It goes without saying that 2020 (5780-5781) has been a complicated year. There has been great hardship, and it can be difficult to find the silver lining. It’s even harder when everyone around you is impacted, in different ways, by that hardship. If this were a decade ago, I’m not sure I could find that lining. Today, however, I am a confident optimist. A common perception is that 2020 has been the worst year in living memory. I refuse to entertain that possibility; I insist on finding positives in it. On that note, here are my thoughts on 2020 in retrospect.
A Good Start to the Year
In February, before the lockdowns and travel bans began, I had the opportunity to travel to the USA for the first time in my life. Born-and-raised British, I have been overwhelmed by American cultural artefacts my whole life. Everything from one-half of the inspiration for my name to the music that my Grandmother filled my life with is built on an affinity with America.
The opportunity was two-fold; the chance to go on-site at a client, and the chance to visit my partner and some friends. Both of these were conveniently located in the same place, beautiful Nebraska, the cornhusker state. Having graduated from university the previous December and with some built-up work leave, I packed my bags and flew to Omaha.
Professionally speaking, the visit was a success. Meetings and hands-on interaction with the client’s product provided me with invaluable insight into our project, and it has evangelised me to the “on-site over off-site” camp. I’ve since adopted it as my primary practice, rather than relying on emails and video calls. This may simply be extroversion talking on my behalf, but the within-arms-reach contact allowed me to understand my client on a deeper level, forming a more intimate connection to the task at hand, and improving my working experience several times over.
Personally speaking, the visit was ultimately been bittersweet. I visited some spectacular places, including standing beneath the Blackbird on display at the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum, and feeling microscopic besides the Big Boy of Kenefick Park. I became unashamedly addicted to Raising Canes, bewildered by faultlessly straight roads, and the proud owner of a real Stetson and cowgirl boots.
The Valley Between the Peaks
I’m left, however, with the emotional difficulties brought about by being separated from someone so dear to me. Before my visit, long-distance was the norm; now it is an alien experience, and I haven’t adapted back to it as well as I would have hoped.
On top of that, I am left with a strange mixture of wanderlust and homesickness. I felt truly at home in the heartland of America, and I now feel as if I am away from home. I have been telling my parents that I would live in the States since I was a child, and I now know that desire is heartfelt.
Immediately after returning from the United States in March, the pandemic restrictions began. It wasn’t long until we were officially barred from entering America. It dawned upon me how fortunate I had been to have such a recent, uneventful visit.
What followed was indeed the downside of the year for me. Restrictions meant that my part-time work slowed down, and I certainly wouldn’t be travelling any time soon. I was able to continue working semi-remotely, so the impact wasn’t financial, but it was both social and professional.
A dilemma was thrust before me, and the isolation provided me with nothing but time to deliberate. My job got me through university, and that was over now. The pandemic made job hunting harder for someone that loathes being stuck at home.
After evaluating the paths available before me, between holding out for better times and driving forward as if nothing was happening, I’m heading out. As I’ve discussed previously, I’ve decided to pursue graduate studies in my undergraduate field of Computer Science. I aim to take my study to the United States. It didn’t take any leaps of the imagination to see this conclusion coming.
Reaching the Finish Line
If I’m going to achieve during my graduate studies, I need to do so everywhere. Returning to the track of active self-improvement is easier said than done, although the introspective nature of determining the path forward is one of the first steps.
There are many elements to this, but perhaps the most pertinent one is a recommittal to my personal projects. I’ve always had tasks working their way from my inbox to my outbox, but public-facing projects have fallen down the back of my desk in recent years.
Since returning to my projects, I’ve conquered several of them. I’ve built a license selection tool andand released it as free software. I’ve started consolidating my possessions and cleaning out cruft. I’ve started publishing several of my handcrafted scripts, such as my
ffmpeg merging automator and my multi-jail
iocage exec automator. I plan on publishing more tools for public consumption in the months ahead.
Building on my project-based focus, my New Years resolution this year is the best kind of resolution. It’s easily tracked and easily obtained. It reflects my continuous drive to improve myself. I’m committing to have at least one GitHub contribution for every day in 2021 (5781-5782). We’ll see whether or not I achieved that come next year’s retrospective post.
Hopefully it will again be possible for me to travel overseas as the global situation improves. Doing so, up to and including starting graduate studies in America, is my ultimate goal for 2021.
2020 in Retrospect: A Conclusion
I can’t say that 2020 has been an easy year. It clearly hasn’t. But it most certainly has had positive aspects, at least for me. I encourage you to find these positives in your own year, and I hope you have a pleasant and healthy 2021.
As always, drop a comment below or join my Discord server if you have any comments or questions.