When I think back to what this year has brought with it, it can be easy to focus on the negatives. 2016 has felt like an entire lifetime, and in some ways, it was. I wanted to share some of the highlights about what I’ve worked on, what it meant to me, and where I hope 2017 and will go. More than anything, I hope for it to feel like an even longer time.
I thought about how to structure this post for a while, and whether or not I should break it down by month, by season, or by event – but so many things in my life have blended together in different ways that it didn’t make sense to try and organize them into a specific order. As I’m writing this, I think that there’s a better way to reflect, and that’s by the way that these events have secured themselves in my head.
What I’m Most Proud of: This year, there were two things that I took a step back from, looked at, and truly, profoundly feel a sense of joy for creating. One was the ARVR Academy, and the lessons that I created as part of the group and the classes. Working alongside Suzanne Leibrick and Erin Pangilinan to bring to life a vision for enabling new creators in immersive technology has just been mindblowingly cool. I could not be more proud of what earlier students have accomplished in such a short amount of time relative, and I’m continually impressed every day by their achievements and the impact that they’re having in the VR industry. The other was publishing Entering the Metaverse, my first book, on Amazon. Being able to solidify my perspective on the industry as a snapshot of what it was like to create virtual and augmented reality content in 2016 is something that I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life, and I’m incredibly humbled by what technology has enabled to bring all of that book together.
What I learned from the most: There is a lot that I could write about in terms of technical learning that I did this year, but I think that my blog covers a lot of this already. Instead, when I look back on the most prominent lessons that I’ve learned from 2016, they’re to do with the people I worked with, and through those interactions, understanding myself better. These lessons were not always easy. Several times throughout this year, I experienced situations where people that I trusted became heartbreakingly cruel to me when my path didn’t align with their expectations of me. Through these experiences, I’ve learned that the only person’s expectations of you that matter are your own, and that I must be willing to adjust my own expectations of those around me as well. I also think that it’s resulted in me being more particular about who I talk to and collaborate with, as I’ve seen how quickly things can turn when opinions differ.
My biggest technical accomplishment: From a development perspective, the History in Holograms voter turnout visualization app that I built for HoloLens was one of my favorite projects this year. A lot had to come together to get that done in the short time frame between getting my HoloLens and Election Day, and I really enjoyed getting to create a mixed reality application from the ground up. History, politics, and civics were never my favorite classes as a kid, but getting to visualize information about our election process, and seeing the change in how we’ve participated in the process over years piqued my interest in utilizing data for social awareness. Helping Kat build her VR PC is a close second here.
My biggest technical letdown: There’s a game idea that I’ve been working on, Traits & Trials, that I think has a ton of potential for VR at this stage. This past year, I got increasingly closer to being able to start building the game, but I’ve also hit a number of setbacks mainly in the form of time. While I’m still planning to continue to work on it in the coming years (and realizing what that taking on that endeavor truly means) it’s a place that I had expected to make significantly more progress in 2016.
Where I still need to improve: Self-care. When you are passionate about the work you do, and get excited at every turn in the industry, you can find yourself in a warm, happy place of motivation and purpose. While that is a really fantastic place to be in a career, it doesn’t preclude the need to take care of yourself, a lesson I’ve learned the hard way this year. Extensive travel, poor eating choices, a lack of exercise, and shortage of sleep has struck hard in 2016. In the past few months, I’ve taken baby steps to start focusing more on diet, stretching, meditation (though I’ll be honest, it’s really hard for me to disconnect to meditate) and keeping my head clear and listening to when I’m starting to feel like garbage. Celiac disease & an anxiety disorder means I get to do this part of life on hard mode, but I’m adjusting, and if video games are any indicator, 2017 is when I’ll level up to heroic or something.
Being an adult is weird, especially being an “adult” in today’s society. There’s no blueprint for what to do, and you have to hold yourself accountable to metrics of success that you define yourself. I’m now just six months short of being out of college for the amount of time I was studying, so I’ve been thinking a lot about time passing and just how abstract milestones can be. I used to think that all I wanted out of life was to be “happy”, but so much of that is driven from internal understanding of what is important and where your highest priorities are.
Here’s to 2016 – I can’t say that I’m sad it’s almost over, but I can say that I’m glad to have been able to learn a lot and see a really great Star Wars movie come to life.