If you don't have a plan, you become part of somebody else's plan.

In my 2020 Annual Review I will answer three key questions:

  1. What went well this year?
  2. What didn’t go so well this year?
  3. What am I working towards?

I can't believe 2020 is over already (I'm sure literally everyone feels the same way). On the on hand I feel relieved because I can finally allow myself to take stock and look back on what the heck really happened. But on the other, I know that the world will never go back to how it was.

But, you know what? That's life. All we can do is suck it up and move on with what we've got.

Let's begin!


What went well this year?

Work

Work-wise 2020 went exceptionally well. I landed a contract working with a great team of folks over at Pipefish. My role as a as a Senior Developer initially involved the development a MVP solution for the Queensland Government's Department of Small Business, Employment and Training (DESBT). The MVP was written in Vue.js which allowed us to move fast and leverage some great tools like the Vuex ORM.

Upon the successful delivery of the project, I jumped over to another Queensland Government project for the Department of Housing and Public Works. We worked on building an online portal called myQLD and it's aim is the be the myGOV for Queensland residents. That project was nuts and I was quickly thrown in the deep end, having to hire four new devs and get the team off the ground in no time! Luckily I was in good company working with an incredible team of folks who put in some massive  hours to get this project over the line.

However, after about a months time we received approval from DESBT (the first project) to build the "real thing" and so I was asked to lead another phase of work there.

This second milestone involved developing a full-stack application for small business users to create an account and walk through a tailored set of questions to help identify the specific forms a user needs to read, fill in, and submit to successfully apply for any licenses and permits. The app uses an online form viewer called PDFTron to view, fill-in and submit forms while also dynamically pulling in the user's data from their authentication credentials. This dynamic data is used to "prefill" form fields, making for a more efficient or "smart" application process.

My role as the Principal Developer involved hiring new a couple of new dev's, and managing the team, while also getting deep in the trenches with application development and project management. The app was written in React.js with TypeScript on the front end and TypeScript, GraphQL (Apollo) and SQL on the back end.

Overall, it was a fantastic year full of new and exciting work. I spent a lot more time working with React.js than ever before and I absolutely loved writing code in TypeScript. I really enjoyed working with my team despite everyone being remote for the best part of the year. This was probably one my most interesting and intense years of work to date.

Doggo

Freyja the Frenchie came into our lives in early March, just around the time when the coronavirus outbreak took flight. Lucky for us, we had this cute little pupper to keep us smitten. Freyja is nothing but pure love - she has a heart of gold and is always happy when she gets to meet new pups and people (more so than doggos).

What has been great about having Freyja is that we have now become consistent early risers. We usually take her for a morning walk in the park or on beach every day of the week. There's no better feeling than getting out of the house first thing and starting the day with some sunshine, fresh air and a swim in the ocean.

Thanks to Zoe for taking the chance and bringing Freyja into our lives. I cannot imagine life without her.

Finance

2020 was a great year for me financially. I was able to put away a large portion of my paycheck each fortnight to save our house deposit and also set up a stock portfolio with Zoe. Furthermore, I set up a salary sacrifice plan to contribute pre-tax income my superannuation fund, thus reducing my overall taxable income for the financial year.

I'm really blessed to be in this position and I'm so grateful for how things have worked out this year. What's great about working in tech is that there is a never-ending list of jobs out there. This has become even more evident now that COVID has fast-tracked tons of digital projects and brought the world online like never before.

The plan for 2020 was to buy a house here on the Gold Coast in the Currumbin area. We got all our finances sorted and arranged pre-approval in order to put a serious offer in on a home. However after a follow up inspection we realised there were a few non-negotiables that we simply couldn't agree to. Despite all the up's and down's, we have definitely learned a lot more about first home buying, so I feel as though we are in a good position to buy a house 2021.

Health

In 2020 I divided my "health" time between yoga at home, fitness classes and workouts at the local gym, bouldering at the rock climbing gym and climbing outdoors (which also includes hiking). Climbing is the perfect sport for me as it integrates a wide range of movements all while working both the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems. Climbing outdoors requires stamina and endurance usually over a period of 5 to 20 minutes, whereas bouldering requires a ton of raw power only for about 10 to 30 seconds. For the past eight years I have consistently stayed within a healthy weight range of around 70 - 73kg all because of climbing 💪.

Aside from climbing, my regular gym routine would generally consist of HIIT classes and kettlebell workouts. I like keeping things simple and I've found that the kettlebell is really the only piece of equipment I need to have a good workout. The kettlebell swing alone has been proven to build muscle, boost endurance, as well as improve posture by strengthening the posterior chain - perfect if you're like me and suffer from lower back pain.

One thing that has stayed relatively consistent over the past few years is my morning yoga practice. Usually I spent about 15 - 20 minutes going through some stretches for my back, side and hips, as that's where I tend to hold the most tension from day-to-day. I have a few yogi's on YouTube that I like to follow, notably Travis Eliot and Yoga with Kassandra.

