2023: forget about me
This year's meditations and next year's intentions
Nov & Dec done’s
Figured out regulations to import minION sequencer into Mexico, built a sequencing course for Feb ‘24, collaborated with ArgenTAG.
Explored intelligence in plants and played with computation for plants. Excited for Ideas Matter!
Spoke at WISE in Qatar, became a different self and changed my mind about most of the strongest beliefs I used to hold since I was like 5…
2023 meditations on courage, expectations, and desires
Third Law of SofiDynamics: The price you pay for the comfort of neglecting your intuition always ≥doubles courage: one for the upside lost, another one for the pain of regret.
You DO know what you want, you really do. As fear is the mother of all sins, you may just be scared of doing it. So you don’t need to seek advice, you need to seek understanding. This goes in two ways: 1) support/validation from people who understand you (have similar desires to yours and have ideally fulfilled them), and 2) use their stories only as lego blocks to build a tower from which you’ll see a different picture, i.e. as perspective and perspective only.
Because, as I’ve said in other newsletters: it’s scarier to go against your heroes than to go against your enemies. The easy thing is to try to replicate exactly what your heroes did and expect it works for you even if you don’t genuinely enjoy taking those actions, even if your desires and environment are actually different Doing what you want, following your gut, is how you truly practice courage.
Courage is not practiced by confronting millions of external enemies or swimming against far away tides. It is enforced by facing those mirrors that reflect what is inside, what is proper and no one else’s; following that whisper of intuition, pushing the bustle of the exterior.
Taylor Swift. I didn’t use to listen to her music much but that was obviously impossible in 2023. I don’t know what she was thinking of but she’s right: it’s you, you’re the problem, it’s you. Well, at least, your expectations are (the anti-heroes [in your story]).
One of the most vulnerable confessions I’ll make is that ever since I was a very little 4 or 5 y/o, up until a couple of years ago, I had this weird burning desire to be “the most important person in the universe”. The soft version of that was being the next Steve Jobs — I don’t care about why that is.
It’s then also hard to admit that I might’ve been chasing the wrong things or living off the wrong motivations all this time; thinking that the day I dropped out of college or got a certain type of recognition I would be able to say to myself “Finally, I’m not mediocre! 😀”, or thinking that there would come a time when the whole world would care about me because of the incredible inventions I’d made.
I’ve changed more over the past 6 months than I had over the past 6 years. After all these year’s reflections on college and so-called “alternative paths”, I can say “it’s us, hi, we are the problem, it’s us”. If you think college will get you a great job and life, you’re wrong. If you think dropping out will save you from the so-called conventional lifestyle, you’re wrong too. Those are only paths. What you do in those paths is what actually matters. It’s you.
There’s this verse in my favorite poem that goes “heroes are those who did only what was necessary”. I have had the fortune and pleasure of meeting some of my heroes throughout the last couple of years. I’m grateful for it because I’ve seen how they’re “just” people who do stuff. They’re creators, dudes and gals who thought “huh, this doesn’t exist, I’ll do it” and they go do it.
Steve Jobs did use to be my greatest hero. Not that I don’t admire him or his work anymore but reading the stories of amazing other people who have done great things — JCR Licklider, Edwin Land, Ada Lovelace, Estée Lauder, Alan Turing — let me see that Jobs is just another one of them. I can’t believe I’m saying this but we all just leave a little seed at the end of our lives. True, some seeds will grow into trees that are a bit bigger, with more branches and leafs, than others. But you need a whole bunch of them (i.e. humankind) to make a forest, to make dent into the universe ;).
As the false notion of such a thing as “the most important person in the universe” finally crumbles for good, a meta-lesson is to understand my underlying desires. Or as I’ve previously written, know “the ball” I love to hit. Because sometimes you don’t want money, you want freedom. Sometimes you’re not in love but just feel lonely. Sometimes you don’t want to make a dent into the universe, you just don’t want to be forgotten.
