©2019 by The Linux EXP.

Hindsight is 2020 - A look back on the past decade


As 2019 is now over, I think it's healthy to take a look back at my last 10 years, and see what I learned, what I accomplished, and what I want to focus on for the next 10 years. I know, some think the decade won't be over until 2020, but to me it is done, so let's start taking a look back.



A not very promising start

At the very beginning of the decade, I was 22. I was finishing my master's degree in economics study and services marketing, in Brest, Brittany (France). I was a classic student: badly dressed, with the cocky arrogance of youth, sure to know everything there was to know about everything, and very, very fond of myself. I drank too much, slept very little, had bouts of depression I overcompensated with a dark sense of humor, and, generally, I wasn't a good person. I was also single and going through that "sleep around" phase after my first serious relationship had ended about a year before.


Young Nick in 2010, enjoying holidays in Ireland

Once I got my degree, I moved to Paris. I had become a bit toxic to people around me, started acting violently, and didn't pay much attention to my friends. i also had very frequent arguments with my parents, which housed me at the time, so a change of scenery was in order, and I took the first job I could find far, far away from home. In 2011, I moved into a "foyer", which is low cost accommodations for students and young adults. It was... ok. I didn't interact much with the other residents, and kept to myself. Paris is a big, big city, and I didn"t know it that well. I had friends that had moved here a few months before me, and I tried to see them as much as I could.


My job was as a junior project manager, I just took care of the brand new web TV for a giant real estate group. The job was interesting, but a bit exhausting, since I had to go to Toulouse, a city located in the south of France, twice a week. I left my flat at 5AM, and went back home around 9PM, and this kinda killed me. I gained a lot of weight, since I ate everything I could lay my hands on, and still drank way too much, everytime I saw my friends. Money-wise, I made quite a lot for a first job, but Paris is very, very expensive (my 9 square meters room with shared toilets and shower was 350€ a month), and since I ate outside and drank heavily, I didn't really save all that much.


Nexity was a good company, but it really emphasized corporate values and competition, and I went into that eagerly, in a twisted attempt to style myself as a "corporate ladder climber". Let's just say it didn't really improve my already quite distasteful personality. I was arrogant, aggressive, and although I didn't knife anyone in the back, I was playing the corporate game as much as I could. This ended up with me pushing to let go of the web tv, and grab other projects I felt would be more interesting. The next year, in 2012, I got hold of a better project manager job, still at the same company. I managed all mobile aspects of the company, and this was at the time where mobile was booming in France. People were starting to own smartphones en masse, and the mobile economy was exploding.


Slightly older Nick, enjoying the sun at the the Invalides, in Paris

As time passed, I was the default project manager for everything innovative and new, and that suited me well. I felt like a loose electron, sort of out of the command chain. I worked with directors directly, bypassing my boss, I chose what to work on, and reported to people higher up, and that inflated my ego even more. I was still overweight, but had reduced my alcohol consumption quite a lot since my friends had all left Paris for other ventures. I also had moved to a "bigger" flat, namely 17 square meters, which set me back 650€ a month. It was on the sixth floor (without an elevator) of a beautiful Haussmannian building in the center of the 7th arrondissement, a prestigious place full of embassies and private palaces.


I felt on top of the world, and put all my money in appearances. I bought expensive suits, and regularly boasted my salary to other people, as if it was a mark of success. In reality, I felt miserable. I was often alone, I didn't like my body, I felt... wrong all the time. I felt like my soul was slowly crushed by a weight I was sitting on. I did this to myself, but I didn't see any other way to be.


A welcome change

This changed in 2013. Around the new year, I met a girl. She was the sister of one of my best friends at the time, which I had know when I was attending medical school before I moved on to my economics studies. We had a drunken night out with other friends, and we ended up together, just because she really seemed to want it. I was way too drunk to do anything about it, and even managed to lose myself in the streets of Paris, we had to take a cab to get to my place. This didn't put her off, though, and we spent the next morning together, and decided to give it a shot.


