Do you remember the cryptocurrency mania of late 2017? When for a few weeks, it felt like the whole world was talking about ‘Bitcoin’? I do.

First time I bought cryptocurrency? May 7th, 2017. The day I hit 1 Bitcoin? October 19th, 2017. Peak of the market (and my net worth)? December 17th, 2017. I don’t even have to look these dates up. I can recall them instantly, so burned they are into my memory as major life inflection points. Financial anniversaries. Anyone who was seriously involved in cryptocurrency during those years have similar dates in their heads.

Between January and December of 2017, the then latent cryptocurrency experienced an explosion in value, rising from $900 USD per coin to just over $20,000. That year Bitcoin officially entered the mainstream, drawing in billions of dollars of investment from regular people discovering it for the first time.

Yet I celebrate my Bitcoin anniversaries silently. That’s because in my opinion, there is almost no socially acceptable way to talk about cryptocurrencies with people who are not already involved with them. If you talk about investing in Bitcoin now, you sound snobby. If you talked about it in late 2017, you sounded like an asshole.

I am still invested in Bitcoin, and there’s much that I admire about it. Yet there was a strain of arrogance and reckless delusion that ran through much of the cryptocurrency space in 2017. That reputation still hampers it, and makes telling its story more challenging.

Many of my closest friends greatly dislike Bitcoin on financial, ecological, and social grounds. They are people who I respect, and who I want to be respected by. In 2017 a friend in my group chat with a graduate economics degree from John Hopkins waved it off as a scam. Another joked about the arrogance of crypto bros in a Facebook status.

There are many stories out there of insufferable teenagers who became millionaires overnight, and of everyday people who flew too close to the crypto sun and had their life savings obliterated. The 2017 boom produced many outlandish moments, while at the same time it’s a financial story as old as time: a lucky few made off before the rest of the world realized what was happening, and then thousands of foolish people stampeded in to their doom.

But there was more to it than that. The boom of 2017 was also a period of Bitcoin history that encapsulated the experience of modern life at the time. They were heady days, with the world only just coming to terms with new political and social realities in the wake of 2016. Social media was at its most frightening and manipulative, pushing people to affirm their reality in a sea of conflicting information. It was an era defined by a whiplashing between anxiety, delusion, powerlessness, fear, and euphoria. And it was all ushered ever onwards by bewildering and unregulated new technologies that most of us never bothered to fully understand.

This is what it was like.

The Ordinary World

First of all I’d like to think of myself as a ‘normal’ person who became involved in Bitcoin. I do not come from a computer science or finance background, and while I became involved with it far too late to qualify me as a crypto insider, I started early enough to avoid the hazardous rush of FOMO (fear of missing out) investment. This is a lay person’s experience of the event. I did not destroy my savings, and I didn’t get rich.

But consider this: at the beginning of May 2017 I had less than $100 to my name. By December 17th of that year, I owned almost $40,000 worth of Bitcoin. Far more than I earned at my job over the same period. For what my income was, I went all in. Alas, tens of thousands of dollars were later lost as I didn’t cash out at the top of the market, but it was still more than I had ever had.

All told, I invested about $12,000 in cryptocurrencies over the course of 2017 and early 2018. All of my disposable income at the time. After having converted $7,000 back into cash, as of mid 2019 I hold about $17,000 of it in a cold wallet. Yes. Even today, I still own Bitcoin. It is still a very risky investment. That $17,000 was worth $15,000 last November, and it was $7,500 in January. But there it sits, the acceptable speculative investment of my 20s.

I’d also like to say that I do not believe Bitcoin is a scam or faulty technology. It is very real, with thousands of brilliant people devoting their lives to building it. While I’m going to attack parts of the community in this article, I still have faith in it. I am not a Bitcoin hater. It may indeed go on to become a true global currency, and be worth far more than what it is now.

The Call to Adventure

So how did it all happen?

My moment of serendipity came when I met up with a high school friend for ice cream on 17th Avenue in Calgary, Canada. It was May the 6th, 2017. A Saturday.

