Around this time last year I had toothache. I went to the dentist. They told me that there was nothing structurally wrong with my teeth and that I was probably grinding them in my sleep due to stress.
On May 11th 2021 my toothache disappeared.
That is a true story! If it’s not a good reason to end this infernal project then I don’t know what is.
I have a theory. The overall “goodness” of the world, plotted on a line graph, would be a zig-zag. Every day it'd jump up and down and back up again over and over. The yo-yo of humanity. However, the line of best fit on this graph would always be trending up. Showing that the world is getting better. Only the tiniest smidge each year, but overall, better.
This isn't really a theory. This is something I have taught myself to use as a shield from the reality of the news articles I read each day. There is horror or disappointment or anger each time I open my phone. The comfort is the graph in my head. The one with the positively sloping line.
I also have a piece of advice. Don't commit to writing an annual blog post very close to the anniversary of a life-changing break-up. It is, as it turns out, not that enjoyable or useful to relive feelings that I thought I had shaken out of me. Distance between us made things easier and harder simultaneously.
Going through life "alone" is something I am still adjusting to, and it ain't heaps of fun.
Towards the end of 2021, work-wise, I was feeling worthless. Like a total nothing. Any confidence in my own ability had drained out of me. It felt like the longer I stayed where I was, the less able I would be to ever leave.
I was torn, so I did the only thing one can do in this situation: I messaged Nick Dunn.
On an awful, rainy day in October Nick picked me up. We drove to The Royal Standard of England1 for lunch. Nick talked sense at me. It was clear to him that I needed a new job. The next day Nick sent over a few potential job opportunities but one of them really stood out.
I applied. One interview process and a small amount of paperwork later, I had a new job.
Cheers Nick, I owe you one.
Breakroom is a startup with a social mission. We are trying to make every job a good one.
We are doing this by collecting objective data about every front-line job from the people that are actually doing the work. Then we anonymise that data and play it back, publicly, to anyone that wants to read it. We also use the data to create an overall rating for every employer. People looking for a new job can then factor in our information to make better, more informed choices about their next role.
As users start to use our data to guide their job seeking, employers with a bad rating will need to improve if they want to attract candidates. As they improve, employers that already have a good rating will need to work harder to maintain it. Thus, every job gets better.
It was the worker-first social mission that really attracted me to Breakroom. I knew I didn't want to do anything evil.
The other big attraction was Elixir, I've had "learn Elixir" on my to-do list ever since I discovered it but it was always quicker to make things in Ruby. I really didn't want to miss the chance to learn it, and also I felt like it was a really perfect way to pull myself out of the slump and discover whether I actually knew anything about programming or not.
I had one reservation about the job: I would be required to be in the office twice a week. I had grown pretty accustomed to working from home and didn't really see the point of spending all that time on a train to Big London.2
I started at Breakroom in January and so far I am having an absolute blast. It's the change I absolutely needed. Every day feels fresh and exciting whilst at the same time it feels like I have worked there my entire life. Not to mention the code is moving at a million miles an hour. I've deleted features that were written two weeks prior.
The people at Breakroom are some of the finest I have ever had the pleasure of working with. Every day is filled with laughter, collaboration, and thoughtful discussion. I feel supported, trusted, and respected. It's truly a joy to be part of the team.
There is enough space to become the best version of myself, and have already been given the chance to become a line manager for the first time in my career. I have two wonderful junior developers to support and am going to do my very best for them. I also started the #cat-pics3 Slack channel and founded Fruit Club4 and other important work related matters.
Here's hoping we figure out how to make enough money so that I can keep on being part of this team.
The usual snow holiday crew went back to Austria for some snowboarding. It was absolutely amazing. It turned out I had really missed hurtling down a snowy mountain. Naturally, I bought COVID home with me. Comeuppance for a good time.
Pete was kind enough to make me joint best-man for his wedding, along with Tom, another one of my old friends. Tom and I spent many an evening on Discord and managed to organise a stag weekend in Sheffield that seemed to go down without a hitch. We laughed, sported, axe-threw, video gamed, and danced our cares away. I had an absolutely brilliant time. Hopefully everyone else did too.
