Give ̶p̶e̶a̶c̶e̶ optimism a chance: Looking ahead to 2022

Well, 2021 didn’t go exactly as I wanted. But I guess that could be said for everyone. Pandemics, as it turns out, are not simple phenomenons. Yet time continues to move forward.

At the start of the year I had set forward three top-level resolutions, in an OKR-like format. While OKRs may be overly prescriptive in many ways, having clear quantifiable goals have helped me achieve them and assess how to get there. While achieving them may not mean instant happiness, at least I’ll be happy I achieved something.

I wrote a blog post early this year that outlined my three objectives: Invest in Hobbies, Engage in My Community, and Develop My Career Path.

I had once considered writing a blog post each month with updates, but I never did. Still, as it is the end of the year, it’s good to revisit these things and assess how well I did or did not do. I develop key results each quarter and, based on priority, score them on a weight.

Invest in Hobbies

0.97/0.83/0.67/0.63

At the start of the year I think I was not ambitious enough. I had said I wanted to write and read, cook and do some TikToks. I largely accomplished all of these things. Over the next few quarters I added 3D printing as a new hobby with the purchase of my Prusa Mini and increased the number of activities further.

In Q1 I wanted to read 10 books and write 4 sci-fi stories. By Q4 I had planneed to read 20 books and write 9 sci-fi stories. I didn’t finish either, getting to 14 and 6 respectively, but it’s good to have something to strive for.

While I had spent time writing a long fantasy novel for NaNoWriMo, it ended up being much longer than I had time for. I’m at 86,000 words now and not halfway done based on my outline.

Still while I haven’t done as much as I wanted, I’ve still done a lot. In my new world of working from home I have been cooking much more than before, trying new things like these small meat pies.

Meat pies and beer

Engage My Community

0.59/0.65/0.64/0.49

Unfortunately my attempts to engage my community were not very successful. While I have been doing more charitable donations, that really is no substitute for social interaction.

Social engagement is important, and we’ve had less of it recently. This must partially be an explanation for the growing anxiety and depression so many young people have, and I can’t claim to be immune from this.

I was hopeful that we could return to society promptly, but that didn’t happen. I hoped that I could rejoin tech meetups and social clubs, but it wasn’t as if these groups came to me. I hosted a handful of events with my local IEEE branch, but there wasn’t much engagement even from myself.

While I had been able to spend a few events with friends over the months, it wasn’t as much as I hoped nor wanted. Overall, I would’ve liked to do better here.

Develop my Career Path

0.71/0.69/0.52/0.37

Working from home seems to be continuing indefinitely, and this does have an effect on what I might want for the future. I hadn’t minded a small apartment since I’d be in the office all day. Now, my small apartment can feel restrictive. I want to grow outward.

I changed jobs this year, moving from Developer Relations to Software Engineering. A small career change, which is still panning out, which may bring me more opportunities in the future.

I did have more ambitions for my career. I wanted to do much more blogging than I actually did. I published a handful of technical posts on this Medium, but I wanted to do much more.

The challenge is that to write technical content I need to do more technical things, which I hadn’t gone around to. So perhaps in the new year I will want to be a bit less ambitious here.

And I need to focus more on my grad school courses. I’ve done all my in-major electives, so now in addition to do other courses I need to focus more on my thesis. My procrastination here has really dragged down my scores.

Looking Ahead

Once again I’ve been considering the next three pillars that will make up the next year of my life. I think this year has given me a lot of uncertainty about the future, which makes this task harder. Still, it does seem important to have some amount of direction in my life.

Find Peace in Hobbies

Last year I wanted to invest in my hobbies, spending my time focused on them. But over the last year I think I came to a slightly different objective.

Many people are too online. They focus too much on the negative. A lot of anxiety is not entirely self-inflicted, but they are hyper-fixated on things that are out of their control.

The next year is going to have a number of bad and good events. Russia seems poised to invade Ukraine. But the James Webb Space Telescope will also come online. It’s important to follow the news and know what’s going on in the world. But it’s becoming equally important to know when to stop following the news.

Reading books, writing sci-fi stories, and cooking new things are all activities that I can do or not do. I can decide these things. I have no jurisdiction over European geopolitics. So my aim in pursuing these hobbies will be to find and maintain my own peace and reduce my personal anxiety.

Develop My Own Community

We haven’t returned to the office. Local meetups still haven’t restarted. Nobody is coming to save me from social isolation. Okay, the last part is a bit exaggerated, but it does reflect a change in my attitude over the past year. I had expected that I’d be invited to more things once COVID subsided, but it doesn’t work like that.

I don’t think it’s intentional. Many people feel isolated and depressed, and nobody is willing to take that next step. Low motivation is omnipresent.

In lieu of others coming for me, I need to step up and do it myself. This means building my own community and integrating myself in ones that do exist. While the pragmatics may not change all that much, it does reflect a change in my approach.

Much like my vacation this year, when I took Amtrak across the country, I just went ahead and did it.

The beautiful forests of Oregon

Prepare for the Next Step in My Career

I have no idea what the future holds with regards to my career. Moving more into software engineering was one leap. I continue to work on my master’s degree in engineering. What’s it all for?

Kierkegaard once said that we live life forwards but understand it backwards. Perhaps a decade from now my career growth will feel gradual and obvious.

But I can only do this the long way. I want to prepare myself technically and professionally for whatever is to come next. This means becoming more consistent on technical blog posts and really focusing on my master’s thesis for real this time.

In conjunction with the previous objective, I would like to do live streaming and coding, maybe as a regular thing on Twitch. OKRs are great tools for measurement, but being able to hold myself accountable to more people makes them easier to pursue.

Happy new year!

These are just the outlines. The objectives merely state what I want to happen. Over the next week I’ll develop a set of quantifiable key results that I will aim to achieve.

To those still reading, I wish you a happy new year. It will be much like this one, with our individual trials and tribulations. But I do believe it’ll be better. We can find ways to manage our intake of the world’s problems, and we can spend more time focusing on helping our neighbors rather than having anxiety about events half a world away.

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Nick Felker

Nick Felker

Social Media Expert -- Rowan University 2017 -- IoT & Assistant @ Google