Reflecting on 2022, Looking Ahead to 2023

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

This is one of those cliched posts: Reflection on the year that's ending, and talking about goals and whatnot for next year. They're cliche, but they're also useful. The planning and reflecting process is a useful one, and sharing openly means other people can come along and learn with me.

Reflecting on the year

This year has been one hell of a year. I feel like I say that every year, but this one had way more in it than usual, or it feels that way.

Here are some of the highlights (or lowlights) in roughly chronological order. Of course, there's a lot more going on in my life than this, but I'm omitting family-related things.

I started the year in one of my deepest episodes of depression, and recovered from it successfully through a combination of therapy and a higher dose of my medication. This is the first time I've managed to use therapy as an effective tool, and it was tremendously helpful. I feel better equipped for the next time, and I suspect there will be a next time. I'm scared of it, because this one was bad, but I'm also more prepared for it than I was this time.

Russia invaded Ukraine, and I quit Twitter. This one I don't think needs a lot of expounding. It's been major news for the whole year, anyway. It hit me really had and I quit the last social media I was on (Twitter) as a result. I also had to stop reading a book shortly into it, because it was dwelling on a child dying.

My employer did a round of layoffs. I'm not going to share much about this publicly (not sure what I can, frankly, and I also want to keep my blog completely disconnected from work), except to say that the company has transformed into the ideal company for me at this stage. We have four-day work weeks now, and we also added a sabbatical program which I piloted. I still get some good technical challenges, but even more, we've leaned into the culture and flexibility that were keeping me there. For what I want to do right now, I cannot imagine a better place to be.

I did a 12-week batch at the Recurse Center. I've written about this previously in my return statement, but some bears repeating. It was a life-changing and formative experience. I went in expecting to be jazzed about databases and learn a lot. I did learn a lot about databases, but also a whole heck of a lot about myself. Which kinda leads into...

I use they/them pronouns now. I don't know fully what this all means, and I'm working on figuring out how this affects my life, or if it does. But I'm much more comfortable in myself now than I ever have been before. Also, my painted nails look fantastic. Going out for some glitter nail polish tomorrow to ring in the new year right. I haven't told a ton of people yet, so if you're reading this and a family member or friend: please reach out and say hi, I'd love to talk about it!

I wrote over 36,000 words on this blog. This was from 30 posts, including this one. This is more than I've written in any previous year. I used to write about 5,000 words per year across four to eight blog posts. The main thing is that I got into a good rhythm of writing at RC, and remembered how important it is to me. I got over my preciousness about my blog (not everything can or should be profound!), and in the process put out more good blog posts by releasing more in general.

The iconic mill in Kent, Ohio burned. This one is still a big open question for me, because a big part of it burned. What we don't know yet is the extent of the damage. Will the grain towers also have to come down due to the heat damage, or are they safe? This is an iconic building, and it was a big part of my experience in Kent. It was also one of the last remaining physical connections to my Grandpa Bill.

Inflation continued to rage. This is on the minds of probably everyone who has to work to make a living. (I did overhear a VC ask "Are people really feeling like they're earning less because of inflation?" Tell me you're a VC without telling me you're a VC.) This has an obvious cost to me, and it also makes everything feel different. The market is not running wild the way it was a year ago, so everything feels more constrained.

I'm sure I'm forgetting other thing that happened this year, but that's a lot of it as far as I can remember!

So... Lots happened, and it was a turbulent year. And yet, I come out feeling much more stable in myself. It's weird to say that when the world feels remarkably unstable right now, especially after having survived layoffs recently. But it's true: I'm more stable in myself and feel markedly more comfortable in myself.

During this year, especially during my time at RC, I really discovered who I am. I'm a software engineer, writer, and parent. I love all these in their own ways and they occupy different places in my life. I've let go of some other facets of identity; most notably, aspirations for building a startup.

Looking forward to next year

So, what will next year look like? Any predictions would be folly. But I've spent some time thinking about what I want next year to look like, and what I do or don't want to do. So, I have a few goals and more non-goals of things I explicitly want to not do.

I want to keep writing. I'm not going to set hard goals around word count or anything, but I do want to publish a blog post at least once every two weeks. That's 1/4 as many as I was putting out during RC, and I think it's sustainable. Hopefully I'll overshoot! My running has taught me that having a goal, though, having a plan, is essential for keeping forward momentum.

I will not put any side projects into production. One of my bad habits is starting on a project and letting it expand in scope until it has world-changing aspirations. This detracts from my learning and adds tremendous stress to the whole thing. Instead, I'll let each project serve its purpose for what I want to learn and write about, then let it go.

I don't want to learn about DevOps (on my own time). This was one of those things I learned this year. There's a lot there, and it's super important, but it's not for me. I'd like to spend as little time as possible learning about it (beyond what my job requires during work hours).

I want to stay active in the RC community. This community has been an instrumental part of my transformation this year, of my finding my footing and internal stability. I'm a better person for it. I'm privileged to be able to continue participating as an alum, and I'm going to stick around and keep working and learning and helping.

I want to establish habits for my learning. I've started on this already: I'm waking up earlier to slot in some time for programming or chess study before the kids get up. I'm going to make sure I find a rhythm that works for me (my first pass resulted in a sleep deficit) so that I can keep working on my programming, writing, and chess study.

I want to keep in touch with people. I have made so many new friends at RC, and I've also started reaching out to some old friends who I lost contact with. I've started setting up a habit process for staying in touch with people, and I want to stick with it. Social connections are important, and I can improve them with deliberate effort.

I think that's it! 2023 has the potential to be a fantastic year. Let's hope for a more peaceful, democratic, and healthy year than 2022. At any rate, I'll see you on the other side of New Years!

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