I had spent the day reading messages of support pouring in on Twitter, Patreon, and email, literally thousands of them. It was a life-affirming experience. Like everyone else on social media, the messages I receive are not always kind and supportive. Often the critical messages and trolls are far louder than the supporters. Our brains don't evaluate praise and criticism in equal measure - it's easy to believe the criticism and see the praise as undeserved. That’s why each little message of support makes a difference, each one helps me ignore the critics and see the impact of my work. In addition to all of the written messages, people were signing up to support me on Patreon and some were even sending bitcoin to my donation address. By the time I went to sleep, I was filled with gratitude, humbled by the overwhelmingly positive, viral response of the community.
Here’s what happened next...
I wake up on December 7th, the notifications list on my phone was too long to scroll. Hundreds more messages of support had come in while I was asleep.
Then my phone rings and I recognize the number of a dear friend. "Strange," I think. I’m not expecting a call. "Don't open your laptop yet," she says. "You got some big bitcoin donations overnight. Are you sitting down?" I sit down. I open my laptop, I look at the balance in my 1andreas bitcoin donation address.
Surprise, gratitude, fear, shock, joy, elation, anxiety. My emotions achieved a level of volatility that mirrored that of the bitcoin exchange rate. Good thing I was sitting down.
You're probably thinking that between the supportive messages and the large donations, I’d have been celebrating without a care in the world. But I'm a security professional who works in bitcoin. Could I come up with a doomsday scenario to taint this experience? Hold my beer.
I'm in a taxi on the way to the airport. I’m cycling through emotions again, a bit faster now.
Joy, Terror, Tears, Gratitude, Fear, Elation, Dread, Cold Sweat. It's a good thing I'm sitting down. I can't feel my fingers.
Wouldn't it be ironic if I get hacked and this massive donation is stolen the same day it was given? *Shudder*. That was a real possibility. Funds were sent to a vanity address, posted on my website, which was mainly used to support my habit of giving small amounts of bitcoin to strangers at meetups and conferences. Before December 6th, the address typically received small gifts each month and I emptied it every now and then in a spree of small donations.
I still can’t believe how many people have responded. I had no idea how many people could identify with the feelings expressed “In defense of optimism” and would want to show their support. I’m grateful to be a part of this community.
This vanity address is secured with a single private key which was stored on my phone in a “hot” wallet, so that I can give away bitcoin at meetups. The address has maximum public visibility and no Segwit (segregated witness) support. My security model just tipped over and I'm freaking out.
I’m so happy! This is incredible, unimaginable. My fingers are numb, in a good way. Is this really happening?!?
I have to move the funds out. Now. Right now. But I only have this key on a wallet that doesn't handle RBF (replace-by-fee), CPFP (child-pays-for-parent), and it's not a Segwit address. I'm traveling; I’m about to get on two long flights and the mempool is slammed with transactions. Of all the days!
I’m crying. Tears of joy. This is something most people never get to experience in the most meaningful of careers, a loud acknowledgement from an entire community and financial security. I’m thinking about my family members and close friends who are struggling and overjoyed at the opportunity I now have to help them.
Then it dawns on me: a perfect nightmare scenario. What if this is considered "income" in the US and I have to pay taxes at a 39.6% rate? Those taxes would be evaluated on the USD value of the donation at the time it was made, at an all-time-high price of bitcoin. If bitcoin's bubble bursts by 50% today, I will owe more taxes than the donation is worth. I will be bankrupt but will owe the IRS and those debts can't be discharged in bankruptcy. I'm going to be in debt for a decade!
I can HODL! I don’t have to keep selling to pay bills. Patreon has grown too, so I should be able to cover my expenses and build the business with their support. I can really HODL!
[Alarm buzzes on my phone]
“Boarding on Gate D15”. Pack everything back up, run to the gate. Find my seat. Unpack all my electronics. Re-establish connections. No Wifi yet. 3G if I hold my phone just so against the window. We're taking off. No Wifi at all on this flight. 4 hours, offline, me and my thoughts. What is the opposite of a state of mindfulness? Head spinning.
