I am a few days late to do this but better late than none. So I wanted to take a look back at my past year, which was probably one of the most interesting of my life. And I wanted to put it into writing for two reasons: First, I wanted to timebox what I have been through, so I can come back and remember it even several years later. Second, one of my goals for this year is to post every two weeks to my blog and this was an easy target as a topic. Let’s go.
Becoming a parent
Without a doubt, this was the most extraordinary event of my past year. It changed almost everything about me for the better. My wife and I started the last year by preparing for our soon-to-be-born son. And he joined us in March. Taking care of a newborn baby is one of the most amazing and also the most challenging things I have ever done. It gave me the biggest joy I have ever had and also exhausted me to almost dead, at the same time.
I was lucky enough that my employer is super parent-friendly and offers 16 weeks of paid paternity leave. I took full advantage of it. And I would suggest the same to anyone who has the chance. This is the time of your child which will never come back.
Becoming a parent helped me grow, taught me a ton, got me out of my comfort zone and I am grateful for all of it.
Work and Career
I celebrated my 3rd anniversary at Asana this year. I have been enjoying every bit of it, thanks to my team and my leaders for creating this great culture.
Even though I was on paternity leave for a considerable portion of the last year, thankfully I was able to continue with the growth and upskilling.
Last year I brushed up on my programming skills. I took up an online full stack web development bootcamp. I learned and built apps with node, typescript, express, angular and became familiar with CI/CD operations. It was exciting to get updated about latest technologies and trends in software engineering and play around with new tools. It wasn’t easy though, most of the time I had to stay up until 2-3 am in the morning to be able to work on those projects. Evening time was the only time I had for myself. The excitement of learning and playing kept me going.
Another growth area I focused last year was storytelling and narrative building. A few years back, I discovered that every good story has a similar structure which consists of certain parts like the hook, challenge & conflict and resolution. And even boring topics can be engaging when the narrative is designed with these building blocks in mind. So this year I designed a couple of my own narratives and tested them. Maybe I can write about it in more details later.
Getting back to being fit
I used to be a bit overweight across my twenties. I regret it a lot when I look back now. I wish I took action earlier. But on the other hand, I did it when I was ready, so all good now.
My BMI score was around 27.8 in 2018, which is considered as overweight. Right before the pandemic started, I decided to take action on this and in around 6 months time, I lost 10 kg and got my BMI to 24.1. It is an achievement I am still very proud of. Because losing weight is hard, and protecting it while you are stuck at home because of a global pandemic is harder.
I kept a good form for a long time. Then things started to be more difficult once our baby has arrived. Full time taking care of a teeny tiny creature who is fully dependant to you combines with sleep deprivation and: welcome to stress-eating. On top of that, I never missed an opportunity eat delicious but high-calorie food during the summer holiday in Turkey and quickly climbed up to 26.9 of BMI.
It immediately made me uncomfortable and I took quick action this time. Eating with a diet plan is the essential part of my weight-loss strategy. If I don’t stick with a diet, I can’t lose weight no matter how hard I workout. Most probably because I have a slow metabolism.
But as you can imagine, sticking with a diet is no easy job as well. And my trick for it is to work with a dietician who I can be comfortable with. I gave my dietician full authority to hold me accountable for making me stick with the list she prepares for me every week. Sometimes she gives me a pep-talk if I had a difficult week or gets mad at me if I cheated on my diet for no reason.
Currently my BMI score is around 24.9 which is within the healthy range.
(I am aware that the BMI is not necessarily an accurate measure of health, I just used it as a metric to explain my journey.)
I have been educating myself about personal finance topics for the last couple of years. I think I am familiar with the most of the best practises out there. However it took me a while to take active action.
I have been good with budget management and saving money because I have been doing it since I was a child.
The thing which was completely unfamiliar to me was investing. I didn’t know anyone who was investing their money (apart from buying and renting homes) when I was growing up. And all I heard about stock market were the horror stories about the guy who lost everything. Stock market was another form of gambling. Even though now I know it is not true, it was very difficult to get rid of those lessons you were taught early in life (Take a look at the book “The Psychology of Money” for more about this).
So this year, finally I started investing with small and easy steps. I transferred a small amount of money every month to my brokerage account and purchased s&p 500 funds. It is an index fund which includes pieces of stocks from the largest 500 companies in the US. Because it is very diverse, it usually follows the general stock market trends. Hence, it moves slow and steady, which I preferred. Actually most of the personal finance experts recommend investing into index funds unless you want to watch line charts in front of a screen all day, trying to beat the market, which mostly nobody can. Let me know if you’d like to hear more from me about this topic and I can write a separate post.
Due to having a newborn baby, it was not a travel-rich year, but still it was better than we expected. We were able to visit our families in Turkey and have a short and sweet summer holiday in Cunda, Ayvalik. It is a small island in the northern Egean sea with the cutest old town and delicious food. It’s approximately 4,5 hours drive from Istanbul. Even though it is technically an island, it is very close to the main land and connected with a short bridge.
The other trip we took was through the end of the year, to the freezing Tallinn, Estonia. It is a small city in the Northern Europe with a medieval old town. This trip’s main purpose was also visiting family. But we used this opportunity to discover the city as well, which was extremely cheaper to get around compared to Dublin, thanks to the Bolt app.
I can’t say I am a frequent reader. I always have a list of books to read but I read over and there, whenever I feel like it. So I have read seven books this year, mostly non-fiction. Sharing some notes and highlights below:
- 5 AM Club: It is a book by Robin Sharma which talks about how waking up early and making the most of the first hour of your day gives you a great advantage for being successful in your life. It presents various methods by telling a story of a self-described successful person who shares his wisdom and experience with two younger students of him. I would recommend this book if you would like to manage your time better and make the most of your day.
- Algorithms to Live By: It is a great book which talks about how computer algorithms can actually be used to solve everyday problems like renting an apartment, parking your car or dating. I enjoyed the first few sections of each part a lot. However I felt that the authors tried too hard to make some parts longer than it should be. So if you are interested in algorithms, definitely read it and feel free to skip the parts your find boring.
- The Guardians 2: It is the second book of a science fiction series about a group of people who can travel in time and fight for protecting the world’s original historical timeline. I loved the book, not only because it is written by my brother, Emre Okumus, but also the way the story was told and all the twists throughout. It is only available in Turkish language and the original title is: Nobetciler 2.
- Blinkist: It is a paid subscription where you can find 15-20 mins summaries of non-fiction books as audio or text. I liked it a lot because it is a great time saver to get the high level messages of a book before investing more time and money to buy and read it. You can also read them in your kindle.
Here is to another year…
It has been a year like no other and I am grateful for everything it brought to me. I have goals listed for the brand new one already. Let’s see where it takes us.