Another one of the strongest beliefs I used to hold is that death doesn’t give meaning to life, that life is valuable by itself and I would thus be delighted to become immortal to keep experiencing all of the value that it has to offer. After almost 20 years of believing I could somehow escape death, and even with all this biotech, I am starting to come to terms with the fact that I will, most likely, die at some point. I still can’t prevent myself from crying sometimes about it (lol?) but I am glad that I’ve changed the desire for immortality for something more stoic:
Even if you’re going to live three thousand more years, or ten times that, remember: you cannot lose another life than the one you’re living now, or live another one than the one you’re losing. The longest amounts to the same as the shortest. The present is the same for everyone; its loss is the same for everyone —Marcus Aurelius
Becoming this other, non-ideal, version of myself for sometime has also taught me that sometimes the difference between people who achieve great things and those who only wish for that, is not resources but resourcefulness. Especially for those of us with access to the internet, the 4th Law of SofiDynamics states: Circumstances don’t define you. You and only you have control over yourself. Zip code, last name, and genes are irrelevant to the zealous soul. In simpler words, if you’re not doing the thing you’re just being a lazy anti-hero.
As I was running around my neighborhood last year, it occurred to me that privilege is the ability to choose discomfort. Said more dramatically, it is to choose when and if you want to suffer. I opted in to running in circles in the cold on my shorts and a t-shirt; some people around me had to walk in the cold with no special clothes because their job demanded it and there’s mouths to feed back home, including theirs. I chose to see school as uncomfortable and useless while others saw it as the absolute best opportunity they’ve ever earned.
To call something conventional or unconventional only makes sense in geographic, temporal, and social context. Across history, beliefs that were once a crime are now common; across the world, what we praise in the west may be unbearable in the east; and the definition of “normal” across different societal groups is well, different. To me, this again, only means that I should do what I want. Being an artist pleases the artists but displeases the scientists and viceversa. It’s true that you can never please everyone but you can choose to please yourself.
In other words, happiness comes only from within. For the first time in my life, this year I got a true taste of what it means for your external world to look absolutely fantastic despite you feeling like shit. I spoke at conferences, won prizes, traveled the world for free, moved cities, lost some weight, finished an amazing summer internship… I LITERALLY LIVED EVERYTHING I’D ALWAYS DREAMED OF!!! And still, I was not precisely happy.
Often times I felt that I was not smart enough, other times I actually felt incredibly stupid and made decisions I’m not proud of to date. Despite what anyone — including family, friends and very credible people — might say, I’m still not proud of myself. I learned that being miserable means to put your success and happiness in the hands of others, in things you cannot control or are finite games like external recognition in the form of prizes. Happiness is action, actions you have control over. It’s to do what you want, what is true to you, without holding any external expectations but in enjoying the actions themselves.
For example, I love writing, I just can’t help myself from doing it. To gather ideas, to imagine a different world and put it in words. Who the f*ck cares if it’s sexier to be a company founder or tool builder? I LOVE TO WRITE!!! That means I might not make it to the history books but I will make sure that if a future consciousness gets to know about me, they know that Sofia courageously lived a life that’s full, a life that is true to her. I want them to know that I lived my life and that I was really happy doing so :)
I’ve lately been fascinated by how our brain is like a vault we never open but never remains the same either. I’m not interested in knowing who I am but I’m really excited about this magic we have as human beings. We CAN think of ourselves differently, we can choose to become, we can develop ourselves. Sure, this was the year of Artificial Intelligence but I am yet to see ChatGPT building itself. Each of us is the most beautiful product we are privileged to be able to build.
Billions of dollars are invested into feeding AI with the best data possible and I don’t think the average person (at least I) put enough attention into the data I feed myself with. Social media might feel hyper-personalized but still millions of people scroll down the same TikToks, play the same videos and read the same tweets. Want to think different? Become different? Create different? Well, you’ll need to consume different.
This, of course, includes people. After getting the same piece of advice directly from more than 3 people who know me and have achieved things similar to what I want to achieve (internally and externally), and after rationalizing this myself, I have made it my #1 priority to surround myself with people who better align with who I want to become and what I want to do in the time to come — are you one of them? Please, reach out. I need your help 🙏.
So, in summary, I still can’t believe 2023 was the year in which I harvested the dreams I’d grown over the past 3. So much so that I felt my mind change like it never had, I lost it for a while too. Today, I am grateful for the lightness of being a beginner again. A new seed is to be planted. LET’S FREAKING BRING IT, 2024!