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Reflections on 2023

·6 mins

2023 is nearly in the books. What do I want to remember about this year?

  • I travelled a lot - ticking off visits to: Maine, Salt Lake City, St Anton, Munich, Atlanta, Quebec City, Halifax, Victoria, Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, London, Barcelona, Newcastle, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco. I’m glad I was able to take advantage of opportunities to travel for both work and pleasure while I’m lucky enough to have this combination of life stage, fully remote work, and sufficient financial freedom.

  • I worked a lot, with long hours and lots of grind to go in between all of the travels. I’m becoming more comfortable in my role with Zelus’s soccer group and continuing to enjoy the challenges of using my data/programming/engineering skills to support club decisions. I was promoted to MLE II (L4) this year and have been working towards the next level of the role ladder. I’ve spent some time figuring out what sort of path I want to take between being a senior individual contributor vs more of a manager/engineering lead track, and I don’t quite have that ironed out yet.

  • I also worked on some interesting freelance opportunities this year. There’s always some appeal with these side-gigs, especially financially, but there are also some inherent struggles with time management. My previous attempt (in 2021) at balancing part-time freelance with full-time work ended in a rather horrific bout of burnout. I’m trying to be more cautious this time around and so far I think it’s been fairly manageable.

  • I’ve started to transition my side projects towards a more long-term planning and sustainability-focused lens rather than being a hyperactive solo developer. I wrote out governance documents and started looking into ways we could improve the bus factor for the nflverse. It’s been slow-going, but forward-planning these things is important for making sure that our work endures and continues to support public NFL analytics in the future. I’ve been thinking about sunsetting the DynastyProcess project - while it’s got the largest user base, I spend almost none of my time on it and I think there are others in the space that are doing very good work - esp FantasyCalc.

  • I gave talks at two conferences ( ShinyConf and Shiny in Production) and attended two more (Statsbomb, CMSAC). I enjoyed giving these talks a lot more than the one I gave at RStudioConf in 2022 - the pressure felt less with both online and with smaller in-person audiences. I’m also starting to recognize this feeling of being somewhat “famous” in my niches (NFL data, sports data, Shiny, and R). I’ve felt some discomfort with this, but I’m reluctantly coming to accept that it’s a natural outcome from the work I’ve done and the work I continue to enjoy doing, and that it’s something I should feel comfortable taking more pride in.

  • I felt extremely global and conversely not very local. I’m happy about the friends I’ve made in the NFL, soccer, sports-data, and R communities, and that everywhere I went this year had a friend or two nearby that I could visit - especially being at Zelus, where I could meet colleagues anywhere! While that’s great, I’m starting to feel socially isolated, especially at home where my connections to local friends have fallen off quite a lot.

  • I regretted not joining sports like rowing, ultimate frisbee, or flag football this past year. I sprained both MCLs during a ski incident in February, and between rehabbing that and a busy travel schedule I decided that I wouldn’t be around enough to give sports enough of my time. As it turns out, I could have joined them anyways, missed what I needed to miss, and I would have been happier (more locally-connected) and healthier (more active). Instead, I neglected physical health this year and am heavier and less fit than I have been in recent memory. It’s a demoralizing and ugly feeling, and worse is that I don’t feel like I’m in shape (knees, cardio, core strength, or otherwise) to really enjoy skiing this year - enough that I decided to shelve skiing this season until I regained some fitness and cut some weight.

  • I made a point to seek out help for mental health issues this year and got onto medication for ADHD. It’s been helpful but not as life-changing as I had hoped: I noticed a small overall improvement as I gradually ramped up in dosage, and maybe noticed more that I was much worse without taking it (and therefore wasn’t really aware of how bad I was without the reference point). I want to continue seeking out the help I need to when I need it - I’ve seen how low I can get and how hard the struggles are to manage alone.

  • I spent a lot of time alone this year between my solo travels and my entirely remote work. While I’ve had many happy moments in that solitude, the feeling of being socially isolated has persistently shadowed me - especially in the growing distance with local friends. It’s been three years since I last rowed and been a significant part of that friend circle, and it’s been about six years since I was last in a serious relationship. I’m feeling the spectre of loneliness more and more, and it’s something I need to work on in 2024.

Thinking about 2024 #

In 2022, I reflected that

I’m recognizing that in a broader sense, I can only focus on one or two areas at a time. In past years, it’s been one or some of: losing weight, improving physical shape/condition, programming skill/personal projects, social/friends. This year it seems that my gains were in career development and networking/notability, and I lost ground in weight, friend networks, and in personal projects. It seems obvious that we can only prioritize one or two things at a time, but I’m frustrated that it feels out of my control to choose what those things are, and I’m frustrated that it’s so all-or-nothing in terms of past progress.

In 2023, it feels like I carried on in the same paths as 2022 and pushed those extremes even further, rather than trying to consciously rebalance my priorities. Career development seemed the path of least resistance and I maximized that at the expense of so many other things that would have been beneficial.

In 2024 I need to consciously fight this tendency to take the easiest path and to more consciously balance my priorities. I’m tired of this being the central narrative of my annual reflections. I’m tired of feeling lonely. I’m tired of telling myself I need to lose weight and be more fit. I’m tired of looking at all the side projects I want to do and not doing them.