She lived in La Rochelle, 3 and a half hours away from Paris, so we had a bit of planning to do. We managed to see each other every weekend, either with her coming to see me, or me going to La Rochelle. As you can imagine, it was quite expensive, at 130€ per trip, twice a month, so I had to reduce my other spending habits. This felt like a huge ordeal to me, but at the same time, it started to shift my perception of spending and changed my habits for the better.


Being with that girl made me a better person. I was still arrogant, and pretended to like myself a lot more than I did, but slowly, this started to shift. I could be some other version of myself with that woman, and it felt really good. After about a year of going back and forth, we decided to move in together. As I couldn't really find any suitable job in La Rochelle, she moved to Paris, despite her reluctance to do so (most French people hate that city, apart from people who were born there, who think the rest of France is still living in the 18th century). We found an apartment in the 15th arrondissement, a very nice place as well, and everything was going perfectly.


Don't judge me, it was 2014. I still have and love that leather jacket though.


To complete this, I was offered a new position by my company. They were starting a brand new project, which was intended to be spun off as a separate subsidiary, and they wanted me to manage that project. I felt rewarded for my hard work, and since I was stagnating a bit at my current position, I fired on all cylinders to get the job. I negotiated hard to be allowed to work on it two half days per week. It was very different, and very nice. It was a lot smaller, with people invested because they liked the project, not because they wanted to advance in the ranks, and I got really into that. My corporate ladder climbing days felt wrong after spending a few months at that new job, and I managed, a few months after that, to get a permanent position, all while retaining all the benefits from my old job, and the insurance they would give it back to me if the project failed or was cancelled.


I started working there in May 2015, as a Marketing Manager. I had a team of 3 people, although they didn't need much management, and I also got a lot more money, which felt good, but also kicked my spending habits into gear again. I ordered crap I didn't need from Amazon every other day, and wondered where my money went. I started drinking a lot more again, since the developers at that new company went out every night and drank a few pints at a bar just below our workplace.


Despite all that, my personal life was going great, and I asked my girlfriend to marry me. She said yes, and we started to plan the wedding. Something felt off, at the time, but I chalked that up to being scared of commitment, and carried on anyways. The next year was spent in a haze. I worked late hours, since our project needed a ton of attention, and at the end of 2015, we released what would become bienici.com, a new real estate portal in France, that had quite revolutionary technology for the time, and a new approach based on maps, which were nowhere to be seen at the time in France, since realtors are afraid to show people where a house is located.


To add to the amount of stuff on my plate, we also decided to buy a flat, in Boulogne, very close to Paris. A nice 75 square meters apartment, with a view on the Seine, and we had it redone entirely to fit our needs. This also started to feel wrong to me, but I felt cornered and I felt I had to move forwards. This was what people were supposed to do: get married, buy a home, have a few kids, move to the suburbs. I couldn't quite put my finger on what was wrong, or what I felt, but something didn't sit right.


Everything crashes down

In 2016, we got married. It was a great wedding, with a small number of friends and family. We celebrated it in Brittany, without going to a church, since neither of us were believers of any particular faith. Again, something felt wrong, and other people felt it, as they came to tell me later.


Fat Nick is not best Nick

We moved in the new apartment some time after that, taking a huge mortgage, which added to my feeling of being cornered, trapped. Personality wise, I felt less terrible, but health-wise, I was at an all time low. I weighed 90kg (around 180 pounds) for 1m72, which is... not good. I smoked a lot, still drank a lot with my colleagues, and didn't feel like going home at all. It didn't feel like home, it felt like I was living someone else's life. I was trapped in my own body, living in a city where I didn't want to be, with someone that clearly loved me but that I was growing more and more estranged with, and the perspectives for my life seemed bleak.


The classic family life held no appeal at all for me. I didn't want to have kids, I didn't want to move to the suburbs, or have a dog, or spend vacations at various family homes. I was also very afraid to be alone, and didn't feel I could tell all that to my wife. I grew more depressed, but decided to change things around. I quit smoking, and started exercising a lot. Like "wake up at 6AM, work out, go to work, come home, go for a run, and then relax". In about 6 months, at the end of 2016, I felt a lot better. I was fit again, I didn't have any allergies or asthma anymore, not even with my beautiful Siberian cat, and it really cleared my mind.


