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2020 in Review

Thursday, December 31st, 2020

Nobody wants to be reminded of how much of a shitshow 2020 has been, and sadly starting a new year doesn't magically eradicate all of the problems in the world. Here in the UK things are still pretty bad worse than ever, and it's difficult not to focus on the negative events of the past 12 months as we look back and review the year.

With all that said, if there is one positive thing that I can take away from this year it is a better sense of appreciation for the smaller wins in life. So with that in mind, let's take a look back at the year in review.

The small wins

I don't remember setting any specific, trackable goals for 2020. Which is lucky, because if I did it is likely that I would have failed in every single one of them. Instead, I applied a generic goal of "be more consistent". This goal is the product of years of struggling to establish healthy habits within my life.

Thankfully, I can confidently say that this year I have been more consistent with some positive habits of my life. Here's a quick summary in numbers:

  • I meditated 365 times. I kept up a daily meditation practice and didn't miss a single day this year. This was only achievable because I set myself a small daily target of "at least 1 minute of meditation per day".
  • I wrote 357 journal entries. However, after a few months of writing long, detailed entries it began to feel like a chore. As the year progressed the journal entries became shorter and less detailed, but I would still consider it a valuable habit.
  • I read 21 books. Which is fine, but I do hope to increase this number in 2021. Some of my favourite reads of the year include Permanent Record (Edward Snowden) and The Body (Bill Bryson).

That about sums it up in terms of positive habits, and I'm ok with that. In the words of the burning house dog meme... this is fine.

The technical wins

Overall, I would say that 2020 was a good year for my journey as a web developer. I picked up a few new skills and expanded on some others. Some of my favourite tech I spent time with this year are:

  • Typescript, especially when combined with GraphQL for auto-generated types. I am loving the developer experience that comes with this tech stack at the moment.
  • TailwindCSS, used in conjunction with Styled Components. Sure, remembering the class names takes a bit of time but it is totally worth it for the speed and consistency it provides.
  • React Testing Library. This year, I spent more time testing than ever before and after completing Kent C Dodd's JavaScript Testing course I was all in on React Testing Library.
  • NextJS. Last year, I deployed my personal website using GatsbyJS. This year, it was rebuilt with NextJS. Whilst I love both frameworks, NextJS seemed to provide a slicker developer experience, especially since the release of version 10.
  • AWS. I'm not sure that I would go as far to say that I love AWS, the learning curve is steep and was it was the source of many face-to-desk moments this year. But maybe the barrier to entry is partly why it made it on to this list, successfully deploying powerful resources on push of a commit is so damn satisfying.

The not-so-much wins

This year was an unwelcome reminder that sometimes shit happens that is completely out of our control, and I learnt to be kinder to myself when things didn't quite go to plan during a global pandemic. On that note, here's a quick summary of what I did not achieve this year:

  • In 2020 I planned on publishing more content online. That did not go to plan. By the year's end, I will have written a whopping 4 articles (including this one) and uploaded one tutorial video to YouTube.
  • I planned to diversify my skill-set by exploring other areas of development, such as Rust, Dino and Go. Whilst I am happy to report that I have learnt a lot this year, my efforts have been mainly focused on JavaScript and AWS.
  • This year I started investing in index funds as a long-term saving strategy. At the start of the year I felt confident that I could invest more than the standard monthly commitment, but things did not work out that way (I definitely did not buy a PS5 👀).

When I take a step back and look at the wider events of the past 12 months, I quickly acknowledge that these setbacks are trivial. In fact, it's a surprise that I actually managed to get anything done at all without spending the majority of the year in the fetal position under my desk. The year has partly been a reminder of how resilient and adaptable we can be, I think Matt Haig summed it up perfectly here:

If we'd been told a year ago about lockdowns and daily virus briefings and excess death rates we'd have turned very pale in fear, and yet, here we are. As the cliché puts it, we have survived every day we have lived.

Oh, the lockdowns - my partner and I watched a lot of movies this year. We planned to make up for our pretty lacking previous movie catalogue by sitting through as many of the movie "classics" that we really should have already seen. We filled a bowl with snippets of paper containing what most people would consider the top 100 movies of all time and picked one out every few days. Although we didn't get through them all, we did watch a bunch of fantastic movies, including Lord of the Rings, Pulp Fiction and Forest Gump. The ultimate outcome of our movie binge is that popular movie references are no longer entirely lost on me.

Another positive aspect of the year came in the form of my full-time position as a full stack developer. Due to the crippling economic effects of the virus, I sadly witnessed many friends lose their jobs in 2020. Seeing talented people struggle to find work left me with a sense that I was walking on unsteady ground where previously I had felt a sense of naive confidence when it came to job security. As we approach the year's end, I feel extremely fortunate to be employed by a company that values work-life balance and the wellbeing of their employees.

The future

It is always difficult to say what a new year will bring and 2021 feels more unpredictable than others. Vaccinations have started rolling out across the country, which gives me hope that there is a speck of light at the end of a long, hazardous tunnel. It's very likely that the first half of 2021 will be spent hunkering down during lockdowns, working remotely and trying to avoid negative news.

With all that said, I do have some things I would like to achieve next year. However, I am not going to make any promises. In fact, I would call this my volatile list of 2021 goals...

  • Read 30 books. That's 9 more than in 2020. I'm hoping to gain some reading time by reducing the amount of wasted time on my damn phone this year.
  • Write at least 10 articles. In 2020, I published an embarrassingly low number of articles online. Next year, I am hoping to solidify any new knowledge by writing about it, too.
  • Experiment with more libraries and languages. More specificity, I would like to end 2021 having at least tinkered with:
    • Svelte
    • VueJS
    • Rust
    • Dino
  • Get married. I was due to get married to my partner of 10 years in February 2021, the date has been pushed back to July due to COVID-19. We have our fingers tightly crossed that it will happen in the summer.

I have already written more than planned, so I will wrap it up there. What a year. If the terrible events of 2020 have impacted your life, I'm sorry. I am crossing my fingers along with the rest of the world for a better year in 2021, things will eventually get better.

Hey there 👋 - I'm Luke Brown, a frontend web developer who often doesn't write about development at all.