Afterwards we went back to hang out at his apartment, where he got into the topic of Bitcoin — which I had vaguely heard of — and what a ‘big deal’ it was. He had already invested quite a bit of money into it, showing me the Blockfolio app on his phone. Bitcoin is a currency that will fit perfectly into what the world is going to turn into, he said. In light of the future of the USD and the general need for a new form of currency in the future world economy, the logic went, Bitcoin had the potential to ‘blow up’. And there will only be 21 million of them! Then he claimed that it was actually already in a bull market. At that time, 1.0 Bitcoin was worth about $1700 USD.

“Just dip your toes in. Get CoinBase, buy $100 worth and validate your account. Get a feel for it”.

From that day on, he became my trustworthy cryptocurrency guide. Always happy to answer a question, a wealth of knowledge, and a solid bull for it until 2018. He did exceedingly well in the months to come, and to this day I value his advice.

So the next day, I did it. Bam! $100 of Bitcoin on CoinBase, the primary crypto exchange, property of me. Well, not technically my property, but that’s another issue. 0.044 worth of Bitcoin, still currently valued today at $345.

And then? Not much. I had felt excited about it the day before, but after having spent $100, which was a lot of money for me at the time, I was tapped out. $100 was a lot to spend on currency that I didn’t understand, and that didn’t feel real. I had also never invested before, and felt more like I was exploring some cool thing on the Internet, not building my future.

But over the next few weeks, I dipped my toes in a few more times. By the end of the month I had put another $300 into it. A huge amount of money. I also began to understand more about how cryptocurrencies worked, but I didn’t want to spend more because I didn’t know how to get my money out again. At the time I was working for an Internet rights advocacy group and was very aware of how easy it was to get your information stolen online. Being Canadian, there were also fewer options for crypto exchanges. I took a hiatus from the whole thing in June, until I finally honed in on Quadriga, a Canadian exchange, in July. Yes, that Quadriga.

My introduction to Quadriga bolstered my confidence that I would be able to take money out again, inducing further investment. It also spurred me to explore alt coins, or other cryptocurrencies that compete with Bitcoin. I didn’t buy any. Still too scared. Still too bewildered by it all.

But I did decide to buy more Bitcoin. In an anxious fit mid way through July, I bought another $350 worth. I remember feeling intensely guilty at what I had done, sitting on the couch with my laptop in the moments afterwards. $350 on fake Internet money! What was I doing!? I immediately decided to keep it a secret. I was not going to reveal to my friends that I had been pulled into this scam.

As the summer came to an end however, I experienced a rapid transformation in how I felt about Bitcoin, and how willing I was to spend money on it. Sometime in early September, I crossed that invisible threshold wherein I began to seriously inculcate myself in the Bitcoin world. I discovered the r/Bitcoin subreddit and wider crypto community, and spent increasing amounts of time with my crypto circle of friends. The summer months had been ones of casual attention towards Bitcoin. Over the next three months, those who I chose to surround myself with, and the communities I joined, guided my identity. Bitcoin became my identity.

Allies

Over the course of the fall, I began to hang out with the high school crypto friend more and more often. I’d walk down from my apartment in Kensington, we’d get drinks (talk about life), then go back to his place (where we’d talk about Bitcoin), then smoke marijuana and play video games (whilst discussing Bitcoin).

My crypto hangouts took place once a week, and then twice a week. 90% of the time it would be my friend explaining cryptocurrency things to me, about 2/3rds of which I would understand. I would eventually leave to drift home, soaking up the implications of all the Bitcoin propaganda I had just heard.

The political importance of blockchain technology and its potential impact on the financial system was something that interested me, but I never had the attention span to learn how cryptocurrency technology actually worked. But, like for most people, that didn’t matter. Bitcoin was gaining prominence, and I owned some. The sky was the limit.

Increasingly these visits would include a second high school friend of ours who was also heavily invested in crypto. Those two friends were the only people who I talked to about cryptocurrency for those months. Both of them had begun investing far earlier than I had, and earned more at their jobs on top of that. I was undoubtedly the poor one of the group, the arts major amongst the business and engineering grads. I had a fraction of what they owned, which at that point was several full Bitcoins each. Having known them since high school however, it didn’t bother me in a monetary sense that they were wealthier than me. My mind had already begun to think in terms of how much Bitcoin someone owned, not how much that Bitcoin was valued at. I wanted to have a full Bitcoin the way they did, out of a sense of comparison and self worth.

