Year in Review (2021)

Year In Review




December 31, 2021

So.. what even is this?

Earlier this year I discovered James Clear's (author of Atomic Habits) blog, and came across his Annual Review posts which I found quite to be quite a compelling idea. This is my first attempt at completing my own "Annual Review" exercise, and actually the first post I'll be writing for this site.

The idea is quite simple: I'll take a look back on the year of 2021 (as lived by me) and reflect on:

  • what I achieved (and failed to)
  • what I wish I did more of (and less of)
  • what I learned

I think most of us don't take enough time to reflect on where we are (and where we're heading) in life. I'm hoping that this exercise will make me be more mindful of my habits and how I've been spending my time lately. This will also be an exercise in gratitude and expressing my appreciation for the people and things in my life that I am thankful for. Considering how poor my memory is — I struggle to remember the plot of the movie I watched last night — these year in review posts might act as a fun little time capsule for me in the future.

What went well?

Reading • Over the last few years reading has definitely become my favorite past-time and preferred way to un-wind. This was my fourth year completing the 52 Book Challenge (the aim being to read at least one book for each week in the year). In previous years I've had some mixed feelings about the challenge; how it might be negatively influencing my reading experience. I found myself avoiding very long books because they might slow down my progress on the challenge and forcing myself to read more than I would have naturally just to reach the basically arbitrary goal I'd set. I was worried that this was taking the fun out of reading for me.

Thankfully I didn't run into either of these feelings when completing the challenge this year (I finished with a total of 57 books). Allowing myself to count an audiobook every month has given me the leeway I need to read some massive books that I might have otherwise avoided (looking at you Infinite Jest). When I've noticed lately that I'm forcing myself to read, it's usually because I have another five books on my bookshelf that I can't wait to get started on.

For the last three years I've tracked my reading history in a Google Sheet (I know I'm a dork; please don't @ me). I used the data to create the /reading page on this site. I'm aiming to write up a blog post soon (lol) outlining how I track my reading and how I built the /reading page.

Wellbeing • Having dabbled with various meditation apps (quite momentarily) over the last few years, I was finally able to build a lasting daily meditation habit this year. We all exist (literally) inside our own heads, and this can be a lonely and anxious place to be. I'm definitely liable to ruminate/over-think/over-analyse in times of stress or worry, and admittedly I don't believe that sitting cross legged on the floor with my airpods in for 20 minutes a day is not going to magically rid me of these tendencies, but I do feel that the practice has definitely had a positive impact on my well-being and my ability to resist getting caught up in unneccessary worry or imaginary future conversations in my head.

Progressing from five, ten, and up to twenty minutes a day has been quite rewarding; considering how difficult or long some of those earlier five minute sessions felt when starting out. If you're wondering, the app I use for guided meditations is: "Waking Up". For directed meditation I would definitely recommend the Daily Stoic, or any of Seneca's work.

I made the transition to the famed "morning person" this year; usually being in bed by 10.30 pm and up by 6.30 am. Since I've been working from home more or less full-time this year, I really enjoyed waking up early and having two full hours to relax before the workday began. I read a lot of heavy non-fiction stuff this year (which is certainly not good bed-time reading material), so these morning relaxations hours were where I did most of my daily reading.

I've done fairly well at limiting my phone usage this year. Instagram is the last hold out of social media apps that I seem to periodically delete but later re-install (usually when drunk or hungover FWIW). I've managed to avoid TikTok, but have seen first-hand on (the similar) Instagram Reels how much of a deep void of attention that you can get sucked into. I wish I could say that I didn't now know the names of all four members of BlackPink.

Fitness • My biggest highlight of the year was definitely receiving my blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), having re-picked it up in November 2020 after a 5 year hiatus. I can honestly say that getting back into BJJ was one of the best decisions I've ever made, having found a really great gym and community here in Sydney at GFTeam Bondi.

BJJ is more than just a sport: it can teach you so much about yourself (and about your training partners). As a grown man getting regularly beaten up by teenage girls you quickly learn humility and lose whatever ego you brought into the sport with you. The BJJ community is full of friendly and open-minded people, no matter where you go in the world. In addition to the obvious physical benefits that come from training, being on the mats is a fantastic way to relieve stress, forget about life's problems for two hours, and get into that Flow State.

Another sport I got back into this year was Sunday League Football, playing for Coogee United (8th Division lol). Despite the great community and camaraderie in BJJ, I was really excited to be playing a "proper" team sport again. Unfortunately the July/August COVID-19 lockdown ended our season (and our ten game win streak!) prematurely. Having won every game played, we were already planning our victory parade. Lesson learned: don't count your Sunday League trophies before they hatch. In the light of our team being predominately made up of Irish and Brits, we've done quite well to patch over 800 years of animosity during post-game pints in the Donny each Sunday.

Work • I'm now coming up on my second year of working as a Data Engineer at Rezdy. Rezdy is a SAAS based in Sydney that creates booking software for tours & activities suppliers. It's been a bit of a roller-coaster working at Rezdy during this global pandemic (as our industry is very much travel adjacent). Considering all of the uncertainty in the market and life in general, I really can't say enough good things about the people and management team at Rezdy and the support/flexibility they've provided to me over the last two years.

