I honestly have no specific ideas for what I’m going to cover in this post, but I figured as I rambled some sort of theme would present itself. Of course, that turns out to have only been marginally true, so what you’re about to experience is a disorganized set of milestones from the year that I thought up as I as writing this thing. But I thought it would be good to have something to wrap up my thoughts for the year so that I can look back and remember how I was seeing things before I took the plunge into 2022.

This will be followed up, tomorrow, with my Blogging for the Holidays wrap-up post where I’ll include links to the posts in the series, along with some closing word salad to finish things up.

Alright, so, speaking of word salad…

You might be surprised to hear that this past year was a weird one. But despite the feeling that 2020 and 2021 have blurred together, this past year was, for me, one of many significant changes, both small and large!

Beginning with the most disruptive thing that continues to go on in my life, I’m now coming up on nearly two years of a fully remote position. I can’t say it’s been that great for me.

One of the things you hear a lot from adults is that making friends and maintaining those relationships becomes a lot harder, and one of the major reasons is that friendship thrive on serendipitous interactions; running across people in a hallway or a classroom or the campus bar makes for healthier friendships.

In regular adult life, those serendipitous interactions tend to disappear, and the workplace becomes one of the few places where we tend to interact with other adults in unplanned settings.

Now, I’m not going to claim that making friends at work is mandatory or that the workplace should be “family” or whatever HR buzzword you want to pick. But speaking for myself, I’ve absolutely made friends at work, and I miss those serendipitous interactions!

When we did the initial shift to remote work, my reaction was that it was an unalloyed good and something I would want to keep doing for the foreseeable future. But this past year I’ve definitely moderated that position. While I strongly advocate for flexible options and work-life balance, speaking for myself, having a couple of days a week in the office would be a very welcome thing at this point. And I am definitely getting pretty tired of setting up a video call every time I just wanna have a quick chat with a colleague.

Changing subjects entirely, during the summer I finally took the plunge and got my first road bike and starting taking cycling touring a little more seriously1! Heck, I even went on my first group ride, which was great fun and something I’d really love to do more of in the future.

As an aside, I have yet to figure out why it is that, as a certain type of man gets older, he gets into long distance road cycling. At my company, alone, I know at least three other serious long distance cyclists, and I’m sure there’s others I’m not aware of.

Speaking for myself, I love the meditative quality of long distance riding. There’s something joyful about getting out on the road and just going. And it’s a great opportunity to listen to podcasts, of which I took in many!

Then, in late summer, I received my Framework laptop, on which I’m writing this very post. Once again beating the supply chain odds, this laptop has lived up to every expectation the company set and has proven to be an excellent replacement for my old X1 Carbon. In fact, I’ve enjoyed this thing so much I spent a decent amount of time participating in the community forums (though as I’ve ironed out most of the issues I’ve been having with the machine, that participation has waned).

I’m not normally one to shill for products, but as I’ve become more and more an advocate for the Right to Repair and products you can buy for life2, the Framework is, I think, a critical re-imagining of what consumer electronics can be.

Framework’s approach to these types of products is also a critical step if we really want to move to a more sustainable lifestyle that’ll allow us to reduce carbon emissions and halt global warming. After all, the three R’s are Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle, and there’s a very good reason why Reduce and Reuse come first. The Framework makes it possible for us to reduce the amount of electronics that we purchase while reusing those products we do buy. If only the rest of the industry would follow suit!

Switching gears, throughout the year I found myself experiencing a couple of health scares that, while themselves were deeply frightening3, also forced me to admit that as buttoned up as a try to be, anxiety is something that runs deep and is far more pervasive in my life than I ever thought.

To the surprise of exactly no one, this actually began in the fall of 2020, as we were entering the fourth or fifth month of the pandemic here in Canada. I’m all but certain that the pervasive stress of the pandemic combined with the shift to work-from-home really exacerbated my anxious tendencies.

In the end I think it was a good thing that I’ve come to understand that aspect of myself, but knowing about it doesn’t make it easy to change. Health anxiety, in particular, is something I suspect I’ll always struggle with4, and the whole COVID situation was just a match in dry tinder.

But, the bright side is, exercise can certainly help, and that new bike has been a real blessing in that regard!

Speaking of anxiety, we completed a large landscaping project this year! It was a legitimate nightmare to manage and it absolutely exacerbated some of my anxiety issues. But despite the length of the project and the delays along the way, not to mention some of the outstanding issues to be dealt with (some of which are self-inflicted), the end product is pretty darn nice! Whether or not I think it was worth all that stress depends on the day you ask me…

I also managed to continue the reading habit that I rekindled (har har) in 2020 by re-reading The Stormlight Archives plus the new fourth volume as well as the Dawnshard novella; re-reading The Lord of the Rings after a 25 year break; listening to Project Hail Mary and the Aurora Cycle with my wife (no, I never did get around to reviewing those…); and now, with the release of the last book, returning to The Expanse. With all the recommendations I have, I fully expect to continue this trend in 2022!

Meanwhile, despite what COVID would have us believe, regular life does indeed go on. New lives came into the world, which has given me an opportunity to develop closer relationships with some important people in my life. I was finally able to see some family this year that I hadn’t seen in far too long, which was an absolute joy5. And at least one life left us, someone who I didn’t see as often as I should’ve, but who left an indelible mark on me. I can only hope to be that person to someone else one day.

This is all to say that, as much of a blur as 2021 was, it wasn’t for lack of significance!6

While so much happened in 2021, the pandemic tends to overshadow everything such that COVID colours every one of our experiences. It’s the background threat that’s constantly in our minds, forcing us to weigh each of our decisions a little differently, and to make choices we might not normally make.

As a consequence, all of those other events in our lives can end up diminished or lost on that cacophony. The result is we lose sight of those things that really matter.

But the truth is, life does go on, and it’s important that we not lose sight of those milestones in our lives, lest we fail to appreciate them.

  1. Anyone paying attention to the bike market this past year would understand how miraculous this was. I managed to get an older but extremely well maintained road bike at a decent price at a time when bikes were suffering the same kinds of demand shocks that made many other products difficult to acquire this year. Truly it was meant to be! 

  2. As an aside, I realized I’ve used the same stainless steel cookware set for 18 years now… 

  3. Yes, while I do have some tests that still need to be done–thanks COVID!–I am in all probability fine. 

  4. While I usually try to avoid putting out too much personal stuff–you never know who might run across this blog, and there’s always some danger in over-sharing with the world–I might come back and write about these experiences in more depth, as health anxiety is heavily stigmatized, particularly among my gender. 

  5. My niece, in particular, is an absolute maniac in all the best ways! 

  6. Huh, look at that, I think I found a theme!