What if the price crashes. Should I sell some?
I'm buying a lambo (I laugh out loud at the thought of that. No, I'd never waste money on something so silly).
What if the donations had zero fees and will never confirm? What if this was all a cruel joke?
My dad will be so proud!
Turn on smartphone. Too many notifications. Turn on VPN, Tor. Sync wallet. Too slow. Too slow.
Run to the lounge. Get on Wifi. Fire up VPN, Tor. Start electrum. Import keys. Child-pays-for-parent the stuck transactions, Replace-by-fee new transactions. Careful coin selection. Send to cold storage (so glad I keep an unused cold storage address handy). Overpay fees more than ever before. 2000 satoshi per byte? Fuck yeah. This is the highest priority transaction of my life. 8 agonizing minutes. 1st block. Confirmations ripple down my screen. Exhaling... I hadn't noticed I was holding my breath.
“Boarding gate C51”. Pack everything, run to the gate. Board the plane. Unpack everything. This flight has Wifi. Bet it doesn't work. Yup, it doesn't work. 6.5 hour flight. I'll just read a book. I've read the same paragraph 8 times and don't know what it says. I'll sleep. Nope. Ok fine, I'll fret - seems I'm good at that and nothing else right now.
That was the longest flight ever. Boot up, 4G, VPN, Tor. Sync.... slow, too slow.
ANOTHER GIANT DONATION. WTF! Is this really happening? Is my wallet counting the balance incorrectly? This isn't possible. WTF IS GOING ON?
Joy, Terror, Tears, Gratitude, Fear, Elation, Dread. I’m cycling faster now.
I just emptied my wallet into cold storage and now it's carrying a ridiculous amount again. Boot up, VPN, Tor, Electrum, CPFP, RBF, cold sweat, 1 confirmation. Phew.
I realize that I just conducted the 4 biggest transactions of my life. I'm shaking. Hope I didn't screw anything up.
Finally I get to my hotel. “Long day” doesn’t even begin to describe it. I am grateful, giddy, jetlagged and exhausted, so sleep should come easy, right? Not happening. Two hours of tossing and turning while my mind is racing. In the end I just pass out from exhaustion. I wake up in a state of anxiety.
I open my inbox. I have a dozen interview requests from newspapers, TV, radio. They don’t want to talk about bitcoin. They want to talk about “my story.” It’s never been about “my story” and I’m not about to change that. Denied, denied, denied. That’s it. I’m going offline for a few days. I need time to process everything that has happened over the past couple of days and strategize about what to do next.
There are no words to adequately convey my appreciation, my gratitude.
These are life-changing gifts, but I don’t intend to change my life. I’m highly suspicious and careful about “lifestyle inflation”: I resist any urges to increase my spending as my income increases because as a self-employed entrepreneur I know my income can decrease significantly at any moment.
First, the practical side: For legal and tax reasons the gifts should remain mostly untouched for at least three years. This is a new situation and no one knows for sure how the authorities will characterize it. I wanted to HODL anyway, so that’s fine with me.
Second, and the much more important side, I love what I do. I’m obviously not going to “retire” or slow down. Receiving your messages and support has energized me and I’m excited to do more, much more.
The number of people supporting me on Patreon has grown significantly and with that support I’ll actually be able to do a lot more. And there are many things I want to do: a new website with more materials, in as many formats and languages as possible; more books; an epic tour; and that’s just the beginning! I also plan to grow my team, which serves two goals: I can get help for the things that need to be done, but I can also bring more people success and security with a steady paycheck.
While I’m excited about all of these new projects, I want you to know that the ultimate goal remains the same: to educate as many people as possible about this transformational technology and remain an independent voice, working directly for the community.
A week has passed. The one feeling that keeps returning, among the barrage of feelings, is gratitude. After taking time to process and calm down, the fear and stress is gone and all that is left is gratitude. I am so thankful for all the messages of support. I am so touched to hear stories of how my work has affected others in a positive way. I am thankful for all the donors who rallied behind me to help me in my advocacy and education.
Thank you for being so generous, so kind, so supportive; I’ll never forget this experience. Now, back to work!