Turning 40 coincided with the start of two major lifelong journeys, while I also grew into some important, enduring parts of myself.

Marriage = shared dreams and projects

On the first weekend of the year, during a surprise trip to Sedona, I proposed to Kate. Five months later, we were married.

Life has felt different since the engagement. It produced a new entity: one that dreams in decades, dreams of a family and home we hope to build, and lays a strong foundation for both of us as individuals. I feel stronger with Kate, and have a reason to get stronger still.

We planned and threw three wedding events: an engagement party with my family in Jodhpur, a wedding ceremony with hers in Sarasota, and a house-party reception for our friends in Brooklyn. We learned a ton about event planning, explored "the art of gathering", refined our shared values around money, aesthetics, and more, and learned how to communicate clearly under pressure, the way strong teams do.

I like that marriages start with a big shared project, nowhere near the toughest project we'll take on together.

Motivated home improvements

The party for our friends was especially fun to plan. We considered renting a venue, but the plan only started to feel like our own when we decided to host the party at home. Our home reflects and reveals our inner lives, so we loved the idea of our friends seeing more of us by being there.

We used the party as a catalyst for all kinds of home improvements. We chopped bamboo and pressure washed the backyard, rearranged rooms and bought new rugs, hung up art and lamps and handmade paper flowers - things to prepare for the party that live on and make our life better today.

A full house

Our spot was always meant to host friends and families for short and long stays, and 14 people spent at least a night at our place, 10 of whom stayed for a week or more!

There were two notable guests:

The first has a backstory: I was married once before. We separated soon after, 7 years ago, but the divorce took some time, and officially went through at the very beginning of 2023. When we separated, we decided that though one chapter was ending, we would remain family forever. We have, and this year she visited and stayed with us, along with her partner, a wonderful man. It was a family introduction and a reunion, and a lovely moment.

The other notable house guest brought a gift with him that has reshaped my life. Vinny, my oldest and dearest friend, stayed for over a month, and brought warmth, joy, music, and a tennis racket.

Enter tennis

I had always known that I would play tennis one day, the way my grandfather had into his old age, but it was somehow always in the future. Thanks to Vinny's visit, the Pro-Staff he gave me, and his never-ending desire to hit, I unlocked tennis in 2023, became obsessed with it, and it has become an integral part of my life. I wrote about my tennis journey here.

Besides tennis, I surfed in Costa Rica, restarted bouldering after a back injury and stopped again because of a finger injury, started a morning stretching routine that I think prevents injuries, and discovered the joy of Zone 2 running. I plan to do a lot of each of these in 2024.

Writing about doing

I wrote and shared three things. My most read piece was "What I learned at Google", which struck a chord on Hacker News, was read by multiple people I respect, and brought in dozens of inbound messages from friends and strangers. It took one week and one day to write, with a six month gap between those two events.

The high of going 'viral' made me want to write more, but as I searched for another topic I realized that writing only comes easily when it's about something I've done, so I reoriented my thinking: I want to write publicly because writing is a way to find and connect with people, and in order to have things to write about, I need to do more things.

The two other pieces were also about things I did. I had been playing with AI embeddings and found them to be a simple and powerful tool to solve a bunch of search and recommendation problems at Maven, so I wrote a guide for creating, storing, and using embeddings.

Later in the year, as I approached my one year tennis anniversary, a colleague asked me how I improved so much at it, and I turned my Slack reply to him into a blog post about how I got decent at tennis.

shreyans.org as my home on the Internet

I've had this site for a while, but I added more to it in 2023 than in most other years. It now feels like my studio - a place to play and display ideas without hesitation or constraint. Besides my writing, I added:

Art out in the world

I've been meaning to do something with my two decades of photos, especially ones from India. I used to think I'd look for a gallery to show them, but, that ain't me.

Instead, I put them up on the streets, permissionless, available for all. I found a printer nearby, whipped up some stovetop wheatpaste, and headed out at 4am to put up some prints.