I was promoted to Senior Data Engineer back in April and since then it's been amazing to see the Insights team grow from it's initial three members to it's current total of six. For most of my time at Rezdy I was the sole Data Engineer; now that we have three Data Engineers I've had a great opportunity to develop my technical leadership and mentoring/coaching skills. In January I will be doubling down on this skill development and moving into a Tech Lead role in a new — Data Engineering specific — squad at Rezdy.

Outside of the 9-to-5, I finally got around to building this personal website. I created it using Next.js, React & ChakraUI and it's deployed on Vercel. This was my first real taste of front-end development and the frameworks have definitely become a lot easier to use than the last time I tried (and gave up on) building a website. I also made my first (very small) open source contribution to Data Build Tool (DBT); I'm hoping to do more of this next year as I'm a huge fan of the the tool and it's community in general.

Personal Relationships • I'm still not really sure where on the spectrum of Person-Professional I'm going to target this blog, so I won't go into too much detail here for now. Two years ago, I moved across the world (from Ireland to Australia) with a group of ~20 close friends. Due to the Australian Border Restrictions during COVID-19, we haven't been able to visit home in over two years. In light of this I feel especially lucky and grateful to have this amazing group of friends with me, like a family away from home. I'm also thankful to have made a lot of new friendships this year as well: through BJJ, Football and work colleagues that have become close friends.

What could have gone better?

If you know me at all you'll know that I have deeply rooted tendency to be cynical (is "cynical" just sugar coating on the word "negative"?) which is something that I've been working on this year. I think I've definitely made good progress on my goals of complaining less and being more positive in general. Preface aside, in light of my move to being less cynical, I'm going to keep this section a bit lighter in detail than the previous one.

The socially distant elephant in the room, COVID-19, has obviously been pretty shitty for all of us. I'm actually writing this whilst home alone, covid positive and isolating on New Years Eve. The main impact on me has been the fact that I haven't been able to visit my family in Ireland in over 2 years. During this time my Grandfather passed away, and my two surviving grandparents are getting older each year. Thankfully the border restrictions were finally lifted in December this year, which means I'll be getting to visit home in the next couple of months (aiming for March). In the grand scheme of things, COVID-19's impact on my life has been pretty minimal, and for this I'm extremely grateful.

I spent a lot of money at the Physio; so-much-so that I'm expecting an invitiation to the college graduation ceremony of his first born child. BJJ is notorious for injuries, and I've certainly had my fair share this year. My turf-toe injury is now a year old and still has barely healed. At this point it's become second nature to tape my foot everytime I train BJJ, play Football or go for a run. Having a dodgy foot has become part of my character backstory. I'm also dealing with a double-crush nerve issue on my right side (forearm/shoulder/neck) that consitently impacts my ability to train... even in my day-to-day work I have to wear an elbow brace.

Every concert/festival we booked this year got postponed or cancelled. Hopefully now that the tantilizing Covid-Zero policy will never be an option here again, we won't have as many cancellations next year. I also didn't make enough of an effort to go to live music/gigs in the periods when we didn't have lockdowns this year.

I was hoping to have written at least a handful of blog posts on the site by now — and this is the first — so yeah..

In February, I decided to get a Buzzcut.. thinking I would look like Jake Gylenhal in Southpaw. Spoiler Alert: I didn't look like like Jake Gylenhal in Southpaw.

I had a four-month legal battle with a rental property agency. We moved into a new apartment, only to discover a massive cockroach infestation on day one. How bad could it have been you might ask? Let's just say that Sony Pictures have made inquiries about buying the rights for the next Jumanji sequel. Naturally, we noped out of there, but had to go through the court system to get my $3,600 back from the recalcitrant landlord. The stress of these months has definitely fast-tracked my greying hair.

What did I learn?

  • The more material possesions you accumulate the more annoying it is to move apartment.
  • Control is an illusion... your wellbeing and routines are fragile.
  • As we get older our bodies will start to fail us. Injuries are inevitable. Hangovers are devastating.
  • I'm in a privileged position and have a lot of be grateful for in life.
  • Don't fall into the great attention black-hole that is TikTok/Instagram.
  • Don't impulse buy clothes without properly considering how they will fit in with the rest of your wardrobe.
  • Working from home has it's pros and cons, but ultimately the flexibiltity it provides is awesome.
  • It feels good to be charitable. Accumulating wealth should not be your north star.

Random Favorites

2022 Goals

  • Priority numero-uno is to get home to Ireland to see my family.

  • Spend less time inside. Go for a swim every day.

  • Travel (rolls eyes) - I would love to get to visit New Zealand and Japan in 2022.

  • Limit unneccessary/impulse purchases. Give money to people who need it more than I do.

  • Play more Tennis and get properly into Bouldering/Indoor-Climbing.

  • Get back to the gym and put on some weight (I'm currently 72 kg and 78 kg is my target).

  • Write at least six blog posts for this site.