The wedding was up in a beautiful bit of Huddersfield. Pete and Kirsty did an exceptional job of crafting a day to celebrate their relationship and it was an honour to be a small part of it. And when I say "Pete and Kirsty" I think the former would be quite happy to admit that the latter had a lot more to do with it. Tom and I did double duty on the speech. I think it went down pretty well. At the very least people liked the silly hats we wore for the duration.
The following weekend Bram and Laura got married as well. I headed north again, this time all the way up to Edinburgh. Bram and Laura's wedding was totally different to Pete and Kirsty's but just as perfect. I went with them to run a Parkrun on the morning of their wedding and it was the best.
Matt was with me on all of the aforementioned trips5 and I am very lucky to have a brother that:
I can definitely imagine going on more trips with Matt, although I also remember the way he looked at me after I dragged him kicking and grumbling to the top of Arthur's Seat. We proved, with a hundred percent success rate that, if we get a burger together the night before a wedding then the weather will clear and the conditions will be quite wonderful for the big day.
One thing I would say about commuting, it has really taken its toll on the time I have available to paint. A half-finished Redemptor Dreadnought has been cluttering up my desk since the start of this year. Nothing a bit more focus and a lot less YouTube wouldn't fix though.
I joined High Wycombe Book Group again and have really enjoyed being back. I like getting pushed out of my reading comfort zone and really enjoy the value the discussions add to the experience of reading. Shout out to Neil for his commitment to building a nice collection of people. He's an excellent person himself.
Paint Pad is humming along, with 1,800 users, 1,500 recipes and a whopping 60,000 paint ownerships. People sure do like keeping track of the paints they have, it turns out. I launched a Patreon to try and cover some of the hosting costs. Five strangers are paying actual hard-earned cash money to support the thing I've made and that blows my mind.
Most recently I finished the first iteration of the Hobby Log. A way of keeping track of the projects you've finished and a love letter to the now disappeared-from-the-internet HobbyScribe. In hindsight, implementing a complicated feature, learning Tailwind and also inventing a new UI style turned out to be a bit too much for me to manage all in one go. Progress was slow, and I finished it feeling exhausted and resentful. There are a few more things I want to add before I can consider it ready for full release.
On Sara's recommendation I started doing mentoring through Black Codher, a coding bootcamp getting more Black women into technology. It's a cause I believe in and it's been fantastic getting to work with everyone at the start of their coding journeys. It's also been a really great chance for me to hone my teaching skills.
The only way to know if you know something is to explain it to someone else so they can understand it. And then explain it again because apparently KerPlunk is not a useful metaphor.
You want 'em? I got 'em. Here they are. Things:
These blog posts would be more honest if I didn't delete all the things I am too afraid to publish.8
At the start of the year I set some goals. I'll write about them next year, assuming I achieve some of them.
Two weddings down, two to go.
I've been on and off the running, as injuries work their way around my legs. I'm currently "on", and hoping I have a half marathon in me this year.
I built two mechanical keyboards. Clack clack clack.
I'm taking a break from Dota.9
There are a harrowing number of dating apps installed on my phone at the moment.
On Wednesday I'm going to my first gig since Covid. On Thursday I'm going to my second. I can't wait.
No one told me that the red bar at the top of the page interferes with the return links on the footnotes.
Hey you, reader! You're really cool. Thanks for reading, I love and appreciate you.
The pub in Hot Fuzz, no less ↩
He types, whilst sitting on a train ↩
I also created #dog-pics for balance. It is much less popular ↩
Eat an apple at 11:00. Eat two small, spherical, peelable, segmented, sweet, orange-coloured fruits at 15:00. Or any other fruit at any other time. Congrats, you're in Fruit Club too ↩
Except the stag, due to an unfortunate administrative error ↩
This podcast is my favourite thing in the world and it is awful and vulgar and wonderful and will make you stupider so I don't think I can recommend it to anyone but have a go and maybe you'll like it ↩
Ironically, I actually wrote this line and then deleted it ↩
But probably not a long enough break for it to be worth mentioning here ↩