The year that was(n't).

Holy. Shit. Let's get it out of the way - 2020 has been a prize dickhead.

Like many of you I started the year with plans. I was going to learn X, Y and Z. I was going be more active with the industry on Twitter. I was going to work on my side-project and, after taking nowhere near enough holiday in 2019, I was going to travel more. Sufficed to say, that is not the year I had.

I was fortunate to take a (very-surreal) trip to Japan at the start of the year, but I flew home with just enough time to get myself into lockdown. I haven't really been outside of Abergavenny since. Then, there was this website. I was super-excited to launch it back in January, and the positive feedback absolutely blew me away. As I wrote back then, one of my big motivators in building the site was my intention of properly blogging for the first time. Well, a quick look at my articles page will show that it didn't really pan out. Some of you might also have noticed that I have been a lot quieter on Twitter lately too.

It needs to be said though, that all of the above is utterly inconsequential in the face of what we have collectively faced in a year that has been so painful for so many people.

2020 has felt a lot like treading water. Like many of you I'm sure, maintaining a business, my physical and mental health, and the health of those around me with everything that's going on has been utterly exhausting. Honestly, making it through the year is enough, and something that we can all be proud of.

That said, in the spirit of reviving this blog I feel that writing a little more introspectively about my year might help me to make sense of the chaos.

Work. permalink

Working as an independent developer, maintaining a consistent work-stream is always playing on your mind. After a very busy December in 2019, I had a quiet start to the year before eventually hitting my stride during lockdown. From March onwards I was very fortunate to have a steady stream of client work right up until about two weeks ago.

With hindsight though, I overdid it. I believe in doing things well and as a result, put a lot of myself into my work. The year’s continuous and over-arching sense of oh shit, what now!? meant that ultimately I took on a massive amount but didn’t allow myself enough time between projects to decompress. The run up to Christmas is the closest that I've come to burn-out since I went freelance, and I'm definitely going to slow down for a while as a result.

On the positive side though, this year I’ve done some of the most technically complicated work of my career. Whilst I mostly can’t share it publicly due to NDA (that old cliché!), I've had a string of happy clients and I’m very proud of what I’ve achieved given the circumstances.

Another unexpected silver-lining is that the pandemic has normalised remote work. Living in rural Wales, I usually work remotely to avoid a long commute. The sudden change has created new opportunities and it will be interesting to see how this shift pans out longer term, once it is safe for my clients to return to their offices.

Personal life. permalink

As a response to my overworking and having extra time at home due to the lockdown, I've thankfully been able to prioritise more offline activities this year. Every Autumn, like clockwork, I start to miss being a student — no, not the heavy drinking — rather, the feeling of purposeful learning. This year was no different, except that I decided to do something about it.

Around 2011, I studied Korean on-and-off for about a year. Since then I’ve mostly forgotten everything, beyond being able to read Hangul. In late October I bought a Korean grammar textbook and started regularly studying again. So far I'm absolutely loving it. Whilst the language obviously has its own unique history and culture, on a purely linguistic-level Korean syntax and vocabulary are not a million miles removed from what I already know from having studied Japanese at university. It's empowering to feel like I'm building on top a shared-foundation, rather than learning something totally new. Whenever it's safe to travel again, I can't wait to visit South Korea. Hopefully I can get to a conversational level by then.

Lastly, the one thing in 2020 that has made the biggest positive impact is that, with the pandemic, my partner's job has become remote and she has been able to move in with me. Due to our working circumstances, my partner and I have been living apart on opposite sides of the country - it has been beyond amazing to finally spend out first Christmas together. Oh, we also got a kitten, Frīda, who is a constant source of joy. It's been a long while since I had a pet and I can't overstate the positive and motivating effect of having a little ball of chaotic energy in our home.

Looking forward. permalink

Well, we made it through a very difficult year. Unsurprisingly, I'm not going to offer any predictions or goals for the new year. Doing our best day-by-day seems more attainable for now. If you’ve hired me to help out with your project, used any of my open source work, read my blog, or promoted my work in any way, I’d like to say thanks – you’re awesome.

Stay safe, everyone. Happy new year!

Hi, my name is Robb.

I'm a freelance creative developer helping awesome people to build ambitious yet accessible web projects.

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