I will spare you the pathos of how quickly time passes. But I will be overly emotional about how the last twelve months have changed me.
I grew in 2022. Maybe not as much as a professional than as a person - this year faced me with some vicious challenges.
I struggled with injuries, so I learned to train with limitations. The muse wasn’t always around, so I learned to rely on my discipline when writing. I had to take care of my team and project, so I learned how to say no and manage conflict.
For the first time in years, I can say that I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, and I’ll leave the IDE closed during the holidays.
I’m almost 30.
This number’s never frightened me because I’ve always seen it as just a count of the laps you’ve made around the sun. But I realized that it’s more than that, and it wasn’t while talking about old movies.
I pinched a nerve so hard I couldn’t even lift groceries without my head feeling like it was ready to burst. An old nurse had to give me shots for a week, the kind that give you trouble walking after. I stared at the pull-up bar at home, promising myself that I’d be more careful.
The doctor lectured me about my bad training habits and told me that I’m no longer a teenager who recovers from injury after a good night’s sleep. But just to make sure that it wasn’t a one-off problem, I continued to get injured twice more.
Now I can’t squat for the life of me, but I know my limits. Maybe wisdom truly comes with age.
The sushi chef Jiro is one of the people I admire the most. I hope to continue my pursuit of mastery of my craft even in my old age, just like him. Writing and programming have enough depth for a lifetime, but that focus takes its toll.
My devotion to one skill deprived me of the chance to hone others.
I optimized my life so much that I didn’t even get a driver’s license and didn’t graduate from university. I left traveling for my old age and spent the last 10 years in front of the screen.
This year I finally started getting recognition for all the time I’ve put into programming.
But when I felt I was dancing with burnout again, switching my focus for a while seemed like the only escape.
I turned to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, an old passion of mine, and its destructive nature helped me clear my head. When someone is trying to break your limbs, your mind puts its entire attention to that, forgetting about the gnarly bug at work and the plot problems in my stories.
And I realized that improving in anything requires two things - time spent doing the craft and time spent watching other people doing the craft.
Achievement doesn’t have to be a result of herculean effort or coffee-fuelled all-nighters. At least they’ve never worked for me. What does work is consistent, deliberate action over long periods.
People tend to give up on projects and ideas because their thinking is too short-term.
But if you think in years instead of months, becoming a better engineer or writer is not as daunting. Splitting a big effort into small daily quests makes an effort more bearable. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they were laying bricks every hour.
So far, I’ve written two technical and one fictional book, focusing on writing at least 200 words daily. That’s a couple of paragraphs and I can fit the time to jot them down, regardless of how hectic it’s been.
After a year, even if you don’t have the whole book, you’ll own a greatly improved skillset.
In 2022 I created more than I consumed. Times more.
Tao of Node has already sold hundreds of copies, and at least ten people have read my collection of short stories! Ideas and tales that existed only in my imagination found their place in other people’s minds. It’s still hard to believe.
I’ve already started working on my next work of fiction, but I have to ramp up the marketing for the story collection before I continue shelling out books. It will take me a year or two to write it, and I don’t want to be the hermit that works in isolation hoping for the best.
I probably won’t be releasing another programming book in 2023, though. I’ve said what I have to say about software design so far. I want to avoid theoretical philosophizing or rehashing the same concepts.
I’ll focus on building web applications so I can expose myself to difficult situations that hold valuable insights worth sharing with you.
Yes, I’m building things at my job. But there, I prioritize stability and delivery, so I can’t experiment as much as I want to. I need the freedom of creative chaos, and I can only find this in personal projects.
And no, I’m not worried about the AIs. They’re stunning, but I’m writing primarily for myself, and there are already thousands of writers far better than me. A few more artificial ones won’t discourage me.
It shames me to say that I haven’t grown that much as an engineer this year. At least, I don’t think I have.
I learned a lot about managing people and leading a team, but I haven’t picked up a new language or learned more complex distributed systems patterns.
I keep revisiting the fundamentals and improving the depth of my knowledge there. The more time I spend programming, the more I see the same abstract ideas repeat themselves with different implementations.
So I’m no longer rushing at every new library that comes out.
A part of me understands the value of sharing my experience and focusing on mentoring other engineers. But at the same time, my hands are itching to do more.
I still want to expand my horizons, and I’ve got two technologies to improve my knowledge in 2023 - Rust and Postgres.
Somehow I’ve managed to get through 60 books this year. I don’t know how this happened because it definitely felt like I wasn’t reading as much as I should have. But book count is a poor metric to optimize for.
A single Dostoevsky or Rand novel is worth 20 others.
I learned to drop books I don’t like, though. Life is too short to push through literature that doesn’t resonate with you.
I lost one of my heroes this year. A person I deeply respected, even idolized, left this world, and I’m still processing it. I felt directionless for a long time, but the only thing I could do was continue working on the last thing we built together. That’s my only connection left to him. I hope I can make him proud.
I do a fine job wordsmithing, but only when I’m writing. When I have to talk without preparation, I often stop speaking and stare into the distance as the thoughts continue in my mind.
And half-finished sentences don’t make for good presentations.
Speaking becomes an increasingly important skill the more your career advances. You have to present your ideas more convincingly and grip the attention of busy people who are used to multitasking.
So I decided to treat speaking like any other skill and practice until I stopped being bad at it. I gave a total of six talks this year, but the key thing is they all revolved around the same idea.
I tinkered with the delivery with every next presentation, improved the code examples and put more emphasis on the points people found interesting in previous talks.
And after doing this so many times, my architecture meetings at work seem like casual conversations.
I’ve been cursed to know what I want out of life. But I’ve been blessed to have a great partner who pushes me through the fires of my own ambition.
This year I married her.
In short - a lot of work. I don’t put goals and concrete plans because they never work out when they meet reality. I will continue to write code during the day, prose at night, and do BJJ in between. It has worked out well so far.
Cheers to 2023!