This time last year, the world was a different place. This time last year, I was in a different place. A place 13,890 kilometers away from my home. A lot has happened in 365 days. This is a short review of things that happened for me in the year 2020.
Before I get to that, I want to talk about a few things.
2020 has been a tough year for many people - those who lost their loved ones, those who lost their jobs, those who couldn't get their basic needs met. I hope 2021 is better for everyone.
While I had some tough moments, I mostly had a good year. You may have also read many other yearly reviews where the writers had an extremely productive year. It is okay if you did not have a great year, especially this year. I hope 2021 will be better for you.
Living in Salt Lake City
Last year this time, I was in Salt Lake City, which I consider my second home. I had moved there for work in November 2017. I was on a H1B visa and I had it extended for another year. I visit my family every year, so I came to Chennai (India) on February 5, 2020. People already started talking about Covid at this point.
I got the stamping done, spent time with family and my flight back to Salt Lake City was on March 1, 2020. Thinking back now, if I had booked my flight for 2 weeks later, I would have been held up in India and couldn't have travelled back.
My plan was to come back to India by July 2020 anyway but being held up in India while you are on a H1B visa and having everything unfinished in the US (apartment lease, stuff to sell etc) is terrible.
Once I returned to Salt Lake City, I went to work for two weeks before everything completely changed for the whole world. Like everyone, I started working from home. Around the same time, we also got earthquakes in Salt Lake City, which is uncommon.
Living alone during a pandemic
I stayed alone the whole time I was in Salt Lake City. Generally I enjoy being alone. This was different though. The initial months were good. I spent a lot of time, like everyone else, learning to bake cookies, pizza etc. I was also experimenting with different cuisines.
Then it started to get boring. I was spending a lot of time listening to podcasts. It went to a point where I almost started one. Tiktok was my other favorite distraction. I spent many hours every day watching Tiktok videos. It's a shame that the app is banned in India.
Staying alone so far away from home and away from my family was really hard, especially having old parents. I was very worried about them. And then there's also no human interaction. I always thought I could be alone for a long time without meeting people. This pandemic proved me wrong. We need people and we need our regular face-to-face interactions.
So I decided to move back to India.
Looking for a job
I was previously working for Cognizant. The moment I decided to move back, I decided to also look for a new job. While it turned out to be a good decision, I truly underestimated how difficult it is to move across the world during a pandemic, so adding a job search on top of that is not a great idea.
I was lucky to get one of the three jobs I applied for. I joined Replika Software as a Backend Engineer. This is a remote position which meant I could work from my home in Chennai.
It is one of the highlights for me this year (more later).
Moving back to Chennai from Salt Lake City
When you live in a place for three years, you accumulate a lot of stuff. In the US, there is also the problem of lease breakage which we don't have in India. The apartment I was in would only do yearly lease and if I wanted to do a shorter term, I have to pay a lot more. And if that short term is one month, I have to pay almost double the normal rent. Screw them. I was not going to pay anything extra or break my lease.
Luckily my lease was ending on July 31, 2020. I gave two months notice to the apartment management, took some time to prepare for interviews and started applying for jobs on July 1, 2020.
I got the job offer from Replika Software at the end of July, right when I had to move out. I booked flights to India right after, stayed in my friend's place for two weeks and just prayed that the flights should not be cancelled.
Everything went as per plan and I came to Delhi, India. I had to quarantine for two weeks in Delhi before I could go to Chennai. I finally reached home on Aug 25, 2020, the day before my birthday so I could spend my birthday with my family (but I was also quarantining at home since I did not want to put my parents at risk).
While the six months from March to August were really tough, it did end well.
Working from home for a fully remote team
Replika Software is a completely remote team. Most of our team is spread out in the US. Since almost everyone is working from these days, it still hasn't hit me that I'm working for a fully remote team. And because the team is great, it has been easy for me to work from Chennai, having almost a 12 hour difference with the rest of the team.
Highlights of 2020
- Moving from Salt Lake City to Chennai
- Joining a remote startup
- Completing a bunch of side projects
- Hitting frontpage of Hacker News
- Learning to bake having never used a traditional oven ever before
- Creating a newsletter (like everyone else)
- Spending more time with family since moving back
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I hope you have a great 2021.