2022 in review
2022 is almost over and that’s a great time to reflect! I could dilly-dally about how I’m finally using React and how awesome Astro is, but the truth is that this year was largely defined by my burnout. Fortunately, out of that dark place came newly gained knowledge, skills, and motivation.
The year started with stress-related symptoms. It took me a while to realize I was burned out, and I urgently needed a break from work to get rid of those symptoms.
Although I wish none of this had happened, I learned so much about mental health and myself. In the weeks leading up to the break, I started to increasingly pay attention to myself and my mental state, and when one sits home alone pondering, reflection became a routine.
A not surprising realization was that I was unhappy where I worked at, but I did come to understand neither I nor my colleagues could change that. In fact, I was drained after unsuccessfully trying to make things better for myself, my peers, and the company. The alternative was to find a new job, which is exactly what I did.
The change in jobs was beneficial in a multitude of ways. Moving from the agency space to a small product development startup is a big change. Better culture, less bureaucracy, no faux deadlines, success is measured objectively instead of based on the perception of a workgroup, etc. All of this significantly reduces concerns and frustration, so definitely a big win for my mental health — I don’t think I’ll ever go back to an agency.
I’ve become pretty good at recognizing signs and bad habits, both in myself and others. It’s tricky to figure out whether these are actually bad for others, though. Some people are just more resilient to stress, deal with it in their own way, or are already well aware of any knowledge I think I have to offer. To be honest, I’d rather be the person that reminds others of their mental health too often than not enough.
The nice thing about working in a small startup is that everyone greatly contributes to culture, and I make sure to do my part by raising mental health. The principles “mental health is also health” and “health before work” are frequently mentioned. I do wonder we’ll stick to these principles when we face difficulties, like an upcoming deadline. Moments like these will determine whether they are principles we don’t want to let go of or mere guidelines that we end up following only when things go well.
Although I have no regrets going fully remote, I do miss the social interactions I had in an office. I miss playing games and going out for a bite and drinks with friends on a whim. Nothing a little bit of initiative can’t fix, though!
A larger-than-life goal
In the face of a pandemic, repeated threats of nuclear annihilation from a silly little man and his propaganda goons, and mental health issues, one thinks about death, life, legacy, and meaning.
Being an atheist, I don’t have a god, prophet, oracle, or book I can turn to when I’m wondering what the point is of it all. I don’t think there’s inherent meaning to life. Our actions are mere ripples that add up to, yet fade into, the waves of the ocean that makes all that is and ever will be. Despite this grim view, I also acknowledge the human experience with thoughts and feelings, and a desire to find meaning.
I want to make lives better and improve quality of life. I could save animals or travel to a developing nation and develop water sources, sanitation, schools, and other facilities that improve quality of life by a huge leap. Although I admire selfless acts, that’s not something I’d enjoy at all. Instead, I try to find overlap between improving lives and my interests, which mainly boils down to software (development) and sharing knowledge.
Slowly but surely I’m picking up pace.
- I’m trying to blog more frequently and candid, starting with my article on burnout. To this day, I hope that my experience of this life-changing event saves someone from having going through the same, or at least gives someone hope that they’ll get better.
- Finally, I continue to lift fellow engineers up at work while I try to get better at leading and mentoring.
Not everything was profound and life-changing this year.
For brevity, I’ll limit to the tech I spent most time using and learning, which is React.
I never jumped the hype train until halfway this year. Well, I suppose that’s an overstatement as I’m not particularly hyped: it’s pretty good, but not significantly better than other client-side rendering libraries. I’ll elaborate on this in another blog post!
It did confirm something I always thought: critics attribute some flaws (e.g. bad accessibility or UX) to the library, rather than its authors. There are definitely challenges unique to React, but nothing that prevents us from writing good software. It’s definitely a fun addition to my toolbox.
Maui the cat
Meet Maui, Waker of Humans, Breaker of Breakables. He is the most active, most playful, furriest, and naughtiest family member.
We specifically looked to adopt a cat slightly older than a kitten as I’d have to get work done and never raised a cat before. Maui was 1.5 years old when we got him. Despite his age, he’s still a handful as he actively looks for stuff to knock over or sink his claws in.
When he’s not shortening the lifespan of our furniture, he’s super cute and cuddly. He reminds me to take breaks from work a couple of times a day, which is probably for the best. I’d argue he definitely makes my day brighter.
My partner and I searched for names of trickster deities, as cats are our mischievous overlords. Loki comes to mind, but that was a bit too common, so we looked further. Eventually we found the Polynesian hero Māui, who isn’t worshipped or a deity, but hero is close enough. Being almost an anagram of miauw, the Dutch onomatopoeia of a cat’s call, was definitely something that I really liked. Also, the name reminds me to sing Disney’s Moana songs every day, like You’re Welcome.
YouTuber CGP Grey speaks of yearly themes in the video Your Theme. To summarize: a theme directs you towards making good decisions along the way instead of setting one ambitious goal and trying to stick to it. Grey also mentions that a year is a long period, too long to feel urgency. I’d like to give this a go and pick a theme every quarter.
In no particular order, I want to exercise frequently again, develop my leadership and mentoring skills, get ijsjes.dev out in the world, and maybe start on some indie product development. All of these topics are more specific than CGP Grey recommends, but I feel they’re broad enough and specific enough for quarterly themes.
So, let’s get this year over with and get on with the next!
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