I still spent like no one's business, but managed to save some money, somehow. Things started to look better, but as I grew more at ease with myself, I also got the courage to tell my wife part of the issue: I just didn't want kids. I wanted a life without that responsibility, without these constraints. This, as you can imagine, derailed the marital train. I felt a bit lost, I felt unsure of myself, so I decided to go see a shrink, and see if that could help.


After a few sessions, she decided that I was not mad, or scared of commitment, or scarred by an abusive childhood, and that in fact, I just didn't want kids, and that it was perfectly normal. I went home with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, and started to think on how to break out the news to my wife.


I waited a few months to do it, until around march 2017, where that conversation culminated in a decision to divorce. Everything cam pouring out, as I realised I simply wasn't in love anymore. I felt horrible, like the worst human being in history. I had wrecked the life of someone else, for my selfish needs. We still decided to go on our "honeymoon" trip to the Grenadines Island, since it was all paid for, and non refundable. These were two fantastic weeks, where we put aside all that stuff and just enjoyed the company of the other people that accompanied us on the trip, and took in the beautiful Caribbean vistas. Once we got back home, I moved out a few weeks later and we worked on getting a lawyer each to solve out the paperwork.


I met someone else as well, a former colleague of mine, and we started seeing each other. I should not have done that, not in a million years, but I was scared of being alone, and felt like all my decisions had freed me from my anguish and my problems. I still felt horrible for what I had done to my soon to be ex wife, but I also felt relief, and a newfound purpose and freedom. I was very wrong, but we'll see that later. I found an overpriced flat, in which my possessions didn't fit, and that pushed me to start giving away or selling some of that stuff.


The other factor was the divorce. Divorces are expensive. I had to cough out more than 10 000 euros to settle everything, and we didn't even have kids to consider. I can't imagine how people less fortunate than I was can even handle that. In order to make that kind of money, I had to sell literally everything. My gaming consoles (Wii U, Megadrive, Xbox 360), my gaming PC, my iMac, my iPad Pro, some clothes, some furniture, all my books, all my Warhammer miniatures collected over 15 years, everything.


I was left with clothes, and a few pieces of furniture. And it felt amazing. It felt liberating. I quickly realized that the only thing I missed was the Megadrive, and nothing else. I started looking up minimalism online, and it felt right. It echoed with a lot of what I was feeling at the time: rejecting the established way of life we have adopted in the western world, focusing on experiences and people instead of things. It made me want to become a better person. It also made me lose all appetite for Paris and my current job. I wanted to go back to people who mattered to me, and for whom I had been less than close and friendly. I decided to move back to Brest, and quickly found the perfect job opportunity there: a new project, led by a big company, with a small team.


I jumped on board, settled the divorce, and left the next day for Brest, with all my stuff arriving a few days later. My mom who was still living in Brest as well, found me an apartment, and after I spent a few weeks at their place, reconnecting with my parents, I moved in to my new life.


Rebuilding

At the beginning of 2018, I started my new job. I had to overcome my fear of driving, since getting there with public transportation is a nightmare. I bought a small used car, just enough to get me there and back, and started working on the project. My relationship with my former colleague kept going, although distance did us no favors. Once again, I felt I needed to be alone, and not in a relationship. I needed time to sort out my feelings and my thoughts after the divorce, but I didn't realize that just yet.



A more presentable Nick, freshly arrived in Brest

Living alone in Brest made me wonder: what do I want to do with my time? I had no computer anymore, and wanted to start learning video editing, so I bought a laptop, and started wondering what I could create. Since I had bought my laptop without an OS, I decided to re-ignite my love for Linux, and installed elementary OS on that machine. This led me to try and make Linux focused videos, and at the end of February, I started the channel. Video quality was not that great, and I rambled a lot, but I also learned a lot, and I think I made quick progress.