I walk past them every day, as do hundreds of others. I've replaced each location once, and hope to do more of it in 2024.

A beautiful little side story to this is from a friend's ongoing photo project. I suggested he also make some prints to wheatpaste, which was another nudge towards him putting together a zine and some posters and printing them with the help of the same printer. Maybe those posters will add to a street's charm one day.

Furniture building 101

There's an ambitious seating/shelving unit we've been thinking of building, so to warm up, we started with something simple, some shelving to clean up and consolidate a few things in the guest room. It was fun to saw and screw, though I measured twice and still got something a little off.

Dead and Co

My two favorite musical discoveries this year were The Grateful Dead and Billy Strings.

Billy Strings has a depth to his voice beyond his years and can pick guitar strings like someone who's done it for 50 years, though he's barely over 30. His cover of Don't Think Twice, It's Alright might be my favorite version of the song. Here's a live set from Red Rocks of his 4-5 person band, and here's him displaying his virtuosity on a classic guitar. We saw him in Bridgeport, CT, and are considering going to Montana to see him in July 2024.

I discovered The Grateful Dead pretty late for someone who loves guitar solos and classic rock, but I'm glad I did before Dead and Company's final tour this summer. Their show at Citi Field was incredible, and bless em and their tapers, because there are endless full sets available on YouTube, like this one from 1981.

A smaller musical highlight from the year, in a different direction, was Skrillex, Four Tet, and Fred Again's closing set at Coachella. Frank Ocean bailed, they jumped to fill in, and gave us an A+ display of mixing excellence and joyous camaraderie. This set needs to be watched, not just heard, because so much of the magic is in watching them enjoy each other's company.

Outward appearance

I made a couple of small changes to my outward style.

  • I got a ring :) My wedding band is a simple, thin silver ring made by a friend, and was meant to be a placeholder but has stuck around. I looked for a gold ring but didn't like the look of it, and haven't found a ring I like better.
  • I got two bracelets, both silver. Small pieces of jewelery can make a big difference. These will probably stick around.
  • I got my first pair of blue jeans in a decade. Light blue Levis 501s. Classics. I felt more American the minute I put them on.
  • Along with Kate, I'm leaning into some classic, classy items, like loafers, or nice linen shirts. Let's see where this goes.

Saw family more than ever

I moved away from my family in Asia 22 years ago, with no specific plan to stay or return. I used to see them once a year, either in Indonesia, or India. Over covid that dropped to 0 times a year, but this year, it rebounded with a vengeance.

Between the engagement party in India, the wedding in Sarasota, and a visit to Indonesia for my mom's 60th birthday, I saw my parents three times this year, a record. I hope the new normal is more like this.

Other notable things

  • Cooked more than ever, though this is really a story for 2024.
  • Upped my daily protein intake via greek yogurt, eggs, and a great protein powder for afternoon smoothie bowls.
    • I finally put on some weight, up to 160lbs (72.5kg) from ~152lbs (69kg) at the start of the year.
  • After a decade of dreaming about playing video games again, I got an Xbox and have steadily improved at Call of Duty by playing 30 minutes a night.
  • I photographed an old friend's city hall wedding and took some beautiful pics of a beautiful couple.
  • Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit and Chicken Run were probably my two favorite movies of the year, both hilarious and brilliant claymation films. W&G consistently had me lol-ing, with two clever jokes in pretty much every frame.
  • I could write a whole post about the things Kate did this year, but especially notable were the veggies she grew, the refillery that powers our pantry, her mini book binding and other crafts, and her general move towards homesteading.
  • Maven's marketplace hit puberty: we built and shipped a long list of things, our marketplace steadily launched great courses and produced more value for instructors, and despite the many changes this year, we hit our stride as a team.

None of the things I did this year would have felt or meant the same if not for the people I did them with. Much love to each and every one of you. Thank you for making this life what it is.

January 7, 2024