It’s been a little over 2 years since my last blog post.
I’m reminded of a short poem, which I wrote several years back: “When there’s nothing at all to right, I find there’s nothing at all to write.” I wish that I could attribute this latest hiatus to similar sentiments, but the ragged truth is that the last couple years have been some of the hardest of my life. Today, I might sooner write, “When life is falling apart around me, the last thing I have time for is writing about it.”
A lot has happened – mostly challenges and disappointment, interspersed with small wins and moments of beauty.
I’ll start with the good. One year ago, I proposed to my wonderful girlfriend and the love of my life on a beach in Hanalei Bay, Kauai. She continues to be the best thing in my life, ever since meeting her during a near-death experience at the hospital. Yes, she was my nurse and yes, that story is deserving of a whole other post, which I’ll eventually get around to writing. Other notable happy moments include getting to spend time with my two little nephews, who moved to California with their dad and my sister.
In less good news, I finally caught a rough case of Covid this January. Shortly thereafter (though it’s difficult to establish causation), I developed something doctors call “psoriatic arthritis”, in which my tendons and joints get inflamed and extremely painful. Specifically, my chest and back from shoulder-to-shoulder will become super tight and it often feels as though something is ripping the muscles from my bones. We’re still trying to figure out a treatment plan for what appears to be a chronic condition.
The last couple years also marked the passing of two of my three remaining grandparents. My mother’s father succumbed to Covid in an assisted living facility outside of New York City, and my father’s mother also passed of old age in New York. I was closer to my grandfather growing up – my mother’s parents lived just around the block in Ohio and my grandpa always kept up with the latest technology, which sparked my interest. One of my fondest memories is helping him set up new computers and playing with odd devices like zip drives and vacuum sealers. My relationship with my father’s mother was more distant – she lived a world away in New York City. Our few visits over the years typically coincided with larger family gatherings, so I remember her more through the stories I was told over the years. She was a trailblazer: one of the first women to travel from Korea to Japan and the United States to study as a nurse; she eventually served as a president of Ewha University, one of the most prestigious women’s universities in Korea.
Before these two, I had never really lost anyone in my life. I’ve been very fortunate in that regard. It was difficult to experience the loss, of course, but I was comforted by the fact that both of them had accomplished a great deal in their lives and lived to see their grandchildren and great grandchildren. Perhaps more than anything, then, I was struck by how the loss of their presence marked the passage of time. I was no longer the little kid sitting in their lap or hearing them tell me to be careful as I ran around and made a general ruckus of things. And as much as I might have wanted to return to the comfort and safety of those memories, the world had kept on turning.
Another chapter also closed this past year. The company I’d co-founded back in 2012, Plastiq, announced an IPO to great excitement and fanfare, but unfortunately months later the news soured as the IPO fell through due to a bad financing deal. The company has since filed for bankruptcy, ringing the death knell for what was honestly a decent business and something into which I poured many years of my lifeblood. Over $100 million dollars was lost in the end. I don’t know if a better outcome could have been achieved had I still been there full-time, but I tell myself that it’s not worth the heartbreak to consider. I took a week off to mourn its passing, though admittedly it’s unlikely that I’m done fully processing it.
Finally, the second company which I’d started in 2020, Choice, failed to establish a clear revenue model and, anticipating an end to our runway without further investment, I made the difficult call to shutter the product in the hope of pivoting to a new model. We killed the app and cut headcount down to just myself and my co-founder/designer, and proceeded to build toward a different idea that retained some of the core aspects of what we liked about Choice, but applied them in a more useful way.
This new project consumed the bulk of my 2023 so far – we spent the new year iterating on concepts and designing, and from March 1st to the end of July, I completed the most challenging dev sprint of my career. Every day including weekends involved 12-14 hours of design and coding, and I took only five days off during those six months: one day to attend a friend’s birthday party and the remaining four days to visit Disneyland with my fiancé. We finally deployed the site last week and are presently awaiting a Google brand verification prior to launching, so I find myself a brief moment of calm before shifting efforts toward growth and marketing.
If I were to sum up the last few years, I think it’s fair to say it’s been a doozy. Admittedly, I’ve let my health, my home, and my personal relationships take a back seat as I focused on merely weathering the storm. It hasn’t been the most sustainable arrangement – I’m in no denial of that fact – and I honestly don’t know how I would’ve survived without the steady support of a few people: my fiancé, my business partner, and also my siblings who I don’t speak with nearly as often as I’d like, but who are always good for a funny group text chat here and there.
And I guess now, in this moment, I find myself continuing the only way I know how: by looking ahead to the future and putting one foot in front of the other. A good friend of mine from Boston would call this “the trudge”, referring of course to an experience which anyone who’s lived through a cold Boston winter will recognize. When it’s snowing and you’re stuck outside, trying to get somewhere, and the wind is blowing in your face and piercing your layers. And so you put your head down, steady yourself against the world, and simply trudge on.