My year 2019 in review

The year 2020 is upon us already. Since barely a week has passed in this new year, I think it is a good time to reflect on the previous year. If I were to summarize 2019 in a single word, it would be atypical.

I honestly can’t remember a year where so many different things happened. Both regarding my personal life and the world. Since it is out of my scope to discuss the problems of the world here, I will keep the focus on myself.

I finished my PhD

After 3.3 years of work, on November the 19th of 2018, I defended my thesis. I was awarded the title of PhD in Information Technology. The title was granted by the Univesity of Skövde, in Skövde, Sweden.

Technically my defence is outside 2019, but it is somehow connected. Doing a PhD is a three-headed beast that takes more than you can actually perceive. I moved from Brazil to Sweden with my wife in April 2015. It was the very first time we left Brazil to live abroad. I can confidently say that those years living in Skövde were beyond what I had bargained for. It was amazing to know the Swedish culture, meet people from all over the world and get to see the fantastic Scandinavia.

While doing my PhD, my work was delightful. Despite the inherent unknowns of any research work, everything else was great. A lot of fikas (Swedish coffee break) with colleagues and friends. Coding, learning new things, evolving as a professional and independent researcher. I have nothing but a warm thank you to say about that.

Hard landing?

Right before Christmas in 2018, I flew back home (to Brazil). January and February are the vacation period in Brazil, so I had a well-deserved break to clear my head. In March, I resumed my duties at the Federal University of Fronteira Sul (UFFS). After literally years without teaching, I was assigned 3 courses as main responsible.

As a curious fact, I received the news about my teaching duties and courses of 2019 at the end of 2018. It was the very same day I received the printed copies of my thesis. Quite a plot twist.

The going back to teaching or my old duties were never a problem. I like to work. Above all, I like challenges. I returned from a PhD with abnormal energy to change the world and everything.

As a result of that, I signed up to be the next coordinator of the Undergraduate Program on Computer Science at UFFS, effectively April 2019. Should I have waited for that step? Sure. Could I have waited? No, I could not. I have to admit that the academic environment is quite heavy sometimes. Not having a PhD in academia is like being a woodworker and not having your own tools. You might have the competence, the will and the means, but somehow the system fights against you. Additionally, if you are a younger person, that’s even more complicated. That might be my personal view of the whole thing, but that’s how I felt back then.

Having finished my PhD, for the first time in my career, I felt I had my own tools. This time I could not only move the wheel, but I could also very well destroy it if the spinning was not my liking. And that thought burned vividly in my head. Looking back now, I think I was more eager to prove myself (or others?) that I could actually make the difference. That could be seen as fuel by most people, but I was not counting on something else.

The OCD hits

When I was about 9 years old, I suffered from severe Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Back then, my life was significantly disturbed by it. After some time, however, and without medical help, it all went away. This time, however, it did not go away. On the contrary, it has grown out of control. From 2015 to 2018, that OCD demon slowly evolved in me again. Ironically, right after I had finished my PhD and rested during vacations, the OCD became unbearable. Around April and May, I was literally afraid to leave my house.

OCD is a heavy burden. It is always there, in an ever-growing vortex of anxiety. I reached a point that I thought the university would prevent me from teaching. I was also tormenting all those around me, particularly my wife. I finally admitted defeat and sought out a psychiatrist.

Changing the world is hard

I started taking medicine for OCD. Slowly, things improved over time. However, I had signed up for the coordination of our CS program. Hence my stress and anxiety levels were always on the roof. I was constantly thinking I was not doing enough or well enough. I was being unpolite (to say the least) with people to ensure things would move the way I thought were right.

Having studied human emotions in my PhD, I should know better that human beings are complicated animals. Anything that has people in it is complex by nature. We have different dreams, fears and goals. It is tough to align all thoughts under the same light.

I had managed teams before. I had worked with lots of different people in the past. But this time I had too much energy and too little patience. And above all, I was not willing to tolerate any academic behaviour that I once allowed.

The result? Friction all over the place, anxiety crisis, and so on. A colleague even asked me once if “it was really worth it to do all this I was doing at the cost of my own health and friends”. Burning bridges almost as my main job.

Shallow rate for open-source contributions

I want to add that my contributions to open-source projects, including my own, e.g. Flixel Studio and cvui, have reached their lowest rate ever. I literally had no time or will to work on them. My everyday routine was draining all my energy.

Differently from 2017 and 2018, where I significantly contributed to open-source, 2019 has been quite slow. Even after receiving a donation from the awesome Haxeflixel community to work on Flixel Studio (thank you very much!), I was not able to focus. That made me feel incredibly guilty and not worth the investment. Luckily the Flixel community and the human being behind the project are great to lift others.

Anything good?

Yes, definitely! Lots of nice things happened, but I don’t think they quite fit in here. I mainly wanted to document how my 2019 gravitated. I am very thankful for all the great things that happened in 2019, like helping bootstrap a podcast and being invited to be the paranymph for our 2019 class.

I am working towards making 2020 a less intense, but more productive year. Less stress and fire, more applied energy and well being. That’s all. So long and thanks for all the fish, 2019.