The Big Depression (April 2023)

In 2008, I took the leap and became a freelance consultant. It was an exciting time, but it meant I was constantly on the move, flying across Europe for work. My friends would always ask where I was at any moment, and it became a running joke between us. As a matter of fact, I was going between my bases in London (UK), Zurich (Switzerland), and Milan (Italy). I also had business partners, managing six companies at my peak, mainly between the UK and Switzerland. Despite never considering myself a great entrepreneur, I managed to keep the companies afloat, paying all the bills, invoices, and wages. The companies never took off, but they eventually closed because of the challenging relationships with my business partners.

I had basically zero personal life. I was utterly exhausted. I couldn’t take it anymore. It was simply too much. I decided to get into the biggest project I ever did: simplify my life. I left all the companies I didn’t fully own.

At the end of 2018, I left Switzerland and kept only London as a company base, plus Milan, as I have a house there. Zurich is a beautiful city, but it’s too costly and wasn’t worth what was left at the end of the month. I devised a plan to phase out my Swiss business in two years. I left my apartment there. I started shutting down my beloved colocations in Switzerland and in Italy. I had so much fun, but it was more of a hassle than fun lately. And there was not enough business justification to keep them alive. I started cutting the services and everything that wasn’t strictly needed daily. Phone lines, services, and anything that could potentially put pressure on my life. I started donating hardware (I think Luca Perencin knows this well) in the colocations or in my garage.

Then the pandemic started in 2020. I was stuck in my house in Milan. I realised that my “ex-wife-to-be” had taken over all the space in my house during the last ten years. And there was little space left for me. I also wanted to extend “project simplification” to my personal life and gain additional physical space and peace of mind. I started scanning all my physical documents and binning them. I started removing my unneeded things. I decided not to buy any more hardware that was not strictly needed.

Plausibily the decision to not play with hardware anymore made me sad. But I had literally no more space at home. Especially after the renovation that my wife wanted, I was just left with a bit of space for a small desk in the second bedroom. No room for lab activities. But I was so focused on “project simplification” that I didn’t take care of those feelings.

I ended up with a single NAS in my home in Milan (with 40TB of disks) and a couple of VMs on Digital Ocean. Plus, my main laptop. And that was it. As I was basically a digital nomad, I started relying on third-party services such as Dropbox or Office365, without the “fun” of taking care of my data. I have no datacentre anymore. My “ex-wife-to-be” didn’t want “noisy” computers at home. And I wanted to simplify my life without doing sysadmin stuff (big mistake!).

I started implementing a backup strategy in case something went wrong. I categorised my data into hot, warm, and cold data. I implemented an online and off-site backup strategy. But this is where I started realising something important. My primary data was on Dropbox, and a copy of some “warm” data was on my NAS. But what data matters the most to me? What should I protect, shall I be forced to leave everything behind, or a theft happen?

And there was the devastating answer. I have some business and home critical data that takes at most 4GB. I have my flight logs, which is an Excel file of a few kilobytes. And I have my photo archive, which is of a few GBs. I realised that all my life could fit a USB stick. And not even a high-capacity one.

An enormous sense of emptiness and sadness took over my chest. At that moment, I understood I had spent all my life helping others. Business clients, business partners, family and friends. But I never built something for myself.

That, the pandemic, the realisation that I lived in abusive relationships all my life, and the willingness to transition put a high toll on my mental well-being.

This is my story. I’m still struggling with my mental health. The sense of emptiness -far more than just related to computers- is with me every day. I am slowly starting again to appreciate computers. I started buying some random hardware. And I’m bringing some services back under my control. My partner, who is also my tech buddy, is an essential part of this process, and she is encouraging me. I’m far from what I was before and struggle daily. But I appreciate small results. I was among the top runners in the world, and now I’m trying to start learning to walk again.