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The Lost Year


Hooray, a year has gone by since I've started working as a software engineer! It seems like it was only yesterday when I walked into the office as an employee of this company. Time has passed so fast, I can't believe a year went by! Actually, wait, I really can't believe a year went by. It's been a year, seriously? How come I remember so little of it?

This feeling at the pit of my stomach left me restless, wondering how a year went by so quickly, with me having very few memories of it.

The Phenomenon

Let's start by identifying what the lost year was. This term was loosely taken from Japan's Lost Decade.

But first, I must admit something. In all honesty, I don't have the best memory available. I am quick to forget what happened 2 hours ago, what I ate this morning, and so on. I'm a pretty forgetful person. However, I can at least say that I can surely remember the events that occur in a year, even if I only remember the highlights. However, that doesn't appear to be the case for this one.

My "lost year" began when I joined this company. I remember my first day, how I fiddled with Fedora, was given a spare laptop to work on, and was tasked to learn the React framework.

From there on out, my memory gets hazier and hazier, and the events I remember are few and far between. I do remember my daily routine, though. Boarding a bus to work at 5 a.m., making coffee, updating my Arch Linux packages, and commuting home in the afternoon sun. But other than that—my conversations with people, what happened for this month, etc—I can't seem to recall.

It's actually horrible because I don't even remember interacting with my coworkers that much. Sure, it's a given that I'm close to and already know my 2 coworkers who were my classmates from college. But for my other colleagues, I can't even remember if we ever talked or had a personal conversation at all.

My First Year at My First Job

An important thing I've learned working as a software engineer is how to test something and how to benchmark it against something else. With that in mind, let's compare my first year at my second job with my first year at my first job.

I can remember my first few days and month there, with my other coworker. I was part of the company's multimedia department—a newly-established team—and our group comprised of just 2 people. Around June, a miracle came and we hired our 3rd multimedia artist, who was pretty fun and definitely livened up the office for everyone.

A few months on, I get close to my coworkers and befriend the 2 guys in the other department, in the cubicle adjacent to us. They were my first "tropa" from work and I've befriended almost everyone in the office now. I've properly learned how to make e-learning courses and have passed on my knowledge to my other teammates as well.

Later on, we get pretty friendly with one another. We had several out-of-office events: we went hiking in Batangas, we had our first summer getaway in Zambales, we went to Cove Manila for drinks and partying, that time we visited United Marine Training Center with our boss from the UK, our time I tried and demoed our company's VR technology during CrewConnect 2018, and so much more.

I can recall so many events off the top of my head and it seemed like a long, but meaningful, drama of how rewarding my first year as an office worker was. The number of friendships I remember fostering and the moments where I just casually talked with my coworkers is staggering, to say the least.

There are a lot of events I also remember that I can't put here, otherwise, we'd be here all day. But I can say I remember getting massages with my coworkers after work, going to bars and clubs, eating out at night, Family Day 2018, the company's second holiday getaway, and our Christmas party.

So, if I can recall my first year at my first job so much, how come I can't remember what happened for a full year in my next one?

Probable Causes

Another important thing I've learned as a software engineer is how to diagnose, troubleshoot, and eventually find out what's causing the bugs in my program. After taking a while to look at things, the usual suspects, in this case, are as follows.

A Lack of Interaction

I've said here before, I don't even remember having a meaningful conversation with one of my other coworkers in my company (aside from my 2 classmates from college), which is probably why I still don't consider myself friends with some of them.

Compared to my first job, my current coworkers and I barely hung out. After work was done, we immediately went home. I made no plans nor showed any interest in joining in my current coworkers' out-of-office plans (because I'm usually tired after my 9-hour shift). Though, to be honest, they didn't seem to have a lot of out-of-office gatherings anyway.

I only remember 1 event where my coworkers and I hung out after work, and I deeply, deeply, wholly, completely, 100% regret ever attending it. After that event, I became careful and conscious of my coworkers.