I also really wanted to make gaming videos, but these never seemed to catch on and took a lot of time, so I left them by the wayside (although I'm thinking of revisiting that soon). My job came to halt as the company underwent a change of management, and my project was canned. I was offered a more senior position in the company, as a Chief Product Officer, and although I didn't want to be a manager, or to engage in the rat race again, I felt I had no choice. It was either that, or be fired, so I took the job, and tried to make the best effort I could.


I didn't like that job. The company had a lot of issues: an obsolete product, tons and tons of technical debt, absolutely 0 documentation for anything, and a massive list of angry, extremely unsatisfied clients. I started a huge effort to redesign and redo the software from scratch, with modern technologies, and a more focused dev team, and this went pretty well. In the meantime, the channel grew more quickly than I could have imagined.


I was still a minimalist, I was reigniting my relationships with my friends, and trying to be a better person, but I was still very confused. My relationship was starting to feel like a drag, to weigh me down. Instead of relishing the times when she came to see me in Brest, it felt like a hindrance, like an imposition on my time. Things clearly weren't working out, and I should have realized that sooner. In mid 2019, I decided to break up with her, and that was a painful one.


I also switched jobs again, since my position as a Director was really uncomfortable to me, and not in line with what I wanted to do. I rejoined the previous small project team that had moved on to another company, and resumed my job as a Product Owner there, where I'm still working.



On the personal side of things, I felt terrible. I had hurt someone again, because I was unable to know what I wanted. And I repeated that mistake again, since I was scared of being alone, I started using Tinder, and got with a very nice woman, who dumped me a few months afterwards. I decided to buy a flat in the meantime, to cement my commitment to staying in Brest, and focusing on my friends.

Since I'm a very slow learner, I jumped in a new relationship the day after I got dumped, and this one exploded in my face on New Year's Eve, with a huge shouting match and the decision to end things.



Soul searching

This brings us here, to today. I'm starting year 2020 with a clear mind: I am not ready to be in a relationship. I have realised that my divorce and my fear of hurting people is making me do exactly what I want to avoid. I'm afraid of being alone, and thus always look for someone to spend time with, but once I'm in a relationship, I'm too afraid to end things, to avoid hurting the other person. Instead of clearly stopping when I know things won't work out, I charge forwards, and end up breaking things when they're already too far along. By being afraid of hurting people, I end up hurting them even more.


My mind now feels very clear about this. I need to be alone for a long while. I decided to focus on three main areas: people, hobbies, and health.


On the people side of things, I want to be more present for my friends, and my little brother who lives in Brest. I don't see them as often as I want to, and I want to be more available to help them and support them.

Hobbies-wise, the main focus is the channel. I want to upload 5 to 6 times a month, try and improve video quality, rework my end screens, and try some new things to be more dynamic and bring more personality to the videos. I'd also like to get back to gaming videos, but I need to find how to do it properly without hurting the main channel. Other hobbies include sifting through my huge backlog of games, and try to go surfing a lot more.


To conclude, regarding health, I want to exercise more. I've been letting things slide a bit since October, and I feel I need to resume my workout routine and be as healthy as I can. Since I traded my cigarettes for a vape 6 months ago, I also want to cut back, or entirely quit vaping during the year. It's an annoying habit, and, while not as unhealthy as regular smoking, it's still probably pretty bad.


Writing this was cathartic. I started the decade as a depressed student, who faked being really confident but really hated himself. I'm ending the decade as a 32 year old man. I own my flat, I have clearer values, and I feel like I've sorted out a lot of personal stuff. I still have plenty of baggage to deal with, but I now know how to do it. I feel like I've grown a bit. I'm no longer a money-obsessed corporate climber. I'm not depressed, and I learned to know and live with myself. I still feel shitty about my relationships, but I know why, and I know how not to repeat that.


My 2019 was eventful, but good all things considered. Here's to a new year full of opportunities and soul searching.



Let's hope that's 70 years old Nick, and not 42 years old Nick



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