Tests, Enemies

The second major life change I undertook was becoming involved in online conversations about Bitcoin. The place that primarily filled that role was Reddit. r/Bitcoin is of course the Reddit home of all things Bitcoin, where the epicentre of online discussions of the currency still take place. Long form articles about Bitcoin’s history and its anonymous/mythical creator Satoshi Nakamoto, the importance of Bitcoin from a sociopolitical perspective, FAQs about buying and selling crypto, news articles, memes; it all happens there. The community was growing tremendously in the fall of 2017, with new readers like me trying to understand the cryptocurrency world flooding in every day.

You’d be amazed at how long you can talk about something that’s making you rich. One of Bitcoin’s most robust advantages is how large and multifaceted a subject it is. Its speculative nature engenders endless discussion. Cryptography. Finance. Geopolitics. Technology. Bitcoin encompasses all of these complex topics that are all at play with one another. How much will it be worth tomorrow? A month from now? What do you think will happen when this regulation is passed or this milestone is reached? What will happen to Bitcoin if the US dollar does X? What will happen if there’s a currency crisis in some unstable country like Venezuela?

There was just so much to talk about. Entire careers have been built around reporting on the cryptocurrency world for this reason. If you were so inclined, you could block out all other events of the wider world to focus your attention exclusively on crypto. Many have.

Now take these dynamics, and supercharge them with the buzz of Bitcoin’s extraordinary price rise. Virtually every day over the fall of 2017, Bitcoin became more valuable. With that, irrational exuberance brought by the price rise began to take hold of the subreddit. The reality of how big this might become was dawning on people, and the possibility of attaining serious wealth if you played your cards right was emerging.

People began offering increasingly outlandish investment advice in online conversations, hinting at untold wealth if you just plop all of your money into Bitcoin or another cryptocurrency, and then qualify it with “but hey, it’s your money”.

“You needed to be serious about this, but also risky. This is happening now and it won’t last forever, so you need to put a lot of your money into it. Make decisions you wouldn’t otherwise make. Dive into your savings. Or your college fund. Or your mortgage.”

By mid October of 2017, 1.0 Bitcoin was worth $5600 USD, up from $1700 USD. A rise of more than 300% in just 6 months. For those versed in finance (or common sense), this is an unsustainable rise in value for such a short period. But there was no end in sight. Watching it happen from the inside, everyday bringing new purchases of Bitcoin, was intoxicating.

Then there were the alt coins. The Bitcoin tide was rising all boats, and hundreds of new cryptocurrencies were emerging to meet demand. They were all claiming that explosive, Bitcoin-level growth was just over the horizon. That was where the real ticket was. Why invest in Bitcoin, which is already so expensive, when you can buy IOTA or EOS for $1 or $2! Imagine the upside when they hit just $10! For every alt coin, there was a subreddit, a website, and a host of Youtube videos full of people screaming about the booming future price. On every seedy and non-seedy corner of the Internet, it was all positive signals. Remember, these were currencies that did not exist in the real world, and many were barely more than proof of concepts.

By late summer of 2017, excitement behind blockchain technology — then gaining public awareness for the fist time — became so strong that even regular companies were adding ‘blockchain’ to their names to get a stock market boost.

Classic investment proverbs were dolled out every once in a while in conversation, to reassure everyone that they’re not falling prey to the greed or delusion that those silly people in the past once did. No, this community has standards. This community is rational.

But yeah it’s definitely going to $40k.

“Don’t invest more than you’re willing to lose!” “The guys at the country club are the ones who got out too soon!”

Another major factor was social pressure. The one rule that everyone was expected to follow, especially in late 2017 and early 2018, was to not seriously spread FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) about Bitcoin or its future price. Like all stocks on the stock market, Bitcoin’s value is based on what people think it’s worth, not objective factors. We were all on one ship, and its mission was paramount. No loose lips.

Whenever there was a slight dip in the price, a host of threads would pop up offering calming explanations, or suggesting that the dip in price is actually good, and that we’d all been afforded a momentary ‘discount’.