Also, when I had a birthday at my first workplace, my coworkers prepared a little surprise party with cake and their personal greetings. At my current one, I barely remembered anyone greeting me. What's worse, I even had to work overtime that day and I was late for my actual birthday celebration that my best friend had prepared.

Fewer Company Events

In my former workplace, we had a few out-of-office events as well, which were sponsored by the company. As I mentioned before, we went to other places to do business and I had accumulated so much experience and memories from attending events the company had offered. The fun events that the company held, which were our 2 summer getaways and Family Day, also helped in strengthening my bond and memories with my coworkers.

Honestly, aside from my 2019 secondment, I can't even remember a single out-out-office event my company held, none at all. Which is a little eerie and surprising, to say the least.

Workplace Stress

I am stressed out more than ever in my current job. I have to do rigorous tasks in order to ensure the quality and functionality of the software I am producing. Our projects follow the agile methodology and I keep a precise track of my deliverables every single sprint. I only care about the deliverables and how performant my solutions are.

Needless to say, this all adds up to my stress levels. And, when I'm very stressed, I often just forget everything that stresses me out at that moment. Thankfully, this has kept me away from the path of cigarette smoking, alcoholism, and other vices. But just mashing the "Delete" key on the things that stress me out yields unintended consequences.

It also doesn't help that I'm very focused on my job when I'm working, even using noise-canceling equipment to block chatter in the workplace.

My Secondment

6 months into my job, I, along with a few others, was offered a secondment at another company. During this period, I had almost no reason to even go back to my original workplace. We were expected to show up at our designated company until the project is completed.

Needless to say, I barely even talked to my other coworkers from my original company during this time. I couldn't talk to them online, either, since the chat platform the company was using is blocked by the firewall at my current company. We were also busy with the project, so we didn't even have much time to talk to them anyway.

It also doesn't help that my current workplace is miles away from my former one, making plans to meet up after work almost impossible. The good news is that my current building is very close to my first workplace. I even had time after work to hang out with my original set of coworkers!

My secondment is still ongoing and I eventually got close with the team I was designated to work with, along with the few others from my original company who were in this secondment with me.

One criticism I have of my secondment is that we don't feel like we're in either company's culture. We strictly obey the rules of both companies, of course, but we aren't included at all in the company events. We feel left out in the company where we have our secondment. We're like that outsourced worker who is physically in the office. Also, whenever our original company has an event at their workplace, we're sadly left out of it.

The COVID-19 Pandemic and Lockdown

I've spent almost 2 months at home since the pandemic and ensuing lockdown began. I celebrated my 1 year work anniversary at home, with coworkers sending digital greetings. Despite working from home and having copious amounts of free time, I barely talk to my coworkers after work and I don't play any online games with them either.

It All Adds Up

After reviewing the factors above, it all seems clear to me now. It is true that I lost 1 year of my life—not my professional life, but rather my social life. I will give my current job credit in that I learned so much in the past year compared to my several years in college. But the knowledge I have gained is just pure book smarts, not meaningful lessons I have learned together with my coworkers.

For this one, I don't like to put the blame on anything, honestly. Some of these factors were caused by me distancing myself from my coworkers (for a reason) and some were caused by others. Learning who contributed to what has no bearing on me, since this was all a thought experiment and an analysis of how a year passed by with me remembering so little of it.

Coming up to this conclusion only taught me one thing—I am deeply mistaken about my first set of coworkers and my first job. At the time, I had viewed them as people I couldn't understand since they were years older than me and I thought they had closed me off. I now see that they were just being mature in their actions and they still included me in their circles in spite of everything.

I was a 19-year-old teen with no work experience back then. Looking back as a 21-year-old professional has taught me the error of my ways. I now look back at my first job with glee as I start to realize and treasure the gentle maturity and kindness they have graced me with. I'll keep their words, wishes, and smiles in the journey I have ahead.

From now on, I'll treasure the experiences I have with my coworkers, no matter how plentiful or scarce they seem to be.

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