I feel so alone sometimes. Not really lonely, just alone. And when I feel that way, I’m being so unfair to myself. Why? Because I’m anything but alone.
It’s almost 5:00 in the morning as I’m writing this, on the day of my birth, the eleventh of March. I turned twenty-one about five hours ago. Just before that, at about 11:20 at night, on the tenth of March, I suddenly, randomly, got a text from a dear old friend, telling me that she is in a bar in Amsterdam, actually no more than 5 minutes from my house. By 11:40 I was there, I met her friends, at at midnight they all congratulated me. I was supposed to finish some work for a client of mine (if you’re reading this, mea culpa!), but instead I spent the last five hours having fun (and consuming alcohol) with that group of people.
Why am I awake after all of that? A normal person would have thrown their body into bed as soon as they entered their apartment, and took a few winks before even attempting to write anything Medium-worthy after such a night. Well, the reason: in a few hours I’ll be flying to London, not only to have fun there with my Dutch friends who already flew over yesterday, but also to have birthday drinks with some of my London friends later in the day.
Therefore, the only two hours of today that I’ll be spending alone will be the two or three hours between now and when I leave for the airport to catch my flight, together with the friend and business partner that I’ve been working together with for over six years now. So, the next time I feel alone (or, for that matter, lonely), let this post be a reminder of the hypocrite asshole I am for feeling that way. I’m so fortunate to have all of those people in my life! Just like real hunger, I’ve probably actually never experience the feeling of really being alone in this world.
Also, to future (sober) Thomas: happy birthday! Perhaps you might want to delete this post. Or, at the very least, properly check it for grammar and spelling mistakes!
Quit Gmail. Quit my project management application, the one with the bars that present the hours you’ve worked this week. Quit those folders with the source code of those client project. Quit all those browser tab. Why do you even still have a Facebook account? Fuck off. Open up the top buttons of you jacket. Maybe even get some junkfood on the way home, you’re drunk anyways. And you can’t count calories while you’re drunk, right?
It’s quite interesting, that winding down, just after midnight on a Friday, Saturday technically, after all the stress of the week is gone, after all the meetings are done, the emails are sent. Open up that list of movies you still want to see, look up which of them can be found on Netflix. End up at The Pirate Bay because none of them can be found elsewhere.
Open up that brightly coloured box with ‘Chicken McNuggets’ printed in big bold letters on the top. You can’t count calories while you’re drunk.
Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow is a new day.
And thankfully not a weekday.
Almost exactly a year ago I left London, and more importantly, the company I had built there with two colleagues-turned-friends. I promised them to be back in September, October at the latest.
I moved from my small room near Liverpool Street Station into an one-bedroom apartment in Amsterdam near Dam Square. I started part-time studying English literature and linguistics, joined a student association, got college friends. Next to that I went back to work nearly full-time on the company I started when I was 15.
A year has passed. Last month I went with my study association to Manchester, and started noticing all the stuff I had fallen in love with that I had missed since moving to Amsterdam: the chains I started depending on (Caffè Nero, M&S), the people, the shapes and colours of the street signs.
The company I left turned from a team of 4 into a VC-funded 10-person operation. The guy that took my place as CTO now manages a team of multiple developers, instead of doing everything himself like I did (I single-handedly simultaneously created two web apps, a mobile app, and an API platform, making every day since then feel more unproductive than ever). That could have been me. People tend to ask why I left a startup that was popular, gaining investor attention, and built on the foundation of one of the greatest teams of people I have had the pleasure to work with so far.
The short answer is that, as a 19-years old kid, I was looking for as many challenges I could find. London started feeling like a safe place, which I didn’t like, I wanted to get out of my comfort zone. Away from that steady salary that was exactly the same every month.
Right now I’m in a plane just about to fly over the coast of southern England. The perfect moment for reflection. Did I get my adventure, my moments of discomfort? Hell yeah. I’m not even sure when I’ll be able to pay rent this month. (If my landlord would for some strange coincidence happen to read this: anytime now, I promise!) Regrets? Nope. I’ve earned so many new experiences, got to meet so many cool new people, and I get to work every day to solve a new set of challenges.
That being said, it’s been a year in Amsterdam, so it might slowly be time to go somewhere else sometime soon…
Tomorrow I’m going to the office of my old company, to check in with my friends that I haven’t seen for quite a while, and hopefully learn some lessons from hearing the stories about their past year.
It’s strange how you can lose sight of being yourself in everyday life.
You work, eat, sleep, get drunk, occasionally sleep with other people, but more often just wish you could sleep alone, and repeat. Your Spotify playlists combine Drake and The Eagles, “Passionfruit” and “Life in the Fast Lane” back to back.
You don’t care about working out, but spend a lot of time in front of the mirror every day to fix your hair. Your routine involves working from 8pm to 8am, then realising you have a meeting at noon.
