It's been hard to summon the energy to write this year and for a while I was strongly considering posting "This blog post intentionally left blank" instead.
Last year changed a lot of things for a lot of people. For a while I was calling it the worst year of my life.
Rach was absolutely a "one"1. I had no doubt that we would spend the rest of our lives together. Parting ways was non-trivial. I'm still unpicking the many pathways in my mind that lead back to her.
I knew that once Rach was gone, I wouldn't want to stay in the flat we had lived in together. Too many memories.
I remember calling Matt2, with a suggestion: what if we found a house and moved in together? Matt was living with our parents at the time, and I knew I needed to move, so maybe we could combine forces and find a house that both of us could call home.
To my relief, he was keen on the idea. We started hunting in the local area. We saw a few duds, had a few offers fall through, and eventually found a place that seemed too good to be true. The additional twist was that we couldn't view the house as the tenants had COVID-19. We decided to put in an offer anyway, with the caveat that we would pull out if it wasn't up to scratch when we eventually got to see it.
Once the tenants were healthy enough, we arranged a viewing. Thankfully the house was perfect: modern, clean and spacious. Offer finalised, we moved in at the end of November.
The house we found is a three storey townhouse so the next sentence I am going to write is outrageous. We have a floor each. A. Floor. Each! Two two-bedroom flats stuck together with a shared living space at the bottom. I still smile in disbelief at how lucky we are to get to live here.
Having previously hated living in a house-share with strangers, I was worried that this would be the same. Turns out that living with Matt is an absolute dream! He's actually a bit too good at being a housemate. He highlights the fact that I like to leave stuff lying around, and cut corners when I do the cleaning.
Sorry about those times I have accidentally locked you out. Sorry that it will probably happen again. And no, we don't need to buy more teaspoons. Three is more than enough.
I couldn't imagine choosing to work from home. I'd done a bit of it before when I was freelance, and eventually felt tired and alone. Returning to work in offices was like having a totally new career and I vowed never to work from home again.
"It's just not for me," I thought.
Lockdown made working from home necessary, taught me that I can do it, and that it probably makes sense when your job is making computers go beep. The idea that I would get on a train twice a day3 seems completely alien now.
It turns out I felt alone because I was alone! It was just me and the code. Working from home as part of a team is very different. I'm still part of something, I still have people to support me, and people I can support.
Due to the overall feeling in the team that working from home can be an overall benefit, the decision was made to make it permanent. We'll say our final goodbye to the office in September. I fight the temptation to go and try and find Grey Cat4 on a daily basis.
I think some of my best work this last year has been done during pair programming sessions. The blend of teaching and shipping code at the same time really appeals to me. In comparison, I've never felt quite the quantity of imposter syndrome that I have done over the last few months when working on my own.
General Products is going from strength to strength. We grew to a team of five, secured some larger clients, kept improving our workflows and codebase, shipped new features and have more in the pipeline.
A balanced diet of computer games, video chats and Zoom quizzes have kept me going during lockdown.
My gang of school friends, all of whom I hadn't seen for years, performed a dramatic U-turn as we ended up on a video call every other week. It was lovely to be seeing everyone but not lovely enough that we didn't eventually figure out the calls could be a bit more spaced out!
What began as a WhatsApp5 group to arrange some casual PC gaming ended as a 10-strong group of pals trying to become professional Valorant players. We play every Wednesday with varying degrees of success. Having played a lot of Counter-Strike back in the day, Valorant is very appealing. The game is exceptionally well made and a lot of fun. Killjoy forever.
Another WhatsApp group, this time the Warhammer one that I've been in since returning to the hobby, doubled in size as we discovered more returners. We meet every Monday on Discord for painting and chat.
With regards to the Woorammer, I finished five hundred points of Chaos Space Marines and moved on to five hundred points of their much less traditionally evil6 brothers. I would share pictures, but I figured out that my least favourite part of the hobby is trying to take half-decent photos of the things I have painted.
I took summer for granted. As the end of lockdown was within reach, I didn't make an extended effort to take advantage of the weather and get out and see people. When second lockdown slammed all the doors shut again, it was clear I had missed a big social oasis in the middle of a drought.
I picked up Pokémon Go again as it is a good excuse to hang out with Sara. I picked up Hearthstone again because there was a big revamp. I played Dota 2 because at this point I can't imagine ever stopping.
I am guilty of not giving myself enough credit for Paint Pad. People seem to really like it, and there are a good few power users that have embraced the site and upload truly useful and insightful recipes.
All I can see in it, however, are the problems. The ugly parts of the interface, awkward legacy code, and missing features. I spent a lot of time building a feature that nobody is using. The most useful thing I could be doing – making spreadsheets of paints – is also the most boring.
A combination of Paint Pad fatigue, and an idea I've had in my head for a good few years, led me to start another side project on New Year's Day. The plan was to get a proof-of-concept ready, and then take a one month sabbatical to turn that concept into something that could be shipped.
The work on it went pretty smoothly. I answered important questions and made decent progress. The final step was to integrate with a third party API, a step that I wasn't too worried about. How hard could it be?
As I started to look again, it seemed that the API I wanted to use could be deprecated. I looked for alternatives, but nothing was as satisfying as the original I'd had my eye on.
The fate of the project was sealed by an email from the support team that confirmed my suspicions: the API was retired and, with that news, so was my new side project.
I might revisit the idea again one day, but it's back on the shelf for the time being.
I migrated this blog from the silly Rails + Dropbox sync setup I had to Middleman on Netlify. I have to mention it because if I have done the job well enough you'll have no idea that anything has changed.
I'm tinkering with Paint Pad again, and hoping I can keep up the energy to ship some useful new features.
Here are some more things, presented to you in a familiar format, and also available as a collected list.
I learnt to tuoch tpye. It's going great.
I switched to using Vim in VS Code. That's going great, too.
I'm running every day8, rain or shine. It feels amazing.
Bring on the summer. I won't make the same mistake again.
I'm incredibly thankful that my worst year got better.
As soon as I'm vaccinated I'm going to hug every single one of you.
Still my favourite brother ↩
Carrying the very computer that needs to go beep ↩
Yes, I know I'm not supposed to be using WhatsApp ↩
But still bad in their unique way ↩
Inspired by one of our clients that ran every day for 1,000 days in a row! ↩