Closing out 2022
Posted on January 02, 2023
Looking back on all that happened over the last year, or any year really, it can be a challenge to say definitively if it was a good year or a bad one. Most years tend to be mixed bag.
We might past the chaos that was 2020 and 2021, but a return to normal—normal here being not in constant state of existential dread—still remains elusive. Though, as a society, we are over the pandemic, the pandemic is nowhere near over. Our democracy survived another election, but it is still under threat. There’s a million other things, too many to list here, that if you told anyone four years ago would be happening, all at once, they’d be living in a doomsday bunker.
Yet we’re all still here, pushing along, pushing against all of what seems unsurmountable. What other choice do we have but to push on, really? In order to find that way forward, however, we have to get better at recognizing what we can control and what we cannot. I feel like for me, those have been the theme of 2022 more than anything.
A deep loss
My grandma passed away over the summer this year. She lived much longer than most. She had been suffering from Alzheimer’s for a few years and was living in a nursing home when she came down with COVID. While she survived the infection, she never quite recovered. I think it was combination of COVID and Alzheimer’s that ultimately did her in.
After it was clear that there would never be a moment when she would pull through, it was one of the hardest periods I’ve had to go through. But it also a time of clarity. There was nothing I could do but be there for her, talk to her, tell her stories, show her pictures of the dogs, or just be a presence in the room. I also spent a lot of time on the phone with my family because my grandma wasn’t the only one with COVID.
When she finally passed, she passed peacefully. I wish I can say all the days leading up to that point were like that. But that day in July brought an end to her ordeal and a reminder of how important our connections are the role we all play in the certainty that isn’t taxes.
We’ve had other reminders in the family that our time together will never be guaranteed. I’ve never known much about my family history as far as the men in our family tree. I never met either of my grandfathers, both of whom died before I was born, and their circumstances aren’t widely known by anyone. I won’t get into any of the newer details—they’re not what my grandma went through—but they shook me quite a bit where I am now more proactive with my health.
Investing in health
I suppose I’m at that age where I need to think about how what I do now will affect me in my later years. Having witnessed my grandma’s ordeal and what my other family members are going through, I need to do all that I can. We don’t have kids that would help us with our affairs. I’m starting to see these things not as luxuries but as investments in my ability to function in old age. Here are some steps I’ve begun taking to preserve body and mind:
Improving diet. Eating healthy is one of the most effective ways to prevent a myriad of health issues. After a physical exam in 2021, I learned that my cholesterol was quite high, not to the point where I required medication, but it was getting close. In 2022, I lowered it by 40 points which was motivating as hell!
Regular exercise. According to my Peloton streaks, I’ve exercised regularly at least once a week for the last three years. At the start of the pandemic—timing was coincidental—we converted our basement to a gym where we have a bike, a treadmill, and floor space with various weights and contraptions. Since I began working on a fully distributed team, I no longer walk to public transportation multiple times per week. Keeping up my strength and flexibility is going to be critical to my ability to move about my space as I get older. Not to mention that after exercising, I just feel really good. I am fortunate to work somewhere that also recognizes this, and it’s never an issue to block out some time on my calendar during the day to go for a run or whatever. We’re actually encouraged to get up and move about.
Rekindling love for cycling. I used to ride my bike around 60-100 miles a week when I was single, lived in a one-bedroom condo, and had close to zero obligations or responsibilities outside of work. Putting those hours on my bike helped keep my head straight. While I’m still not riding that much, I’ve been doing 25-40 mile rides here an there, hot or cold. This is my favorite way to move around, and I’ve discovered so many other parts of the city and surrounding area I never would have seen.
Finding and maintaining hobbies. I love photography. I enjoy finding the time to bring my camera out, get some steps, and shoot whatever catches my eye. I love sitting down and selecting my favorites to edit and process. Photography has mental health benefits, and it’s also just a lot of fun. Additionally, home cooking has been a longtime hobby of mine, and I plan to take up learning guitar again.
Traveling. Traveling isn’t typically what one might consider to be an investment. It’s what my parents put off doing to save money for their retirement. In 2022, they took their first vacation in 15 years. I’m not wired that. Traveling, for me, is deeply fulfilling. Yes, it can be expensive, but we budget for it. Each trip provides a wealth of material that I will draw from for the rest of my life, from what books I read, how I interpret information, and think more broadly.
There’s a school of thought that we need to save every penny we can until we retire, which I don’t completely buy. And yes, we are saving for retirement, and we do have real estate and investment accounts. But the way I see it, the investments I put into my health, both mental and physical, will offset much more expensive and quality-of-life issues many of us face down the road. So I’m not going to delay gratification until retirement. I’m going to have a gratifying life now so I can build a gratifying life later.
