Remembering Mental Health, and the Importance of Being Earnest

Nope, it's Lily
10 min readFeb 20, 2021

One of my favorite comments when I started first appearing in media around the dawn of the Gamestop saga (ages ago in internet time, last month in reality) was along the lines of “I honestly didn’t believe you were a real person, I thought your photo was generated from”. It was innocent and on its face almost a compliment; throughout my life, and especially since I started in trading communities, for one reason or another I was always compared to an AI, usually in an assumably-complimentary way.

Much like our ersatz internet hero of the monomyth Keith Gill (the Roaring Kitty), I am a real person, not a cat. To back up on things, this whole experience since January has felt largely surreal to me, and perhaps surreal to those close to me. It’s not a usual story, by any means.

I wanted to write a post however, explaining that at the end of the day, I am a real person, just like everyone else. My name is Lily Francus, and I was formerly a software engineer in another life, and perhaps a bioinformatics doctoral student in this one. Perhaps a trader, perhaps a quantitative researcher (shameless plug for my own research). I’m not writing this post as some eulogy to myself; in general, I try to live in the world of ideas and not of people. In fact, I want to write this post specifically to dispel some notions others affix to me, and make sure my readers know quite clearly the very human struggles and handicaps I have.

The Virtual Era

I think most of us can relate to the sentiment that our mental health got worse during the COVID-19 era. In the beginning, there was a sense of fear mixed with novelty as we were confined to our houses. I specifically remember the Zoom parties, where old friends became new again, with the allure of penpals. It was almost fun to be confined at home as the world around us crumbled; working from home was such a luxury compared to taking the BART for me, or as I affectionately call it, the Petri Dish Express.

I had always paid attention to the markets, but it took a new dimension for me — and probably millions of others — once the pandemic started. It suddenly became possible to hold a job while trading on the side. I’m one to always publicly underestimate myself, but in private overestimate my own abilities. It made sense to multi-task and try working and trading, and also preparing to go to graduate school (which I…