What a fucking year, huh? A global pandemic, social unrest sparked by the continued murders of black men and women at the hands of those sworn to protect, and another heated election cycle between a qualified candidate and a petulant narcissist. I feel like I aged a thousand years while being imprisoned in a never-ending limbo within the walls of my house. I’m sure to different degrees we all have felt something similar and, if there’s one silver lining, at least we have some shared experiences after all this.

What I accomplished in 2020…

Last year I made a set of “SMART” goals and I’m happy to report that I failed on every single goal. Like literally achieved none of them.

  • I didn’t cook 10 dishes I’ve never cooked before. I made 3 or 4 experiments, but whimsical pop-ins to the store weren’t a thing anymore thanks to the pandemic.
  • I didn’t run or swim, at all.
  • I didn’t launch 5 side projects. Although, I did jettison 4 ideas, which I guess sort of counts.
  • I didn’t make diamond in Overwatch. In fact, I gave up on competitive Overwatch entirely. I lost patience with the long queue times and I opted for “arcade” modes instead, which have a much quicker turnaround with less emotional investment.

A monumental shift in priorities happened in March. In one week it went from focusing on “How am I going to grow personally and professionally this year?” to “How am I going to safely get groceries this week?” Naively, I thought if we all took precautions and abstained from large groups for a couple months, it’d be over… but no.

What happened instead…

I turned 40 in late April which is a big milestone as far as birthdays go. I got a new Pete Seeger style longneck banjo that I adore and waste hours on it playing the small catalog of clawhammer songs I know. We also stress bought a piano at the beginning of the pandemic because our son was showing interest in musical notation and we wanted to nurture that while school transitioned to virtual learning. The piano sits ignored most days but from time to time I’ll sit down and mash out some Christmas songs or old gospel standards.

My wife and I picked up a solitaire habit. She started doing it and then I got jealous watching her play, and she got sick of my over-the-shoulder “helping”, so I picked it up too. It’s a relaxing way to spend time. We’ve kept our in-person relationships limited throughout the pandemic, but with one couple that comes over we sit at our dining room table with the kids in the other room and play cards like it’s the 1920s or something. We even bought a new table to improve the experience.

The dining room table is also a virtual school as well. Hard to talk about 2020 without mentioning the extreme shift in lifestyle brought about by school closures. Virtual school is like having an obnoxious house guest over; even if you’re in an adjacent room wearing the perfect pair of headphones, you are still aware of its presence. My condolences to all parents (and statistically moms forced to leave the workforce in droves), it’s been a tough year being constantly concerned, not only about your well-being, but the well-being of your children at the cost of their socialization. It’s been a hard, awful experience.

We lost two friends this year. My friend Christopher and our neighbor Greg. Christopher was a gentle giant and a true friend. Greg was a ballet dancer and left everyone charmed with his perfect posture and southern charm. This was a hard season and we miss them dearly. Yet, as society has been on pause, their absence will not truly be felt until the next conference or block party rolls around.

Over the pandemic I more or less quit drinking alcohol and Diet Coke. This was unexpected, but alcoholic drinks are down to once or twice per week as opposed to per day. The pandemic revealed that alcohol is largely a social experience for me, so that disappeared. And without unnecessary sneak aways to the convenience store, Diet Coke disappeared too. Occasionally I’ll order a “honker” of Diet Coke from the drive thru, but even that is unnecessary. You’re supposed to get skinny when you eliminate these vices from your life, but I have not seen the miracle weight loss yet.

I walked a lot. Or maybe less. Hard to say without the school commute dictating my day-to-day. Walking is a nice refuge even if I never leave the square mile around my house. I must have walked a lot because I picked up 80 different books this year!

Book covers of all the books I read

Books are good, what else can I say. I think the volume of books I’ve read is starting to become noticeable to me. On the positive side, I’ve started taking unexpected pathways and picking up books mentioned in other books. On the negative side, most of the political biographies, pop-sci, and productivity self-help books I enjoy are starting to repeat each other. I guess there’s a limited number of zeitgeist topics and consumable academic studies to cite. Weirdly, across all these genres, there’s almost always a mention or reference to the Stanford marshmallow experiment. Maybe the universe is telling me something about my lack of patience (no doubt caused by my restless leg syndrome).

Somewhere in the midst of this blurry year I wrote 40 blog posts, spoke at 2 online conferences, did 2 live shows, recorded 51 episodes of Shoptalk, and released 13 episodes of Aside Quest. I’ll celebrate that win given the circumstances, but also, those hobbies fit well with sitting inside my home.

2021: No goals, only vibes

I forget where I heard this, maybe on Twitter, but the idea of trying to “crush it” on anything other than “exist safely” seems foolish. Why add more pressure to perform in an already stressful situation? Hopefully in the next 6 to 9 months society gets back on track with the vaccine, so I’m going to focus on getting through that.

If I do have personal goals they’re random and abstract like: Get my teeth YouTuber white or Buy more braided cables. Again, focusing on vibes in my personal life. There may be landscaping projects or a new camper in the future, but I’m taking it one step at a time.

There are two big ticket items on my professional agenda for 2021:

  1. Building an app with Paravel. We have an idea, we’re exploring it, and that’s all I can share for now. I’ll still be on client projects of course but a lot of my attention and energy is on moving a prototype to working product.
  2. Web Components. One commitment I’ve made for 2021 is to help with the newly formed Web Components Community Group spearheaded by Lea Verou and a handful of folks from companies like Salesforce, Microsoft, and Google. If you have questions, comments, or concerns about Web Components, let me know and I can do something with that feedback. I’m also on a small Open UI initiative focused on distilling what a <tabs> element might look like and part of that process is building prototypes with Web Components. I’ll also be speaking about Web Components at An Event Apart in the spring, which is exciting for me.

Other changes afoot that will impact my 2021 are that after five years on Windows I switched back to Mac and after two years, I’ve finally started on my backyard office shed. In a couple weeks I should have an entirely new workspace a dozen steps away from the virtual schoolhouse. Those two changes combined will be a significant change for me personally and professionally. I’m anxious to see how it all plays out and I’m not even sure I can quantify the quality of life upgrade it will bring.

I’ll wrap this up. What a terrible year. If you got sick, are still sick, or lost a loved one I’m sorry and I hope next year bring good tidings and not constant sorrow. If you need to vent or scream at someone rather than scream into the endless void, my DMs are open.