As the price really began to climb and people were dumping their entire life savings into it, claiming that Bitcoin was flawed or would collapse became a tangible attack on someone’s entire financial and personal existence. The social cost of spreading FUD rose accordingly.

You cannot spread that bullshit, man. You don’t know what you’re talking about. You need to be in this game longer. Fuck you. I’m gonna be rich because of this and you’re gonna be poor. Fuck you. My whole life is riding on this.

This Time is Different

When most people look at financial hysterias, they view the participants as irrational whereas they are imminently rational, as they take a holistic view of the event. We know about how the Dotcom Bubble played out. We remember the Financial Crisis, and have probably read about the Dutch Tulip market from the 1600s, history’s most famous financial mania. How could people involved in those events have been so stupid? How could they have been so irrational when it was so obvious from the numbers that the market was going to crash?

The truth is that within these communities and moments, these historical precedents are not ignored. They’re openly discussed, because doing so helps insulate the process, not undermine it. The fact that someone acknowledges what happened in past manias allows them to claim that they know what they’re talking about this time around. This practice was common on the subreddit and wider crypto community.

Then there were the more social justice aspects of crypto, as if the monetary upside wasn’t enough. No, buying cryptocurrency was conveniently both a path to insane wealth and an act of virtue. You’re helping usher in a whole new financial era! Dare I say a new paradigm! You’re depriving the big banks of their unearned power over the masses by helping build a currency controlled by everyone!

Alongside these points in favour of it, Bitcoin’s creator (the person who wrote its original white paper) Satoshi Nakamoto, has remained anonymous to this day. This man, Satoshi, whomever he may be, emerged from the ether to release his invention in October 2009 and has not been heard from in years, despite now being worth several billion dollars (in Bitcoin). The immensity of what his creation has since accomplished, what it potentially represents in terms of emancipating humanity, and the fact that its origins are so mysterious, means that Bitcoin retains an almost religious undertone. More ammunition for its zealots.

Fake News Manifest

While the narrative of dissatisfaction with the big banks runs to the core of Bitcoin’s post-Financial Crisis genesis, it also created convenient price narratives. Since Bitcoin was fighting ‘the powers that be,’ any negative price movement could be attributed to a nebulous, malevolent force somewhere out there. The big banker scared out of his mind at what Bitcoin would do to the financial system, and was determined to defeat it with FUD.

What’s the opposite of FUD? Anything that bolsters the speculative price. An entire industry of news websites devoted exclusively to cryptocurrency news thrived in 2017, servicing the endless demand for positive market signals we were all looking for. CCN. NewsBTC. Cointelegraph. usethebitcoin.com. While many of the articles on these sites were at least marginally enlightening, many others were highly misleading. Poorly sourced stories that cited specious studies and “experts” who were constantly making extraordinarily bullish claims about the future price of crypto were being pumped out daily. These articles would show up on the Bitcoin subreddit and then spread across the wider Internet, buffering and reassuring investors that all was well. Taken together, it was a massive, self-reinforcing, global marketing effort.

This article from January 2018 claimed that “Experts Believe Bitcoin is Headed to $40,000 in 2018” (it barely reached half that). It got 670 upvotes at the time on r/Bitcoin. Here’s another from December 2017 claiming that “Study Shows Millennials Favor Bitcoin Over Traditional Banking” (they do not). 254 upvotes.

Why read an article from The New York Times or The Guardian warning that all is not well in the crypto world when you could gobble up articles from a random site affirming your wildest dreams? As time goes on and these positive messages maintain their assault on you, you begin to feel like you understand this world better than the mainstream journalists do.

These legacy institutions? They’re not ready for us. These banks that would fold if Bitcoin became mainstream? They hate us. Those mainstream outlets? They just don’t understand. They’re too old and too big, and we’re too new.

The result of all of this is that otherwise intelligent people who would decry “fake news” in any other content would eat it up when it came to Bitcoin. If you want a clear example of the how the whole phenomenon of fake news operates, look no further than the crypto sphere in late 2017 and early 2018.

Our financial destinies revolved around the price of that coin, the same way peoples’ personal destinies revolve around the maintaining of certain political narratives. Yes, the negative signals were out there. But over time, you began to simply be ignore them in favour of positive ones. Your neural pathways become rewired to seek out these stories that bring you that rush of dopamine that comes with an affirmed worldview.

We were trapped in a hurricane of conflicting signals. It was impossible to tell who really knew what they were talking about, and who to trust. The Internet had long since drained the lay person’s ability to distinguish real and fake stories. In response, we trained our brains to fulfill our reality. The boom had brought out professional hucksters of all stripes, and the Internet became awash with invisible bad actors. Who was and wasn’t bad depended entirely on how much crypto you owned.

Finally there were the crypto influencers. These sirens calling out from every direction, ready to fulfill your wildest dreams. Everyone from guys with nothing to their name but a Youtube channel to bonafide millionaires were pumping out videos and tweets hawking the latest alt coin, or offering wild-yet-rational predictions on the future Bitcoin price. There were (and are) many trustworthy people out there offering advice on Youtube, but many others who have ulterior motives. And with a market as volatile as cryptocurrency, who can you really listen to?

Many of these influencers offered nakedly obvious pump and dump schemes. They operated by users paying money to access exclusive chats and newsletters detailing the next big cryptocurrencies that are “undervalued” about to “go to the moon”. The inside scoop on the penny stock. “The public’s gonna FREAK OUT when it catches wind about PlexCoin and iFan!”. “Sign up for my EXCLUSIVE CLUB and see what my portfolio is!” The writers and major influencers who ran these operations commonly held huge stakes in these “obscure” coins that their masses of followers were then duped into buying, thus raising the price for the insiders to begin their sell off. There was no accountability for what happened, with many of these videos having since been scrubbed from the Internet.

I was aware of all of this at the time, but I didn’t change my behaviour. The times were still too good. I went through the same thought process that I can imagine the average employee at Enron or Theranos went through in the period leading to the destruction of their companies. Weren’t they aware, deep down, that their organization was built on faulty foundations? How did they internalize the implications of what was going on around them, and continue working there? Why didn’t they just leave?

The answer is complicated. I assume that every day they felt more and more anxious about what they were seeing, only to be re-energized by a charismatic speech by Ken Lay or Elizabeth Holmes. Bolstering them forward another few days or weeks until their emotional momentum started flagging again. Maybe everything around them was just so fucked up, that to even acknowledge the depth of how fucked it all was was too much for them. So they decided that what’s being said in the outside world wasn’t really real. That the only thing real was what was in front of them. What their bosses were saying. They had no choice but to be true believers.

Consider the livelihoods that were wrapped up in those corporate ships that nobody had any real control of. Breaking away from them would have been tedious and complicated, and at least for now, it would make no financial sense. Maybe just one more week, then I’ll jump ship. Wait just a little longer for the day that never comes.

By early September, my inhibitions were broken. The communities I was now a part of, the propaganda I exposed myself to, and the people I chose to surround myself with broke all my hesitations. I wanted to own a full Bitcoin. To reach that all important milestone. To really be one of the guys. To be a part of it all.

Crossing the Threshold

Over the course of ~90 days from September to mid November 2017, I spent over $7800 buying Bitcoin. To put that in perspective, I only made about $9000 in salary after taxes over that period. And that’s before paying for things like rent and food. Once those are considered, I spent more than 100% of my entire discretionary income on Bitcoin.

I became an unacknowledged radical. The vast majority of my now reasonable personal wealth existed outside the formal financial system. Simply by virtue of how valuable it became over that period, Bitcoin ballooned into 95% of my net worth. When you factored in my credit card debts, it was over 100%. This was before all the major banks banned the use of credit cards for buying cryptocurrency. It was all bought on credit. And all along, I would be nodding along to common sense articles about not investing more than 10% of your money into any given stock.

I would say that my savings were drained, but it was different. In those months, Bitcoin became my savings account. I was putting so much money into it that I wasn’t so much “investing in Bitcoin” as I was simply converting my salary from one currency into another. In my mind, my balance wasn’t actually changing. It was just existing in a different form. Moreover, it wasn’t staying still, it was exploding in value. I had transferred my money into a savings account with one of the highest returns in financial history. The thousands I had spent on Bitcoin in early September had more than doubled in value by mid November, and had done so again by mid December.

The psychological impact of spending so much money was also less than it should have been. I didn’t begin with a large sum of money and watch it go to zero. My bank account was zero from the beginning and remained that way, with an increasing amount of Bitcoin in an “alternate” account. That allowed me to pretend it wasn’t all happening. I was just broke constantly. I could pretend it was all fake money that existed on the app on my phone, that I would one day turn into real money. $40,000 doesn’t feel real when it’s not sitting in your bank account, and when you’ve never had anywhere close to that amount of money before.

As I reflected upon the implications of what was happening, my life took a numbness to it. I was rich in Internet money that I had never seen or touched. I was becoming wealthy without having logically earned it. My whole financial destiny now revolved around a technology that I fundamentally did not understand.

After all of my experience and degrees in politics, Bitcoin broke my understanding of the world. All of the changes in politics and society roaring through our current era remained within the realm of interpret-ability until the implications of what was happening to me financially finally hit me. I felt like I was cheating at the game of life somehow, powerless and ignorant of the ‘real’ functions of the world. Everyday at the back of my mind I would think ‘how is this happening? How is it fair? How is it even possible?’

There’s an incredible video of a guy being interviewed by a reporter, sometime in late November of 2017, about having invested his life savings into Bitcoin. Much of the report’s B-role is just him staring at the trading app on his computer screen, watching the candles go up and down. I can relate so deeply to that. Seeing that line move slowly upwards was like micro dosing a drug every few seconds. Endorphins would flicker through your system with every green candle, slowly diluting the impact of all other experiences in life.

You’d be amazed at how many voids can be filled with stock market success. And I had many voids in my life back then, voids that I’ve only recently come to fully acknowledge. Bitcoin filled them all.

The Ordeal

By mid November of 2017, I was well and truly tapped out. I had over $4000 in debt on my credit card, and now that I had long since passed the psychological inflection point of owning a whole Bitcoin (I was on my way to two at that point), the drive was less.

And somehow I had chosen the best possible time to stop investing. I made the decision in mid November 2017, days before the price exploded into the stratosphere and the feeding frenzy of the December 2017 crypto market really began.

On November 20th 2017, 1.0 Bitcoin was worth $8,000 USD. On December 17th, it hit $20,000 USD.

That period of twenty six days is one of my only experiences that I believe I can rightfully claim to be “surreal”. Over the course of those few weeks, my net worth tripled, hitting $40,000 from less than $14,000. Every day I would wake up, immediately check my phone, and typically be over $1000 richer than I had been the night before. My two crypto friends apparently got together one night and just sat reloading Bitfinex on their phones, becoming $20,000 wealthier in the process.

It was during that period that Bitcoin really broke into the mainstream. Suddenly it was being talked about by everyone. I would overhear people discussing it at my gym and stay silent, not wanting to be known as “the Bitcoin guy”.

The feelings of bewilderment at what was happening to me financially took on a whole new dimension that month. I was exuberant, but I also mentally checked out.

My phone was checked obsessively because in the midst of the euphoria, there was an intense anxiety as well. You didn’t just check the price to see how much it had gone up. You always knew in the back of your mind that it could go down just as fast. That anxiety kept you in check. That fear of “If I don’t cash out now, I’ll lose it all in the crash tomorrow” vs “If I cash out now, I’ll miss the massive gains that will happen tomorrow”. What would have been an exuberant month was kept back by the growing sense that we were on borrowed time.

I of course can’t claim to have foreseen when the inflection point was reached. My friends had many calculations about moving day averages, but I was just along for the ride. On December 17th, the moment came. A massive drop. A fall from $20,000 to less than $12,000 five days later. Then a jump to $17.5k, followed by an aggressive decline. The crisis we had all anticipated to be just around the corner had arrived.

I spent that period intensely focused on the price, constantly wondering whether I should sell. I did not. Neither did many others. Bitcoin’s most famous meme, “HODL,” aka “hold” your Bitcoins instead of selling, came out in full force. Everyone on the subreddit was either stoically declaring that they were in it for the long run, or offering increasingly outlandish explanations for what was happening. A textbook exercise in denial. Don’t spread FUD!

