One thing I really enjoy during the last bits of each year is to read year-in-review posts on my favourite blogs. I decided to write one myself this year since I reflect on the past year around my birthday for many years already and it's pretty straightforward to make a blog post / twitter thread out of it. And who knows, maybe it will inspire one or the other reader. Today, I turn 27 and this is the review of my past year.
Doing the first public year-in-review post about this dumpster-fire year is somehow a challenge. I know that there are many people who had a very hard time with the year. Some have lost their job and others may have lost loved ones to that virus that caused this global trouble. And while I had a pretty successful year professionally, it was probably the hardest year of my life since I'd to say goodbye to two beloved family members in 2020.
I really wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to spend a semester abroad during my studies and got the chance to do it from September 2019 to February 2020 in Milan, Italy. It was an amazing experience I'd never want to miss. I'd say it's always hard to tell something like that about oneself but I'm sure that it made me a more self-aware person.
When I came back in February, Corona was already in the news in Italy. The Lombardy was one of the first regions in Europe to be affected by the virus and at that time there were already some rumors circulating that the virus found its way to Milan. I was lucky that I've decided to come back home earlier than most of my friends. When Lombardy was quarantined, they were given the choice of taking one of the last planes to their respective countries, so they got basically kicked out without premonition. Unfortunately, since the virus is still not under control, I haven't had the chance to meet any of them after our last beer at the wonderful Birrificio Lambrate we used to hang around. I hope this will change this year.
Oh, and for those who wonder.. my cooking skills have improved significantly and Italian food is indeed the best in the world.
Careerwise, I'd a pretty good year. Fortunately, I've had already made contact with my current employer Webfleet Solutions even before I headed to Milan. Therefore, right after coming back I started a part-time position as software engineer next to my studies. I was really fortunate – in every sense of the word – to be a full-time student and be employed with the opportunity to work safely from home, with interesting problems to solve and a stable income during the crisis.
I finished the last courses of my computer science masters program and started my master thesis where I can dive even deeper into the subject of deep learning which I'm deeply interested about. That means, during this year I'll be finishing my studies and start an entirely new chapter which I'm very excited about. From that point of view, Corona wasn't that big of a deal for me, probably even beneficial for my progress. I could completely focus on learning without having any form of FOMO.
As I've written in the introduction, I've lost both my grandma (April) and my grandpa (November) last year. Everyone handles this pain differently. The funerals weren't really helpful for me. What has helped me more to cope with this situation was to be there at the bed, holding hands and saying goodbye a very last time. Mainly, I drew from the fact that life is short. Too short. Time is life's equalizer. Whether rich or poor, we all share the burden of our mortality and it's our responsibility to make the best out of the time we get. It was a reminder for me to say no to things I don't want to do and people that spread negativity and instead focus on the fundamentals in life – prioritize health, be there for family and friends and learn something new every day.
“We have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one.” ― Confucius
Speaking about learning new things. This year I started to learn my first instrument, and since I already know how to furiously hit the keys of my keyboard I thought that it would be easy to learn the piano - right!? Well.. no. Buuut, I'm getting there. From the first day of my learning journey in February I've tried to make it a habit to play everyday, even if it's just for 1 minute. And I can say it worked pretty well. I had three weeks during the summer months where I skipped it, but apart from that I succeeded. In April I also started to take lessons, which I can only recommend since a teacher will prevent that you get into bad practices at the beginning and keeps you accountable.
Here are some other things I've enjoyed in 2020:
- I did a bike trip from Magdeburg to Cuxhaven in September which was really cool
- During the beginning of the pandemic my poker group launched a week-long online poker tournament and I actually ranked first. So I got a sweet trophy and the title 'Corona-Champ'
- These video games: World of Warcraft Shadowlands, Animal Crossing New Horizons, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (even though I rarely actually take time to play)
- These books: Atomic Habits by James Clear, Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport