2020-2021 Birthday Year in Review

It's too clichéd to do these year in review things at the beginning of a new calendar year, as everyone does them then. So as usual I'm going to be different and try doing them around birthdays instead.

Today I turned 27. As a result, even though it wasn't a really significant birthday, I've been contemplating my life and its goals, including what I want to achieve in the future. This is an attempt to write the public portions, in order to have something to look back on and compare and contrast later years – provided I still have the attention span to write a follow-up in April 2022.

Things I did last year

  • Spent April and May (and pretty much all of the rest of the summer, it felt like) doing some super impactful work on the UK Government's coronavirus response, helping people get food parcels and generally understand what was happening.
  • Switched jobs in September, to what was my dream job. It was not easy. Third time lucky, as they say.
  • At the beginning of April 2021 I passed probation at the previously mentioned new job, and received a bonus for what my manager called "an outstanding onboarding". Clearly I made the right choice at the right time. It's not been entirely plain-sailing (going back to doing a fully "individual contributor" coding role after so long in some kind of "lots of meetings, planning, tech lead and occasionally code" space was and still is an adjustment), but I've learnt from the things I've not done so well at.
  • Got an Xbox and got into building LEGO models, which forced me to learn how to relax. That's been really fun! On the Xbox side I've played a lot of Forza Horizon, Steep and Cloudpunk. LEGO-wise I've built the International Space Station, some mini dinosaurs, and the treehouse which was a bigger undertaking than I expected.
  • On the topic of games, I've been playing this really ad-filled phone game called Water Sort Puzzle. I'm on level 331. I'm not going to try to estimate how many 30 second ads that I've watched to get to level 331 (with ads between levels, and ads to get extra moves, and ads to undo more than 5 moves per level when I really mess up) – it would be horrifying – but I refuse in-app purchases for games! I just know that it's been good to wind down at night sorting colours into tubes – and some of the ads are so bad they're good. Maybe something for this coming year is investigating iOS adblockers, if such things are allowed, or re-enabling PiHole.
  • Drastically cut down the amount of full-sugar Coca-Cola I consume, from three cans a day to one can a day only on weekends. Combined with more exercise and better food, I feel a lot better.

Things I want to do this year

  • Figure out what's next in my life. I've been trying to do that today, but there's too much. My manager at work asked me last week "what are your goals for the next six months?" and I replied "meeting you and the rest of the team". I didn't realise it would be so weird starting an entirely remote job with colleagues across a few timezones, in a pandemic where my usual social activities with "old" friends are unavailable. Should probably think of some more things.
  • As above, get vaccinated, stay safe from COVID and make it at least to the north of England and mainland Europe to see friends and meet new colleagues. If we're really lucky, maybe to the US for the first time ever. But at this point I'll settle for anything but another lockdown!
  • Build more LEGO models. I've got a Technic helicopter and a Technic Volvo truck. I've definitely bitten off more than I can chew with that last one! I'll continue work up to it with some smaller kits, I think.
  • Learn some new skills. Starting to write blog posts like this one might be a good creative outlet. Maybe some other longer-form writing? Somewhere to empty my brain of things it worries about, anyway. Not all of it will be public.
  • I've recently become a little obsessed with "productivity YouTube". Hence this blog and trying to articulate my thoughts more and find somewhere to make a "knowledge base" so that things aren't scattered around and I can keep track of everything I do. No idea how long this will last, but anything I can do to get myself out of the slump of "open Twitter, scroll Twitter, close Twitter, open Twitter..." will be a good thing. While I am well aware that I wouldn't be where I am today without Twitter and all the good it has done me over the years and all the connections I've made, doomscrolling is unhelpful.
  • Learn to speak better? I appear to have developed a stutter in the last few years. At least it has become more obvious to me recently. I can't seem to say a sentence without "um, um, er, um". Like my brain moves too fast for my mouth to keep up, or something, and formulating spoken thoughts is hard. I find it more annoying than anyone else finds it, or so they tell me. Maybe it's also exacerbated by all the video calls – there aren't very many social cues about preparing to speak, and when I'm excited and/or anxious about something it's worse. I base that on the fact that when I'm completely relaxed and having fun it's usually better.
  • Teach myself more maths. After I resat my GCSE a couple of years ago, I swore never to do any exams again. But now I keep flicking through books (A Level, OU MST124) and I'm on chapter three of the first module of A Level. I'm taking it slow, but I've just gotta keep at it and not lose enthusiasm.
  • Read (or listen to) more books. I recently discovered Audible, so I'm hoping I'll finally get through the "Sapiens" series. I've increasingly found that the only time I pick up my Kindle is when I'm going to bed, then I fall asleep too soon to really get into a book. I should fix that. Maybe the books I'm reading aren't the right type of engaging for that time of night?

Things I'm grateful for

  • My family and friends – even though I've not been able to see you as much as usual – thanks for all the birthday wishes, and, for some of you, listening to me have an existential crisis every few months!
  • Ted the ginger cat, the neighbour's cat, for scratching at the door and meowing on the fence at all hours of the day to be let in for cuddles. We love him as much as he loves us!
  • The weekly audio chat games nights with old housemates, plus the "pub" video chats with some old work colleagues. They're nice and familiar and make Tuesdays and Thursdays the best days of the week. Hopefully soon I can get back to meeting up with people in person!
  • StepBet, the walking challenge app I've been using. I've generally been walking 6-10km a day every week for the last 12 weeks, up from basically zero in 2020 once I stopped commuting. It's done me the world of good. During lockdown I have appreciated the fact that we live in the countryside – there are plenty of hills, lots of greenery and not very many people!

Things that will have to wait a bit

  • My favourite singer (Delta Goodrem) is touring Australia in September. While I now have the financial means and the confidence to go, it would be impossible and irresponsible to fly all the way across the world given the current state of the pandemic, so I'll just have to wait for the future. There will always be another tour, I hope!
  • Buying a house. Maybe by the time I write 2022's Year in Review we'll have done it – or at least started looking.