Personal Development

This past year definitlely made me realise the importance of personal development and mental health. I've always been an open and curious kind of person when it comes to self-improvement, so when I was asked if I wanted to attend a "plant medicine" ceremony I cautiously (and naively) accepted. Actually this year I participated in two separate ceremonies with different medicines, but I'm not going to go into full details here (for numerous reasons). However, I will share some insights from my experience:

Firstly, let me start by saying that this is not for everyone as it is an intensely overwhelming experience. It takes a lot of courage to simply "let go" and allow the medicine to do it's work. It literally felt as as though I was no longer one with my body -  like my consciousness had simply detached from its host and blasted off into the ether. It's insanely beautiful and equally terrifying for I immediately realised that there is SO much we (as humans) don't know about the world and the universe at large. It is such a pure sensation; utterly ineffable and completely beyond language. Both experiences have been incredibly cathartic and have offered a genuine opportunity for me to shake up my mind and hit reset.

Since my experiences I have become engrossed in areas of inquiry that, if you were to ask me twelve months ago, I wouldn't have even known existed.

Things like:

  • the intelligence of plants,
  • theories on the origins of DNA,
  • how (and why) a large percentage of our genetic code is shared with other life on earth,
  • the history of religion dating back to paleolithic ages,
  • the history of ancient Mayan, Aztec, and Egyptian cultures,
  • the Schrödinger theory of the zero point field
  • the evolution of consciousness

Anyway, without getting too woo-woo, all I can say is that there's a lot I'd like to unpack and integrate throughout 2021!

Travel

While it wasn't the best year for travel, Zoe and I still managed to go on a couple of climbing trips as well as a few weekends away at Byron Bay. We also went on an incredible road trip down to the Snowy Mountains where we hiked Australia's highest peak, Mt. Kosciuszko. Unfortunately that trip got cut short because of COVID and we had to frantically race home to Queensland, driving 13 hours straight to make it back right before the borders closed. So yeah... Not the best year for travel.


What didn't go so well this year?

Well, a lot didn't go so well this year. COVID messed up literally every single humans life in 2020 so there's no need to talk about it. But I will outline some of the main problems COVID caused for me:

Zoe's family had to cancel their Australia trip!

This trip had been YEARS in the making. Zoe's sister has three kids which has always made it difficult to organise a time for her family come to Australia. They had planned to come in Feb/March and stay for three weeks. Unfortunately, once COVID broke out there was no chance things were going to pan out. We were looking forward to having them here and I know Zoe was really upset because of this. What's worse is that Zoe couldn't even go back home and visit, which means it's now been over two years since she has seen her family. I really hope things turn around in 2021.

I didn't take proper care of myself and worked way too much

I'm sure there were lot of people in this boat in 2020. Working from home is usually quite fun and liberating, however my contract role was quite demanding and I found that I was working early mornings and late evenings on the regular. The problem was that I knew I could "jump online" at any second which lead to plenty of late nights where I would dig myself into a hole trying to finish a task off.

I never made time to prepare proper meals during the day because I was always pulled into meetings. Combined with the fact that there was an infinite list of many problems to solve, which only stressed me out further. There was a large chunk of time in 202 where every day just felt like groundhog day.

Made little progress on side projects, online coursework

Because things were so demanding at work I simply had no energy to work on personal projects. After a massive day of coding, answering emails and attending meetings, the last thing I wanted to do was return to the computer. It's really a shame because I love what I do and there's so much new exciting tech that I want to play around with. I have a bunch of ideas for side projects but none of them even got off the ground.

So yeah, that was 2020... I'm grateful that I at least had a job and some solid recurring income for the entire year. I've got to work on taking better care of myself so I can sustain the rapid pace of the tech industry. And hopefully in 2021 we are allowed to travel again!


What am I working towards?

Still looking to buy our first home

2021 will be the year Zoe and I buy a house (hopefully). We've been saving our pennies and have got everything ready to go, now we just need the right house to come along. We came close a couple of times last year but things just didn't quite feel right on either occasion, so we pulled out.

It's a stupid system when you think about: how can you really know if a house is right for you in a single inspection? There are SO many variables at play and you will NEVER have the chance to fully determine whether a property is right for you in that very brief (and stressful) moment. The property market is ballistic at the moment and it's tough to get a good opportunity at a reasonable price. Fingers crossed the property comes our way!

Creating a solid daily routine by developing simple & effective systems

Aside from house goals, I don't really have any major material goals. Instead I'd like to spend my time and energy setting up a solid, and reliable daily routine.

For me a good day consists of yoga, healthy eating, spending time outdoors with Zoe and the dog, working and keeping stress levels low, reading a good book, and if it's the weekend, surfing or climbing outdoors and catching up with friends. At the moment I am reading Atomic Habits by James Clear to help figure out how I can integrate all of this into a regular daily routine.

Figuring out where I want to take my career

This year I want to start thinking about how I can use my skills to contribute towards projects and causes that I am passionate about. I'm really interested in nature conservation and climate change, as well as urban planning and the development of "smart cities".  I don't have the answer for what sort of change I can help to make, but I am planting the seed in my mind right now. I realise that in order to see a change in the world you have to become that change.

Settling in here on the Gold Coast

It's a great feeling to finally have found a place to call home. This year I would like to get into surfing and also get out a bit more with Zoe to enjoy everything that is on offer in the region. It'd be great to make some more close friends in and around the activities we love to do (hiking, climbing, surfing, etc). I'm sure things will fall into place, as long as we don't get a horror COVID outbreak 😬.


Whew, that was 2020. I'm glad it's over. Here's to 2021!

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