While we 2022 had some horrific tragedy, there was lot that was good too. I got to experience so much of what I missed before the pandemic.
For the first time since 2019, I got to put a new stamp in my passport. This, it was the Azores, and specifically, Pico Island. The Azores are a spectacularly beautiful archipelago in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, an autonomous region of Portugal, with Pico being the second-largest by size but one of the smallest in terms of population. There isn't a single stop light on the island.
Pico’s draw is its slower pace. There’s plenty to do—if you want—or you can just relax and do nothing but take in the spectacular views with a glass of its unique (and delicious) local wines. We met with some friends from Lisbon and Fortaleza, in the northeast of Brazil.
The trip had given such large piece of what I’ve missed during the earlier years of the pandemic. I miss encountering unfamiliar places, cultures, architecture, and foods. Part of it, too, was just getting out of the U.S. for a bit. Life here has been stressful as hell over the last few years, so it was nice to escape the deluge of information and take time to reset.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention anything about work. I joined Coforma at the end of 2019 back when the company was only seven people, and was also &Partners. We grew significantly in 2021 and even more in 2022. At the time I’m writing this, our headcount is somewhere in the ballpark of 120. I never would have imagined that we’d grow like that, and it’s been one of the most exciting points of my career.
So what do you do when you have that many people and the company turns 5? You get together! This year, we held our very first #co-assemble. Since the pandemic began, this was my first time being around so many people. I’ve met almost everyone in the company by then, but only in the form of a square in Zoom call. It was so nice to see everyone in person, and that my coworkers are even more wonderful in real life (if that was even possible). The overall vibe was that you have a group of people who all work really well together professionally finally get to meet. I can’t begin to describe how much I enjoyed it.
There were a number of other factors I would say that contributed to 2022 being a great year, professionally.
- I was promoted to Senior Director of Creative Technology
- We grew our company significantly, and our engineering team by somewhere around 400%
- Our bet on our people paid off in dividends any way you measure it
- I was recognized by my peers for an award
- I gave my first talk on accessibility
Read some good books
I never have the time to read as much as I’d. Well, that’s exactly true. I often allow myself to get distracted when I really should be reading. Here are a few books that stood out in no particular order:
Caste: The Origin of Our Discontents - It’s just shocking how much about our history is sanitized and whitewashed. This book is a difficult read, but it’s a required one.
The Midnight Library - I might have opened this book exactly when I needed to. I think a lot about how quick decisions have profound impacts. Usually that’s under the context of writing code, but I think about that with my own life as well. Maybe that’s for a future post. The Midnight Library offers a bit of escapism, exploring what life would be like if you made some different decisions. It fell into a few cliches, and in some ways was a little too predictable. However the story was architected creatively and I had trouble putting this book down.
Marrying the Ketchups - The main reason I bought this book was the title. I worked in restaurants for years and married many a ketchup (and yes it’s weird and gross), so it called out to me. At the heart of it is a big, crazy, hilarious family drama, with everyone having their flaws. No weighty philosophical questions raised here, just a story with characters you know you’ve met at one point in your life.
Sea of Tranquility - There’s a moon colony, there’s time travel, there are high-speed airships, but this is not a science fiction story. It’s about humanity and what we are willing to risk to maintain it.
Looking to 2023
I don’t really do new years resolutions, but I do like to set some goals for myself that I want to focus on.
Sleep: I’m a notoriously light sleeper, and my dog is absolutely no help here. A decent night is 6 hours, and it should be 8. Listening to sleep stories on Calm has gotten me away from my phone, but I need to do better.
Reducing food waste: We kinda got started on this more seriously at the end of 2022 after a few false starts. But feels good to make use of leftovers and be more efficient with our produce.
Exercise: I exercise regularly, but I really want to exercise more regularly. Even after just 20 minutes, I feel better, both physically and mentally. I need to get better at creating calendar events to block out some time to work out. And luckily, my company encourages this.
Writing: When Space Karen purchased Twitter, I started thinking much more about going back to having my own site. I mean, I’ve been picking up that ball and dropping it so many times, I’m not sure if this will be any different. But I have been working on making it a lot easier for me to write the things I want to write on this site. Most of it is under the hood and I’m happy with how it’s coming along.
Personal relationships: The pandemic obliterated social life. Though I’m proudly vaccinated, boosted, and bivalent-boosted, my social life hasn’t quite recovered. I miss my friends. We should hang out!
There’s so much more I could say here, and I’ve already gone on for too long. Let’s do this, 2023!