2021: Money, Ego, Weightlifting, Israel, Dad

What a year.

What a year.

I don't even know where to start, so I'll just go. Time to fire up the ol' mechanical keyboard and jolt every time my girlfriend shoulder taps me.

WTF happened in 2021?

Disclaimer: I'll spare you the pandemic polemics and focus on sharing my overall experience. This will be an explicitly Covid-free story. We've all had our fucking fill anyway.

Selling our company

For starters, we sold Snipcart, our e-commerce startup, to Duda.

Maybe you weren't around when I was broadcasting the hell out of that achievement. If so, I've got blog posts and even freaking comics for you:

Selling Snipcart: Part One
The last 7 months have been f*cking crazy. I worked, learned, argued, dreamt, and stressed more than I usually do. Why? We sold Snipcart.
My Mom even had my illustrator friend create a framed version of the comics for Christmas!

It's been a seven-month-long roller-coaster of learnings and emotions. Sure glad that part's over.

Snipcart is still alive and well, and I'm still very much involved with it and Duda. Our team and I are in the midst of a new challenge: integrating our technology within Duda's to launch a brand new e-commerce product for their website builder. Roughly half of the team focuses on that; the other half keeps growing Snipcart.

Things are different, that's for sure. Not in a bad way. A bit faster, you know? No break-neck speed, though. New bosses, lots of new colleagues. More accountability. But I'm lucky to still be on that adventure with my old pal and partner Charles (Snipcart co-founder). It still feels unreal to us at times.

Getting that dough

Once the acquisition went through, significantly more funds were in my bank account.

First order of business, I started taking care of my Mom's mortgage and car payments. Showing her my new balance remains one of my proudest moments to this day. There's an emotional comics strip in part three of Selling Snipcart for soft-hearted readers.

Soon after, I bought more Bitcoin and invested the rest with a financial firm that had some friends' confidence vote. We'll see how that pans out. For everyone eager to recommend how to manage my "exit" money, I'm sorry to announce I'm no longer taking recommendations on the matter at this time. 😂

Then, I…

Vroom vroom!

So, extra figures had materialized in my account — the kind of money I had never been around before.

As this new reality sunk in, old desires resurfaced. Teenage ambitions. Big cars, fly kicks, fresh swagger. At first, I tried to push that stuff back down. Felt unreal to have such a stash. Best not to touch it, right? Sit on it, hidden dragon style.

Still, you want to celebrate a little. You deserve it, no? Years of hard work, good decisions, patience (and luck)... finally paying off. I mean, for fuck's sake, I was still driving the beat-down Vibe 2009 my mother gave me. Even she told me to indulge myself a bit.

I could've bought a modest, trusty vehicle: a recent Toyota or Volkswagen. Instead, I test drove Tesla, Porsche, Mercedes models. I leaned towards a Tesla, even though I winced at the tech entrepreneur cliché. I was about to go for a Model 3 Performance, but my inner teenager stopped me dead in my tracks with a stupidly powerful question:

Will driving up windows down blasting Juicy by Biggie look better in a Tesla or a BENZ?

Dozens of video clips flashed before my eyes. So I leased a barely used Benz to appease my inner wanna-be baller teenager.

For a bit, I did legit annoying stuff. Told too many money jokes. Snapped the bi-turbo, blasted the beat, etc. It attracted the attention of people I didn't want to get it from. Like, people way more into cars and speed and flashy shit than me. I just had to get it out of my system.

For what it's worth, I had a metric shit ton of fun testing it in closed industrial neighbourhoods with friends and family.

But even though my chin and decibels were higher, something felt off. There was this Russian doll-ish friction within me. The kid, acting up inside the adult. After getting arrested by the cops, I explored that shit in therapy. It boiled down to wanting to yell:

Look, I made it!
Look at how wrong you were. Remember, remember your predictions: You're too emotional, too impulsive, too excessive, too selfish, too unstable, too damaged. You'll never get your shit together.
Well, look at me now. Healthy long-term relationship. Sober. Taking care of my mother. Successful career. Wealthy.

But man… I mean — that's obviously a kid talking. Anxious to fit in and transcend his father, his flaws. Seeking recognition, approval, acceptance.

And who the fuck was that kid talking to? "They" stopped caring a long time ago. But the kid never stopped carrying the hurt. Maybe this is all just an opportunity to let go. Ugh, getting emotional writing this.

Anyway, happy to report I've slowed my roll now. I also found out that a coupe is quite cool-looking but not that practical during road trips or hellish Quebec winters. Oh well, live and learn, huh.

