Three months ago, I had a dream my mom died while cryocrastinating, and I decided to finally start the process. I quickly found that it was ridiculously hard to figure out what the process even was, and I thought, "huh, someone should really write a guide on how to do this." And lo, I just spent the past three months writing that guide. It is 24,000 words long and took up about 90% of my working hours for the past three months.
I knew very little about cryonics before starting the sequence. It took me about five years after first encountering the idea on LessWrong to feel comfortable enough with it that I wanted to sign up. I still think it's an incredibly long shot, and I'm probably just using it the way many people use religion – to stave off my crippling fear of death. I'm just some random person, not an 'official expert' or even someone who's that deeply invested.
But I've already said everything I want to say about cryonics itself. This post is about the other things I've learned.
First, I learned that I have a really great intellectual support community. Most of my questions were fielded by former housemates, coworkers, and erstwhile acquaintances. Mati Roy was super helpful – he's a knowledgeable and committed cryonicist who's embedded in all of the relevant conversations. My mom and sister (both writers and editors in their own right) helped with last-minute proofreading. And Habryka was a real sport all the times I got so confused about life insurance that I was on the verge of tears (which happened periodically throughout the entire three months); he even let me call him about it in the middle of the workday once.
But more importantly for me, I learned that I am capable of figuring things out and building an understanding of new areas. The skill of "research" always seemed to me like a total black box, and I was told repeatedly it was a skill I didn't have – first when I washed out of the GiveWell Research Analyst application process at the first step (right after college), and later when I was put in a role where I was supposed to do research and was repeatedly given frankly hurtful negative feedback that amounted to little more than "you are bad at this, why aren't you better?" I figured that the people around me who were doing "research" knew some magic secret that I didn't, and I felt paralyzed and fell further and further behind.
But it turns out that "research" just means googling things, reading the relevant results, and writing and talking through things until you understand them. You don't need to have a fancy title or major in anything specific; you can just open your computer and do research, any time you want. If anyone had explained that to me back in that role, I probably wouldn't have failed so hard.
Relatedly, in a recent job, my boss and I both decided I wasn't good at working on large, loosely structured projects with no externally imposed deadlines. This was partly a matter of choice (I wanted bite-sized assignments so that I'd never have to take my work home with me), but it was also based on a time when my boss asked me to do a thing due in two months and I basically completely forgot and didn't ever make a real effort. So, it was really cool, while working on the cryonics sequence, to destroy the part of my self-narrative that said I was bad at large, self-directed projects.
I also grew up quite financially illiterate, in an activist environment, with parents who kept all of their assets in cash because they thought "investing is just gambling." So I'm particularly proud of having gotten such a good grasp on the life insurance landscape, even if my understanding is imperfect. That's the type of thing I was raised to be afraid of – and I totally was afraid of it – but I kept going anyway. Pretty cool.
I am super done with writing for today, so, the end.