An R.E.M. song
It’s the end of the world as we know it
And I feel fine.
Table of Contents
This Year in Numbers
415 Github contributions (making a comeback!)
31 more college credits (I think? I’m starting to lose track…)
12 weeks reading papers this summer at USC ISI.
12 more weeks making plots and crunching numbers at NBC News.
1 musical attended (Hadestown, on Broadway!!)
1 first-author paper published (in Proceedings of EMNLP 2020)
27 bylines from 2 news organizations.
2 new library cards (Boston and New York City Public Libraries)
This will be difficult because it feels like time didn’t really exist before March, but I’ll try anyway.
In January, the Michigan Union held its grand opening before shutting back down due to Covid just three months later. We kicked off a new semester of Michigan Data Science Team with a new set of workshops targeted for beginners. I read The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver. Finally, after talking to my roommate Parth, I decided to join the data team at the Michigan Daily.
February was short but still plenty eventful. I started working on my first analysis for the Daily, read Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer 8. Lee, and went axe throwing with MDST. On the last (leap) day, I landed in Boston to visit my friend Nina at Harvard.
This leads into March, where I wrapped up my spring break with what in hindsight was probably an ill-advised tour down the east coast. I wrapped up Boston by getting a library card from Boston Public Library (absolutely beautiful), visitng the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum, getting Chinese food and desserts from Chinatown, and seeing the ducks in Boston commons. After a harrowing sprint to South Station, I made it to New York, where I had more Chinese food, attended a comedy show at my hostel, and visited the New York Times building, the Highline, the Chinese American History Museum, the New York Public Library (also very pretty), Hadestown on Broadway, the MoMA, and then sprinted to Penn Station to catch an Amtrak to DC. From DC, I continued to Pittsburgh, catching up with friends at CMU and Pitt, before driving back up to Ann Arbor. All this took place over the first week of March, after which everything descended into chaos: we had primaries coverage for the Daily, immediately after which Michigan shut down for Covid. March ends with making a premature departure from campus.
After a very eventful March, April was boring by comparison, marked mostly by online classes and exams as the semester wrapped up.
May was mostly enjoying my summer vacation before school began and finalizing my paper for EMNLP. I also resolved to sew myself a backpack as a summer project only to discover all the sewing machines were out of stock! I started my research internship at USC after Labor day. Finally, I watched as SpaceX launched the first astronauts into space from the US in close to a decade. An early interest in rockets and space really propelled me onto a STEM track, and this was a reminder of what had inspired me so many years before.
In June, I finally managed to buy a sewing machine (but no materials yet). I
was introduced to crossword puzzles and proceeded to
waste spend a few hours
every day on crosswords…
July is when my backpacking plans went into full force as I finally received my supplies. Plenty of mistakes were made, and I had to disassemble and repair the sewing machine more than once.
I finally, in a mad dash over three days, finished my backpack in August. This was just in time to move back onto campus, where I would proceed to take all my classes from my room and leave the backpack sitting dejectedly in a corner. I also made some fantastic productivity purchases: a nice chair from Ikea and a standing desk (amazing).
In September, I started at NBC News and covered the first presidential debate my second week of work. It was an exhilarating experience for someone totally new to the news scene as we worked to debug our vis literally up until the minute the debate began. I received notice that my paper was accepted to EMNLP. I also deep-fried food for the first time and it was a resounding success. Finally, I bought a crossword subscription, much to the detriment of my productivity.
October was dominated by covering Presidential debates (the ones that weren’t cancelled, at least), prepping for EMNLP, crosswords and other word games, and enjoying the last of the good Ann Arbor weather.
In line with March and September, November was quite eventful. Election week coverage, deep frying more food, attending and presenting at my first conference, and celebrating my 21st birthday (by not going to any of the bars)! Somehow, a lot of these things also happened in the same week…
Finally, December saw the end of the semester and my internship at NBC. It also saw the renewal of my crossword and Netflix subscriptions, both of which I was not comfortable maintaining during the semester.
This is the end of a very eventful year. It’s one that I can safely say I did not see coming, filled with disappointments and hardships. But it has also had some really amazing moments. With the switch to a new normal in terms of media of communication, I’ve been able to reconnect with many friends I’ve lost touch with over the years. I’ve also had so many fantastic opportunities professionally, and I’ve met some really fantastic people at both USC and NBC.
And in the midst of personal, national, and international chaos, I’ve grown to appreciate so many of the things I used to take for granted: seeing my friends and loved ones in person; being able to travel to China to visit my grandparents; seeing the bottom halves of strangers faces. I’ve also learned to take care of myself in trying times: to create a space I want to live in; to find joy in my routines (think you crosswords); to reach out to my friends for company and support.
Every year sees ups and downs, setbacks and growth. This year was no different in that regard, and I’m confident that 2021, whatever it has in store, will also bring both plenty of disappointments and plenty of joy. In many ways, my limits were tested this year – in some cases, I grew and stretched those limits. In others, I saw the cracks and learned when I should ease back. The trials of this past year have taught me a lot about myself.
I’m looking forward to a year filled with new joys and new disappoints. I’m looking forward to a year where I can see and hug my family and friends. I’m looking forward to the year I start my senior year of college, where I meet new people and experience new things. But mostly, I’m looking forward to a year that will hopefully chill the fuck out.
Good night, 2020. Good morning, 2021.