You feel like being in a relationship wouldn’t work for you at this point and that you need space, but also feel lonely whenever you’re not around your friends. Your friends include people in their mid thirties that haven’t figured out that much more stuff than you, but seem infinitely more satisfied with that fact.
You eat healthy, but your alcohol use (and adjoined fast food habits) and constant sleep deprivation totally undermine any positive effects that might have on your health. Your dentist always tells you your teeth are in perfect shape, making you wonder how in the holy heavens that is possible.
You constantly wonder who you are or how much you know about what being you actually means. Your 250-word story on Medium doesn’t answer that question one bit, but does give you something new to tweet about three times over the next week.
For the past few evenings, I have heard some kind of music coming from my upstairs neighbour’s apartment. I’m pretty sure it’s the background music of some game, or some kind of pop song, but through the ceiling it sounds to me like the soundtrack of the Titanic movie, or at least the version I had to practice for my keyboard lessons back when I was eleven.
I’m not eleven anymore, haven’t been for a while. Now I’m a 20-year old guy sipping from his glass of vodka, getting drunk alone. Some would call me a man, and I try to act like I am a man as well. But the truth is that I’m just that same child, getting frustrated about not being able to comfortably switch between the cords in the song. But now I’m frustrated about being alone, without money, without luck, it seems, without clear aspirations about the future. Now I’m frustrated about not knowing who I am or who I will be, when I’ll be, whether I’ll be anything at all.
I’ll guess the road forward is quite clear though, and still the same as it was for the eleven year old me: put the sheet music back into the folder, and practice again tomorrow for another 20 minutes, and the day after, until I’m able to play those cords perfectly.
I’d like to think that we live two types of lives: a idealistic one, and a materialistic one. And we live those two lives simultaneously, always trying (or failing) to strike a balance between the two.
This month I’m leaving London, after having lived here for more than a year. And between all of the emotions that causes, there’s one thing I feel extremely good about: I once more was able to reduce my materialistic life to something that fits into one suitcase and a backpack.
I get great joy out of throwing stuff away. I am privileged in that I really only need this metal slab that I’m currently typing this on, and some cables, to work and advance my career. Other than that I carry a phone, a notebook, a pile of unread novels, my high school yearbook, and a few sets of clothes.
“It is the preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else that prevents us from living freely and nobly.” ― Bertrand Russell
Late Friday night, walking home from work at 10pm, I had a realisation. I walked throughout the centre of London, drunk and jolly people all around, a group of girls hurrying to get somewhere. I realised a very basic thing, a feeling that I haven’t experienced a lot since I moved to this city: I’ve got time.
Everyone around me always seems to be rushing. I always seem to be rushing. Not tonight. Tonight I’ve got time. I leave the train station behind me, see the tourists, running, shoving and pushing, trying to catch a train or an airplane. Normally I’d feel bad for them, but tonight, I’ve got time.
I might just take a detour and sit on a bench near the park for a while, and look at the people passing by. I might start a conversation with a homeless person. I might write another page for that novel that I’ll never finish. I’ve got time.
I might go and have a chat with the cute girl that always works the late shift at the train station flower shop. I won’t care if she does or does not like me. I won’t care about my first impression. I’ve got time.
We don’t understand why today it is easier to order something from a warehouse hundreds of miles away than locating that same product in a shop near you. That’s why NearSt is making the inventory of local shops searchable for nearby shoppers.
The challenge there is that most independent shops either use no system at all to manage their stock, or use a PC with Windows XP, looking like it might catch fire every second, with some unstructured Excel file or a very 1998-looking point of sale system as their primary inventory management tool.
And then there are the large high street chains, many of which that do offer click&collect, but it generally takes them at learst 4 hours from the point you click ‘Buy’ on their website to find out if they actually have the product in the shop and accept your order.
At NearSt, we’ve built a technology platform that works with almost any type of inventory management, and can put most shops online in front of mobile shoppers in less than 15 minutes.
It has been a great year, with lot’s of great challenges, goals reached, panic, happiness, pints, and stress about AWS auto scaling groups. The New York Times even talked about our tech:
NearSt is allowing stores to innovate on a more fundamental level: convenience.
New York Times, June 2016
But unfortunately I need to move on. A few months from now I’ll be starting my university studies in Amsterdam, and so we’re looking for a lead backend developer, someone that can accompany my great co-founders (and, by now, close friends) in the next chapter of supporting local communities, and allowing people to shop locally faster than online.
If you have slammed your head on the keyboard before, thereby creating an algorithm that cannot possibly be described in terms of the big O notation (🤕), and you are up for a new challenge, check out the job description and drop us a line.
Otherwise, I would really appreciate it if you would check out near.st and let me know what you think!
Oh yes, and I’m going to miss London. 👻 No, I really will!