“Everyone’s selling off for tax reasons because it’s the end of the calendar year”. “December is always a rough month for Bitcoin, guys”. “A whale got spooked in China”.

But there was misery as well. Stories about destroyed riches were beginning to come out. A large percentage of people had only started buying Bitcoin in December, in many cases invested huge sums of money. The subreddit was increasingly being filled with fear and anger. Youtube videos detailing lives ruined began to emerge from the bloodbath.

Consider Bitconnect, the “high yield investment program” that collapsed in mid January 2018, unable to sustain itself with market’s rapid loss in value. It was outed as a Ponzi Scheme, having robbed hundreds of thousands of people of their life savings.

By then I had moved all of my Bitcoin onto Quadriga, allowing me to sell it at a moment’s notice. It was a risky move, in light of how much more vulnerable cryptocurrency exchanges were during that period. In a few fits of angst or a flight of fancy, I would sell half my share, and then buy it back again a few hours later.

Luckily for me, even by the end of January 2018, I had still bought low enough to be in the green. December 17th onwards was a period of anxiety for me, but not an existential one. My “net worth” went down by 50%, then only 40%, then 60%. The market tossed thousands of dollars back and forth out of Bitcoin’s price, hour by hour. It became difficult to lament the loss of money when it was fluctuating so much.

In the tumult, I tried putting more money into it a few more times (this was after my bank had banned its credit card users from buying crypto) from my chequing account after a few pay cheques. The results were less than stellar. I only knew how to invest when the price was going up. I didn’t have the brains or the brawn to day trade.

The Road Back

Three months into 2018, I was laid off from my job. For the first time, I decided to cash out $7000 of my money in real life. The rest would go into storage on a cold wallet, where it remains to this day.

That didn’t mean that my ordeal was over though. While it’s easy to switch your money back and forth between crypto and USD/CAD on an online exchange, the process of actually getting that money into your bank account is a whole other animal. It’s the part of the highest anxiety of all for crypto users, and it’s where the most money is stolen out from under people.

Picture this scenario: you decide to cash out and set up the withdrawal, but suddenly there are delays in your bank transfer. Two weeks go by, and the $500,000 life savings you’re expecting hasn’t shown up yet. Then out of nowhere, the exchange website goes down. This is what famously happened to Quadriga in late 2018, a few months after I took my own money out of it. The front page went blank, the Canadian owner having suspiciously died in India. Everyone who had money sitting on it was cut off from it forever. Hundreds of millions of dollars were lost. It turns out that the exchange had been doing illegal things for months and had long since lost liquidity. I had been lucky enough to withdraw when it still had the cash to send to me.

I had to order my money in cash. $7000 CAD worth. Their other options (this was in March of 2018) for bank transfers and other delivery methods did not work.

After four days of anxiously tracking the package across the country, it arrived. I speed walked down to my mailbox at the front of my apartment building, and took it out. You could tell immediately that it was cash in a ‘only semi legal transaction’ kind of way. I’m sure the mailman knew. A standard large package with what is clearly a letter envelop in the bottom corner, which had that soft “several dozen dollar bills stacked on top of each other” feel.

I returned to my apartment and counted the money twice. It was all there. Over two hundred $20 bills, some $100s, some $10s, and even some $5s. Nice.

Before I put the money away to deposit the next day at the bank, I did one last thing. I took all the bills out of the envelop, grasped them in my hand, and threw them over my head. The money rained down around me. Bills went everywhere, and it took a few minutes to pick them all up again, but it was worth it.

I needed some sort of catharsis, some sort of real, tangible good feeling, to make up for everything I had been through.

The Return

It’s strange to think about how I now go long periods where I don’t think about Bitcoin at all. After focusing on it every single day for a solid eight months a year ago. It’s like looking back on an old, intense relationship and noting the absence of once powerful emotions.

Now though? This December it will be two years since the crash, and many old wounds are beginning to heal. The cryptocurrency space is still very much alive, and has a lot of growing up to do yet. While I’m obviously not one to speculate, I think another boom is on the horizon.

My name is Chris. I work as a Growth Marketer.