Each year in my recent life seems to double the scope of the last. In 2017, I started my high school coding club, came out (twice), went to San Francisco for the first time, went to my first hackathon, got my black belt, and started working at Hack Club. In 2018, I organized my first hackathon, opened gender-neutral bathrooms at my school, moved to San Francisco for the summer to build Hack Club Bank, traveled more, helped teach sex ed, went to my first concert.
The last few years of my life were transformative beyond belief—I feel like with each passing year I became an entirely new person. 2017 was the first year as a teenager I experienced really being happy in my life, and in 2018 I did work I’m really proud of. 2019 was by far my most productive year (not being in high school sure helped!), and I found my adventures incredibly gratifying. I traveled more than I ever have, had a ton of new experiences, and arrived at real peace with my identity/image. I’m moving into a new phase of my life now (being in college), but I couldn’t have asked for a better, more Lachlan way to cap off my real “teenage years.”
I’ve assembled this website primarily in January 2020 & finished in December 2020, to archive some of my story & experiences & projects & favorite things of 2019. Enjoy looking at my life, if you’re into that!
This year started off with a bang. In January, I graduated high school (a semester) early. Balancing intense creative work with high school had long become an utterly draining juggling act of sleep deprivation, dealing with grades, and trying to build anything in the world. Though my teachers were pretty across-the-board great, leaving seemed uniquely liberating, like I could finally take flight.
The day after leaving high school, I hosted Hack Pennsylvania, the culmination of thousands of hours of work on the part of me & my incredible co-organizers (Matthew, Joy, Zane, Theo, & Jasmine). As two feet of snow fell throughout the weekend, 111 students grades 6-12 descended on my hometown in central Pennsylvania to build 40+ incredible games, robots, apps, & more. We raised $15k to make it happen, and the weekend was truly unforgettable. Our town has no real opportunities for teenagers in tech—nearly half of attendees were entirely new to coding—and helping unlock the doors to coding brought my high school coding club to a new peak. We had ice cream at midnight, a 2am dance party, & lots more…
The next day, I left for LA (first time!) for a retreat with the Hack Club team. (Hack Club is a nonprofit network of high school makers & coding club leaders around the world.) At the retreat, in the mountains of Idyllwild, CA, our remote team finally got to bond & spend a week in offline discussion mode, planning another year of work for the community.
Briefly back at home, I had the privilege to model for a pop-up fashion show put on by my LGBTQ+ youth group, opening a trans clothing exchange at a local café. It was a blast.
Never one to waste time, Zach Latta, the founder of Hack Club & my dear friend, called me about coming back to San Francisco. I packed up & moved out for 1.5 whirlwind months. In short order, based partly off my experiences running Hack Pennsylvania, we entirely redesigned & launched Hack Club Bank, our tool for high schoolers to get nonprofit bank accounts to run hackathons & nonprofits. I also stayed up for 55 hours attending Los Altos Hacks with the Hack Club team, Theo, & Kat. I went to my first Conan Gray concert. I visited Zane in Sacramento & Dynamicland in Oakland. I had an unforgettable evening with Amanda Southworth.
One standout memory from my time in San Francisco was my close friend Matthew visiting. Over a nighttime hike in the Castro, we realized our mutual affection, a night which sparked a relationship that’s made me incredibly happy all year.
But for all the advantages of being surrounded by tech, I found living in SF rather isolating and overwhelming. I was just working and sleeping, and had little to ground me as a person outside that. I returned home to take a break and see some friends, before leaving for Indiana to briefly visit Matthew and heading to a second Hack Club team retreat in Idyllwild.
Though compressed periods of stress can lead to bursts of creativity, extended periods of rested focus have few parallels. Back at home, I continued working for Hack Club, designing new pages such as Hack Camp, a design I’m incredibly proud of. Meanwhile, after starting late February, organizing heated up for Windy City Hacks, a June hackathon in Chicago led by Matthew. Matthew came for a visit, and anticipating a summer of traveling & personal time, I said goodbye to my teammates at Hack Club for the rest of the year. Attending my high school’s prom & graduation felt like a final farewell to that chapter of my life.
Soon, I headed to Chicago for Windy City Hacks. After thousands more hours of organizing by Matthew, me, & the whole team, raising nearly $14k, and days of local preparation, 160 students came from Chicago & across the Midwest for another remarkable event. It’s always deeply gratifying to watch the event finally come to fruition, but at the same time, hackathons are truly the most physically draining thing I regularly do, and always require at least the event’s duration for recuperation.
Afterwards I joined Hack Clubbers from across the country in descending on San Francisco for Hack Club/Make School’s Flagship conference, where I gave a talk on starting your first hackathon.
To end the summer, I loaded up my parents’ car and headed to New York City to start at NYU, where I’m majoring in “Interactive Media Arts” (making art with tech/code/building). At the beginning of high school I wasn’t sure if college was the right move for me, but I decided to go for 1) the social experience (”networking”) & 2) enrichment I wouldn’t get otherwise. Though I’m not going to school to learn what I want to do professionally, art school didn’t feel right, & personally I find computer science pretty uninteresting. Visiting IMA felt more like stepping into a hackathon, where I could make things I genuinely care about, so I applied last fall.
I’ve long dreamed of living in New York, & that I’m just casually writing this from the IMA building in Brooklyn is amazing. Getting to meet Tim Cook, hang out with so many friends, & randomly meet people in Washington Square Park. Attending Adulting.dev, the NYC Design Systems Coalition meetup, & seeing Conan Gray live (again!) were all highlights, as well as just exploring the city & taking the subway to new places. I spent one day getting lost on Long Island Rail Road & judging at TeenHacks LI, another day mentoring at CodeDay NYC with Melody & TJ. One especially standout weekend was a trip to Frost Valley, NY with the NYU LGBTQ+ Center. Nestled in the forest, we had deep discussions, amazing workshops, & ended the days with campfires.
My coursework (all open source) has been incredibly stimulating. I’m incredibly proud of (link cw: sexual abuse) “One Day This Kid Will Talk,” an interactive essay I wrote about queer coming-of-age. I also wrote “Imagining Worlds Post-Human”, short posts about digital storytelling, tried my hand at digital animation, made a Janelle Monáe visualizer, projection-mapped shoes, & lots more.
The semester ended with my department’s Winter Show, where undergrads & grad students present their best work. I helped create Autovendor, a subversive, interactive vending machine. I primarily exhibited Gun Funded, a website I made visualizing the gun lobby’s funding of U.S. Congress.
With that (& finals), I headed home to Pennsylvania after my first semester of college, to spend the holidays with my family before heading to Indiana to visit Matthew & friends for the New Year. I spent my last day of 2019 watching Cats.
I’m honestly the happiest I’ve ever been, getting to do creative work & travel all over the country, surrounded by amazing people who support me: Matthew, Superclub, Plum, Elliot, David, Elvin, Christine, Zach, Zoë, my family, & so many more. And thank you for caring about me enough to read this :)