2020.

December 31, 2020

This isn’t my first attempt to write a reflection post for this year. I’ve grown accustomed to writing year-end reflections, but never for a year like this. Most years, I find myself thinking all way back to January and chronicling highlights in chronological order. But this year was messy, and a lot more like Groundhog Day than a linear timeline.

I thought it’d be clever to organizing my thoughts into feelings. There were sections for all kinds of moods for this up-and-down year. I nixed that when I realized that everything I wrote amounted to a year-end whining. No one wants to read that. I can’t believe I even wrote it.

The truth is that I don’t have an elegant way to sum things up. I mean, this is a year where we witnessed a presidential impeachment, the death of Kobe Bryant in a freak helicopter accident, and the Pentagon release UFO footage. It’s funny-not-funny how those would headline any other year, but have fallen off the radar in 2020 against.

But let me try to spit out some highlights as best I can.

I continued to work. A lot.

I consider myself incredibly lucky that I was able to keep working, even as Covid shut down work for so many folks. The unemployment rate in Long Beach alone topped out at about 20% in Spring, a figure that includes friends and family of mine. The fact that I not only could continue to work, but have a sharp increase in work is something I’m keenly aware of and thankful for, though I’d be lying if I said there hasn’t been a shred of guilt along the way.

Calculating the exact number of hours I worked is harder this year. I started teaching web design and development at Long Beach Community College, and lots of the time that went it that weren’t tracked in Harvest. I’m an employee over there, so there was no need to track my time for invoicing, like I do with my clients.

Still, I logged 2,040.25 hours in 2020. How neat would it have been if I had worked 20.25 fewer hours? That’s up from 1,752 hours in 2019 and 1,784.75 hours in 2018 for a new all-time high. That’s a personal record I’m not exactly proud of. Last year, I said the decrease in clocked from 2018 was a good thing, especially because I actually billed more while working less.

I can’t say I billed more this year. In fact, I worked more than ever but billed less than the previous year. Part of that was some shuffling with my clients, but I’ve got to do some more digging to figure out where I spent more time and how I can keep the overall total closer to past years.

Either way, I still love what I’m doing and the people I get to work with. Seriously, I can’t believe I get paid for the stuff I do.

I redesigned my website.

And it only took me something like five years! I spent a little time working on it at the start of the year, deciding to develop it live in small chunks rather than one big update. That inspired me to write a series of blog posts on it as I worked, like creating a “dark mode” design, optimizing the site for performance, and auditing accessibility.

I can’t say I’m “done” with the site, even after the year comes to a close. I haven’t touched the thing in several months and I already have a few new branches of it with different ideas. It’s funny how fickle I am with design — my mind gets bored with a design before it’s even done.

I’m hoping to spend more time on the site in 2021. Maybe I actually will if I figure out how to bring my clocked time on other stuff back down to normal.

I invested in some recording gear.

Once I found out that I wouldn’t be teaching students in a classroom this year, I found myself needing a good solution for remote teaching. LBCC already uses Canvas LMS, but that’s not a direct replacement for live instruction. So I decided to convert my office into a little studio for recording screencasts.

It’s nothing too fancy and was a cinch to set up. Chris Coyier shared his podcasting setup a while back and I merely followed his lead. This gets me excited to try making more videos. I’ve found myself getting more comfortable and a little better editing with ScreenFlow and I want to maintain that momentum.

I managed to have some fun.

And by that, I mean “we” as a family. Our home got turned upside just like many, many others when both kids moved to virtual remote learning. Converting spaces into mini classrooms for kids that are three and eight made the house feel a little tighter, compounding the cabin fever we all have from spending too much time at home.

So we decided to hike up to a real cabin and spread ourselves out in the mountains at Big Bear for a week.

I sold a house.

Well, it was Marcia who did all the heavy lifting. We become landlords last year, and while that was going well, we decided to offload our condo. I’m no real estate expert or anything, but the place had appreciated a lot since we purchased it in 2009 and we figured we’d sell it while the market was at historic highs. Sure, it’s possible we left some money on the table, but it feels good to not have to worry about one more thing in the midst of everything else that’s going on.

I took up gardening.

I actually started last year, but really got into it this year. I like getting my hands dirty with actual dirt, and watching a seed evolve into a full-grown vegetable or fruit. Plus, it was good quality time with the kids!

In related news, I found myself re-planting the entire backyard lawn as a project to spend more time outside. Good gosh, that was a lot more work (and physical pain) than I ever expected.

I’m getting back into shape.

At least that’s the hope! I wouldn’t say I’ve gained a lot of weight during this Covid stay-at-home order, but I certainly am less in shape than I was. I mean, it was just two years ago that I ran 1,200 miles. I haven’t even come close to that number with the last two years combined. That’s taken a toll on my body, which was already in mediocre condition with sciatic pain on both sides.

I’ve committed to running a little more, and have started doing workouts on Apple Fitness+. Those workouts are pretty good! I bet they’re lame for gym rats, but hey, gyms are closed and this gets me moving. I’m already feeling a difference since starting two weeks ago and hope to keep it up next year.

I turned 40.

As in three days ago.

So, what’s next?

Psh. That’s anyone’s guess, I suppose. My plan is to keep finding ways to make the best out of life in quarantine. Maybe I’ll rattle off some thing I’d like to see happen by this time next year:

  • Better separation between life and work. That’s something everyone wants, I know, but it’s even more important this year as home is where we spend all of our time these days. That could mean fewer hours working, how we organize our home, or how I set my schedule. I’m really not sure what the right answer is at this point.
  • Better curriculum. I’m so glad I was able to write lessons for two classes this year, but there’s plenty of room for improvement. After two semesters of teaching, I’m starting to see how things can be tweaked to help students get the most from the materials.
  • A new website. And by that, I mean another redesign. I’m not totally happy with how things came out this last time around, but I already have new ideas that I want to explore.
  • My own newsletter. Would you believe that I set up a newsletter seven years ago when I first started freelancing? I never followed through and want to fix that. Given the amount of stuff I read for what I do with CSS-Tricks, I constantly find myself with tons to share, but no platform outside of this blog to do it. I suppose I could be better about blogging while I’m at it, but I’ll go easy on myself since I blogged more this year than I had in many other years.

Thank you!

I sure as heck appreciate you reading. This year would have been so much different were it not for the friends, family and clients in my life, like yourself. Whether we’re super close and chat everyday or have only met through this blog, I hope we all get a much-needed rebound in 2021.

Cheers… and peace.