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2020 Year Review: Finding strength in a chaotic era

Posted in Year Review

As we’re wrapping up a year which some people consider the worst year ever, never mind any year before 1980, it is time to look back on it. I hear that 1940 was awesome back in France. One could point back at 536 CE in face of which any twentieth-century catastrophe pales in comparison. That year had everything, from earthquakes to volcanos erupting and covering the sun. This means living in the dark, night and day, through famine, plagues and the likes for about eighteen months. When you think about these, you realise that regardless of how bad things feel right now, we are okay. We will be okay. Unless we die but in the grand scheme of things, it’s a bunch of details. However, today I want to focus on details, focus on myself and reflect on what this year was to me. Welcome to my 2020 year review.

As I was saying before, things weren’t great this year but far from being the worst year ever as Time magazine dramatically says. Full disclosure, I don’t read that magazine and tend to care very little about what comes out of it. Still, in comparison to some years on our lifetime, it might be the worst year to us. The worst year in the best time to be alive is still a pretty good year and I focused hard on remembering that.

All throughout the year, we went from caring very little about foreign viruses to obsessing with them. Funnily enough, I remember attending back in March 2019 when I attended the TEDx Square Mile event, there was a talk about fighting superbugs. It was the first talk actually. A talk where Dr Ravina Kullar told us about how antibiotics would end ineffective against bacterias after reaching a certain amount of cycles of humans taking antibiotics treatments. The conclusion of the talk was that we need to wash our hands properly and dry them, ideally with disposable paper towels for optimal prevention. She also mentioned it would work as effectively against viruses. You know, like COVID-19. This virus did leave a mark on the year and will have a lasting impact on the world. I could not start my 2020 year review without at least a mention. Let’s move on.

Due to this virus, things got bad for most people but not for me. Definitely not as bad as they could go for a person this year. Late last year, I bought my first home which has much more space than the flat I was renting before. Indeed, having space makes it much easier to stay at home for months at end. As a software engineer, I still got the ability to work from home and access to delivery services. The same went for many people, despite the best attempts from their companies to lure them back to their offices. Especially when there is nothing preventing them from working at home.

In spite of how good I have it, there still were downsides to this pandemic. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to go on holidays, while for some it’s always the case, I just got back on the travelling train and was looking forward to discovering new places. Napoli, Tokyo and Punta Cana were on the list this year. While these destinations are dreamy, the cancellations that hurt me the most were my Paris trips. Both on Easter and Christmas, I didn’t get to visit my family. Even though it’s been almost ten months since the introduction of the first restrictions, I find comfort in believing this is temporary. A side inconvenience is not getting money back for flights and trains but vouchers instead. Eurostar and British Airways I’m looking at you. While most companies did the same, I would have appreciated a gesture.

My final downside this year is the lack of uploading on my podcast. For most of 2019 and early 2020, I published nine episodes of “People + Drink = Words” with eleven guests. Unfortunately due to the pandemic, the guest episode recordings came to a halt. Actually, I recorded the last two just before the British government’s first lockdown mandate. After taking some time to think about it, I created a new guest-less podcast named “Maybe Daily” for which I recorded twelve episodes as I write this. While the pandemic took the former away from me, the latter came down my not prioritising it enough. I go the podcast route to enjoy live conversations which could explain my lack of interest in going solo.

Enough of the bad stuff, which really is not that bad, and turn on the blessings for this year. After gaining about five kilos through the 2019 Christmas celebrations, I dropped seven within the first couple of months. I’m guessing a couple of kilos were due to water retention and the last few were actual fat. Daily workouts and a more balanced alcohol-free diet landed me that result. Since I do enjoy a drink, the no-drink thing didn’t last long. Still, through this first push, I got back my almost daily workout habit. It wouldn’t become daily until June 9th when I decided to swap my do-nothing rest day with an hour of cardio.

Getting a home gym did help massively and will help even after the government lifts restrictions completely. So much so that I went from hardly pushing 40kg on the bench to bench-pressing 60+ kg fifty times over through bench-pressing. Even though my weight didn’t shift much after May, lifting weights helped increase my muscle mass by 3%. These physical improvements came in handy and I finally went back to playing football. 5-a-side to be precise. One of the rare activities we could enjoy under tier 2 restrictions. I even managed to score nine goals over the last two games we played early December, just before we went back under harsher restrictions.

Another thing that I am thankful for this year is getting off of Facebook and Instagram. I didn’t feel like I was getting much out of these platform as they were out of me. These felt like unnecessary distractions so I cut these off. Interestingly enough, I became active on Twitter but don’t spend nearly as much time there as I did on the other platforms. I tripled my following there in a few months, it’s stagnating now but I’m not in a rush. Just like this blog, if people enjoy it, they will subscribe and follow and I will keep sharing my thoughts and experiments.

On the tech side of things, I got my sixth star in problem-solving on Hackerrank. It’s the highest possible rank there, I didn’t even realise when I did so it was a nice surprise. Later through the year, I took on a Udemy course to finally learn Golang which I am proud to say I can use with a fair level of proficiency. I even started a blog series on building and deploying a Golang app to AWS. There are guides to deploy an app manually through the console or even through Cloudformation. Choose your poison.

Then in October, I successfully took part in Hacktoberfest for the third consecutive year. As a bonus, I even got one of my approved pull requests against a Golang repository. This year victors could choose between a white and a dark blue option, I picked the white one as the dark blue felt too close to last year’s spoils. Can’t wait to add that new t-shirt to my collection.

Next on the tech memorabilia for this year, I decided to support the Advent of Code through a donation and by getting a hoodie. This year’s collection features the sea monster we hunt during day 20 which gave me a hard time. It feels like a fitting trophy for my first AoC merch.

This year’s Advent of Code was quite particular for me, not only I kept a daily log, but also I completed it for the first time in three participations. Various things can explain why I didn’t go all the way in the previous years but I feel like writing about it daily pushed me to go and complete it. I even ranked second in my company’s London office and 7th across our offices worldwide with all fifty stars captured. What makes this even better is that I completed the challenge using Golang which I sharpened further. Four people starred the repo which is crazy considering that it’s twice the total of stars my repositories ever got on Github.

Last but not least, I got to spend Christmas with my girlfriend in a comfortable space. We got to call our families and ensure they’re healthy and safe. As long as you and your loved ones have the health you will be alright. Even if you’re alone right now, just hold on a little longer, you still have it pretty good compared to the poor bastards living in 536 CE. Take some time to put on paper what your 2020 year review looks like. There you will find at least one reason to look forward to what comes next.

What comes next here, will be some poetry to open 2021, I hope you will enjoy it. Thank you for reading my 2020 year review and I will see you all next year. Have a good one!

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