Now let's switch to a more testosterone chapter: the gym, baby!

Lifting weights & anxiety boons

I had promised friends & family I'd invest in my health if I nailed the Duda deal.

So I hired a personal trainer and started going to the gym three times a week. For all the fitness nerds in the back: my current bench press PR is at 235 lbs, 3.5 months in.

First sessions: super unpleasant. I still have residual concussion symptoms, my cardio is shit, and I'm overweight. Felt like throwing up. The only things forcing me to go were my public commitment, my coach waiting for me, and the money I had spent.

Eventually, my body and brain started changing. I felt stronger, less "injured" (I've had a lot of accidents with long-term consequences). More confident, straighter back. I enjoyed this, but it was nothing compared to the mental benefits. During the summer, panic attacks and obsessive thoughts were just… absent from my life for a good two months. It felt amazing, honestly. I began to witness how valuable the "get some exercise" advice was for your mental health. I had given that advice without ever really following it. This period reignited my faith in eventually reducing my medication and trying alternative healing methods like psychedelics-assisted therapies.

Now hitting the gym is a mental health necessity and a physical one.

I publicly apologize for all the times I made fun of "gym bros" — y'all were on to something.

It's going up forever, Laura

A quarter after closing the deal, I bought more Bitcoin.

Here are rapid-fire reasons why you should, too:

  • Inflation is eating away at your low-yield savings. Average yearly returns on Bitcoin are >150% in the last decade. Diversifying your net worth with hard assets that appreciate is smart.
  • Bitcoin is the soundest money in the world. The first genuinely decentralized currency, running on millions of distributed nodes, secured by real-world energy consumption and clever game theory. It's a solid store of value, like digital gold. Fixed, programmatic monetary policy. 21M BTC maximum. No centralized money printers devaluing your currency and purchasing power at will.
  • It's a scalable means of exchange, namely with the maturity and accelerating adoption of layer two solutions like the Lightning network.
  • Bitcoin is antifragile — countless technical, political, cultural attacks since 2009 have only made the network and its value stronger.

I'm sure you have arguments, and since this isn't a Bitcoin-only post, I'll just link to this for now:

Copy & Paste answers to common critiques about Bitcoin
Read the white paper and listen to this intro podcast if you're interested in Bitcoin.

I also bought a very shitty NFT to understand how this web3 thing works. Still a work in progress, well, like web3, I guess.

Love love love

My girlfriend and I passed our third-year mark, which is pretty freaking cool if you ask me!

I didn't think I'd be able to pull off a serious, healthy relationship, but hey, here we are, my friends.

To celebrate, we had a very sub-optimal weekend in a nearby mountain, filled with funny misadventures now in our couple's lore. Ain't it dope the kind of universe and tiny culture you build when sharing your life intimately with someone else for years.

I can't wait for us to make our first overseas trip together. Fingers crossed for this year. House is in the plans, too!

Oh, I did get to cross an ocean this year, though.

Israel & holy shits

Duda invited half of our team to a week-long business trip in November.

The goal was to connect developers on both sides collaborating on the new project. Strengthen relationships and boost motivation. That we did!

Tel-Aviv was fantastic, and so was the Duda team. We were warmly welcomed and had lots of fun. The city is small, walkable, full of electric scooters, delicious food, good-looking hipsters, and trendy bars. Some palm trees, bats at night (!) and a beautiful beach, too.

I eventually walked in Jesus' footsteps — literally. I got closer to history and violence and faith than I had ever been. These aren't just dramatic aesthetics; I mean it.

At one point, I had dinner in Tel-Aviv with an Israeli CEO/founder friend. She's a wonderful, multi-faceted woman: tech-savvy, entrepreneurial, Jewish, mother of many, kind, funny. I was telling her about the recent attack in Old Jerusalem. Asking her if she thought we should visit or not later that week. Some people told us not to go because things were "heated" over there. Others were telling us to go but keep an eye open. Or to go because anyway there are always conflicts over there. Then my friend said that one person killed in that recent attack was actually her son's good friend. I froze.

Wait, what?

I felt bad for asking, confused, startled. She wasn't feeling any of these. She explained how the grief was real, but there was nothing to do but keep going for most people affected by such conflicts. Keep living their lives, and honor the people they lost.

Another friend told me about the Second Intifada of the early 2000s. Suicide bombers in restaurants, buses, pedestrian crossings. Violent military interventions.

