2021 in Review

Dec 13, 2021

Estimated Reading Time: 7 minutes (1342 words)

I thought 2021 will great as usual for me. Turn out it didn’t. Who knows, it haven’t really end yet.

Here’s how this review will layout:

Let’s focus on the positive side of things and talk about what I have achieved this year first.

Achievements

While I perceived my 2021 as not great, in retrospective, I have actually achieved a couple of good things:

There are some extra wins for me as those achievements aren’t planned out.

Looking back, it’s not really as bad as I think it is, but part of me feel that, there’s more things I can do better in 2021. Let’s talk about those.

Failures

I failed to meet most the goals I set out to do in 2021. The only goal that I achieved so far is contribute to open source. Let’s walk through each of my failures.

Being a consistent writer

Failed to do so because of personal issues. While I manage to be consistent for a few months, I end up hitting a wall.

It’s not because I have ran out of topics to write about. It’s just I lost the “motivation” to write. I became lazy to write. Unmotivated, lazy, whatever it is.

It might also be that I’m burnout and am taking a break for doing anything. I feel less strongly than before to write down my learnings.

Sharing more of what I know

One of my goals in 2021 is to share knowledge more often. Be it writing more articles, producing screen cast or sharing useful tips in Twitter.

I ended up either doing poorly or not doing at all for all of that. Same as the failure above, it’s not because I have ran out of knowledge to share. It’s also not because I’m pursuing other more interesting meaningful work.

It’s just, I don’t feel like doing it anymore.

Learning

For learning, I categorized into tech and non tech learning. Failed at both.

The Bad

I actually started to pick back playing Ukulele and learnt to play 1 or 2 instrumental finger style music. It went really well initially. I can play the first two verses. Shit happen and I stopped.

For learning, I set out to complete CMU Database System course by the end of 2021. I listened to a few of the lectures in Youtube and started learning C++. I completed up to Chapter 19 of Programming Principle and Practice using C++. The next step for me is just attempting the C++ Primer project of the course. Then, shit happen and I stopped being engaged.

Maybe it’s the fear of failure. Maybe, I’m afraid to find out that I’m not smart enough to work through the project. Maybe. Regardless, that end there.

I have to admit, writing C++ and low level stuff is still hard to me. That could be part of the factor on why I stopped. It just feels hard to work through it and I don’t have that determination like before anymore.

The Good

While writing this review and referring to my journal, I realized that I actually finished working through Learn you some Erlang for great good around September. I am now able to work with Erlang code base more comfortably.

I think that can be explained by: learning Erlang take less mental energy for me as an Elixir user, but C++ and low level stuff requires lots of patience and mental energy for me.

Guess, I’m just not in the state where I can learn more challenging stuff in 2021.

While I’m having 3 weeks vacation, I have also managed to finish up Rust in Action (which I have been procrastinating to finish the last few chapters since October) and started reading Database Internals.

To make myself comfortable with writing Rust, I’m also planning to complete Advent of Code 2021 with Rust, and maybe with Erlang and Elixir if I got the time.

Conclusion

To conclude my failures about learning:

Yes, I could have do better, but it’s not too late to get back on track, even it’s during the last few days/weeks of the year.

I’m managed to get back on track and have some progress on learning during my second week of vacations. And so can you.

Building Products

I also set out to build interesting product/projects for my own usage in 2021. One of them is a Firefox Tab manager.

Similar to the stories above, I started well. I spent a day or two to create a MVP. In the following weeks, I polished the UI and added more features that I think should be there before I release it.

Then, it get abandoned.

This is because I see no value of continuing it as I don’t need a tab manager anymore, which is partly because of I have stop writing and don’t need to manage multiple tabs (as references for my writing).

This happen to all of my side projects.

  1. Get excited about solving some problems I have.
  2. Coding coding coding.
  3. All of sudden, feel there’s no need of that anymore.
  4. Abandon.

I have never once in my life, build and maintain a project that is still being used. Not even once.

Reflection

I have failed to meet my goal, but it’s important to reevaluate your goal. So, the question to ask is, does this matter?

No. It doesn’t matter that I have never build a project that is still being maintained and used.

To me, it’s a luxury to be able to achieve that. But, I won’t ever be regret in my life of not being able to do so. I’m more interested in other stuff than building a great product alone.

Takeaway

Having going through this, I have realized that:

You don’t have to fight every battle in your life. You just have to pick the right battle to fight.

On top of that, it’s never too late to reevaluate if it’s the right battle to fight while fighting it and quit the battle if it’s not.

Key Takeaways

Living through 2021, experience through “hardship” and writing this review make me realize the following:

  1. Don’t burnout. It’s more costly than you think it is.
  2. Always reevaluate your goals. Life change, and so do your goals.
  3. It is okay to quit when it’s not the right thing to pursue.
  4. If you have a bad year, it’s still not too late to make it right.
  5. In fact, it’s never too late to try to make things right.

Writing this review also force me to think through the good and bad part of my life in 2021. It shift my perspective on this matter from a negative one to positive one.

Our brain are prone to negative bias. If you happen to have a bad year as well, try to write a more detailed review and see if it’s really that bad. We might just be missing out the good part of our life.

To conclude, 2021 is not as bad as I think.