subject I was going to be balls deep in for the foreseeable future anyway!
And that is how I accidentally reinvented my professional career by finding an interesting thread and yanking on it.
Be a good husband
My wife says I can check this box.
At the end of the
day year, 2021 could have gone A LOT of different ways for me. I had no right to expect all the good things that came my way, but I do realize now that my year was never like an unsteered bike because I had these goals in place. I might have veered left and veered right several times, maybe even done a couple of complete circles, but my goals provided me with the balance that kept me upright.
On to 2022
So my goals for next year? Well, it all starts with #1, without which nothing else is possible. As for the rest — maybe I’ll write about them a year from now.
I dislike the word “sobriety”. It has this clinical connotation that makes me cringe just typing.
As of this writing, I am actually neck and neck with the S&P 500 and will likely end up within +/- <1% of the index. I’m filing this goal under “achieved” whether or not I finish today’s session above or below, because that’s not too bad for my first run!