Another one told me about the conflict in 2021. How most people in Tel-Aviv were used to the routine of city-wide alarms, shelters, rockets, and missiles in the sky.

I went full-on hot relativism and thought to myself: how dumb are we for complaining about our freaking winters in Canada. Natural reflex of narcissistic comparison. We all do it.

These were all intense, rich conversations that I'm thankful I got to have.

We ended up going on our day trip. Guides showed us around the Jerusalem food market (legendary hummus & falafel) and the Old City. I saw people crying and Facetiming their grandma in front of Jesus' tomb. I touched the soil that held the cross.

We passed through this packed one-kilometer square of holy sites — Armenian, Christian, Muslim, Jewish. We then went through airport-level security to enter The Wailing Wall. Under the watchful eye of well-armed guards and ultra-orthodox Jews, we inserted tiny prayers in its crowded cracks.

It was something else.

Note: This is solely an account of a tiny personal experience, not a hard take on a subject which's scope I can't even begin to grasp. Dozens of YouTube videos, a trip to Israel, and a handful of conversations don't even come close to painting a comprehensive picture. That I understand.

Dad's 20th death anniversary

2021 was the year I discovered the double edges of stories. Of language. I touched on this here, but I'll probably explore more in an upcoming post.

I uncovered the delta between what I carry versus what I say. It's easier to talk and distract yourself than do the work. Healing isn't only a function of time. Efforts are often involved. It's so easy to fool yourself into thinking "talking about it" or saying you're "accepting it" is good enough. It's often surface work.

My therapist suggested I re-open the dialogue with my Dad, who I lost in 2001. I also wanted to try opening myself to spiritually more. So I talked with my dead father for the first time in years!

It was hard, but my Mom and I had organized a small ceremony with close friends and family to help. The goal was to tell funny or positive stories about Dad. To try to reconnect with the whole person he was, beyond his act of suicide.

I got to know him a little better throughout. I wrote him a little something, but I'll keep this note between him and me for now. What I've realized is that my grief journey wasn't over yet. There is still anger and sadness that needs processing. Hearing everyone express who he was to them, how much he loved his family and friends… it helped. It forced me to understand his departure wasn't something just personal. That it wasn't just about me and my pain, and that he was more than his final act and his pain. We all lost him, and who we lost was beautiful and colourful and complex, not unidimensionally tortured.

May you rest in peace, Dad.

Onwards, towards healing & growth

There's a path. It's towards the hurt, the fear, always. All detours bring you back on track, if only for a brief moment in the end. What's great about it is that you can't ever walk it alone. It's haunted and well-worn. It's beaten by the drums of your ancestors, softened by stardust. It's ours until we make way for the next awe-struck apes. Fuck me; I'm getting poetic again.

You know, I'm still struggling with anxiety and depressive bouts. It's still hard. I spin up stories, believe in them, create problems, imagine solutions, generate conflict, plan exits. My therapist uppercut me with a reality check before the holidays. He wasn't impressed nor curious about Franck's recent Voyage in the Middle East at all. He was laser-focused on reminding me how I was dodging the work. There's still work to be done; there probably will be for life. Like psychological fat accumulating, shit you have to train and trim, you know.

For me, the work isn't steeped in action but stillness:

Stop telling stories on top of the one unfolding around me. Stop directing my attention to something else than what's already present. Stop diving into work and distractions and sit still and breathe. Stop running away from obsessive thoughts and just let them come and go, like the waves they are.

Funny how hard it is not doing anything. Do you know what work you need to do?

To end on a lighter note, here's an early 2000's R&B/hip-hop playlist. If you're between 28-38, you're welcome.

What do I want to do in 2022?

  1. Train four times a week — used to do three. Keep building muscle and losing weight. Cardio needs work, too.
  2. Stay vegetarian — helps me with digestive issues, and honestly, this whole mass slaughtering animals thing is getting old. It will probably be looked back on with full-on contempt by our descendants. If my Bitcoin maximalist friend and my hunter friend are reading: no worries guys, I'm not going to preach and throw cans of paint at the next barbecue.
  3. Write more. I truly feel like writing is time well spent. Plus, I'm always telling stories. Often the same ones to new people. It might be worth putting on paper: archives, legacy, inspiration.
  4. Meditate at least four times a week — train the mind.
  5. Search for grace. I don't know what that means, but I know that I mean it. No need to put my fancy chimp words on top of it.

Oh, I almost forgot: I'll have been sober for five years on Jan 1st! One of the best decisions of my life still.

Happy New Year, my friends!

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