Hello You! Can’t believe another year has passed! But it has, and that means that it is time for the tradition of the yearly reflective summary, a wrap-up blog, retrospective of sorts, on what I’ve achieved the past year, my biggest fails, what I’ve learned and what I am planning to do in 2019.
This time the summary is somewhat special because it’s going to include 2017 as well as 2018. Yep. Last year, with my son Teo just a teeny tiny baby I didn’t have the energy, nor inclination, nor force of will to do a summary. In fact, I pretty much abandoned the blog (and life) from October 2017 onwards up until very recently.
Here we go!!
2017 was a year of family and friends. Mostly family. Two awesome things happened that year. I got married with my now wife Malin in May (Yeaaah! It is so awesome to be able to call her wife) and we had our first son Teo at the end of August. As the year revolved around preparing the wedding, preparing to become a dad, supporting Malin so that she could have a pleasant pregnancy (as far as pregnancies can be pleasant) and surviving becoming a first-time parent everything else took a second place. My work at Google took a second place and anything outside of that took a third, a fourth or just fell off a cliff.
The wedding was amazing. It was so, so awesome to have my family and friends travel from Spain to Stockholm and be able to have them be part of my new life here. And also to bring some of the customs I grew up with in Asturias and let my Swedish friends and family experience that as well. My parents had never been here before so it was super cool to show them Sweden (I’ve been living in Sweden since 2010, and even lived here before through 2007 to 2009 as a university student). Malin was beautifully pregnant and I cried most of the ceremony haha.
The first months of parenting were tough as fuck. I’ve never experienced something so tough in my life. I didn’t know I was capable of operating under such extreme conditions. It was extremely straining (and a great opportunity for growth) for our relationship as complete sleep deprivation, exhaustion plus a crying baby have a knack for making people irritated and hostile. I could write a whole article on my experiences as a first time dad but here’s a good summary: Before you become a parent you’re mostly concerned about yourself, becoming a parent is the process of the baby destroying you and your ego over a period of days, weeks and months, until you are rebuilt as a caring parent. The destruction and rebuilding are painful physically and mentally.
Parenting has taught me a lot of things. Some of them I can think of from the top of my head and in no particular order:
- We are far tougher than we think we are. There were a lot of times I felt of the verge of breaking down but I didn’t. There was more to give.
- I developed loads and loads of patience (I kind of rediscovered my Spanish chill). Everything with a baby just takes more time so chill and have patience. You cannot force your will upon another living human (they happen to have their own will). Collaboration and partnership work far better. This works for adults too.
- I’ve learned to be a better team with my wife. I’m far more communicative than I used to be. I am more empathetic and observative so I can read in-between the lines of a situation and offer help or support more often.
- I’ve also learned to be more selfless and put others in front on my own desires and needs. I find a lot of joy in things just because Teo or Malin love them.
- I’m far better at just doing things. I used to be an extremely slow starter. I would always need to warm up to an idea before starting it. I will do this, but first I’m going to take a coffee and chill for a minute I’d often say. Now I just do things, no warm-up nor nonsense needed.
- To let go of expectations. If you reflect a little bit about the times you become angry or irritated, you’ll find that many times this happens due to broken expectations. You expected that someone would behave if a way but they didn’t, you expected that you’d have time to do something but something got in the way, you expected that something would go according to plan but it didn’t. Having a baby is a great way to train letting go on expectations because almost nothing ever goes as planned. Let go, be water or be grumpy, irritated and angry for ever.
- To focus. You may not believe it until you experience it but a baby can easily swallow up all your time. To the extreme that you can’t find time to go to the toilet, or shower, or eat. You may be able to find some time in the in-betweens. And if you want to do something with that time other than rest you better focus. A related thing is to stop wasting time on garbage like social networks and mindless swiping.
- To know myself. Being a parent is a whirlwind of experiences and feelings which is a great training ground to get to know yourself and how you behave in extreme situations. Also, when you’re on parental leave you have a lot of time to think and reflect. The naps, the walks, playing the same game for the 320 time, all of them are good places to introspect, think, reflect and improve.
I managed to read 43 books. Many of them were probably audiobooks. During the day Teo would only sleep if you would take him for a long walk in the stroller. So two or three hour walks were very common during those days. I would often come from work, pick Teo and run for the hills so Malin could have some regenerative, alone time (to sleep). Perfect time for audiobooks or podcasts. My favorite books of 2017 were:
- In sci-fi, the Bobiverse series and The Undying Mercenaries series (that last one isn’t super good but it was/is my guilty pleasure).
- In fantasy, Oathbringer, the third book of the Stormlight Archive and The Bands of Mourning.
- In non-fiction, Deep work: Rules for focused success in a distracted world, very still today when our consciousness is being stolen by social networks and countless interruptions. Leaders Eat Last, anything by Simon Sinek is gold. Also Sapiens and Guns, Germs and Steel although they are very dense.
- In programming, I enjoyed Building Progressive Web Apps: Bringing the Power of Native to the Browser and Learning React: Functional Web Development with React and Redux. Also Cracking the Coding Interview became a dear friend to me.
- In parenting, pappalogi and Brain Rules for Baby.
Throughout the beginning of the year I spoke at and helped organize events and conferences. I really, really enjoy speaking at conferences. Love coming up with a quirky, weird talk, then creating a presentation around it and delivering it for the entertainment (and learning) of the audience. I wish I had more time to do that. I also like organizing events and pulling the dev community together. I think that from March onwards I stopped doing anything outside of work during normal working hours, so no speaking, organizing or anything of that sort. Bye developer community! I’ll be back! :D
At the end of the year I interviewed for a Software Engineer position at Google and made it! Preparing for the interviews while taking care of a baby was infinitely tough. I’m super grateful to my manager and colleagues for being super supportive before and during the transition process. I’m even more grateful to my wife that supported me and gave me more breathing room to prepare for the interviews while taking care of Teo.
In 2018 I continued focusing in being a good dad and husband. The family dynamic went slowly changing a bit from extremely-sleep-deprived-survival-mode to a more stable equilibrium as the months went by. I’ve been on parental leave from July onwards and it’s been amazing to be able to spend so much real quality time getting to know my son. Sweden and Google both rock in this regard. Teo is the most lovable and loving thing in this universe. One thing that melts my heart every time is when he grabs my hand and starts caressing it with his teeny tiny fingers. That is the best thing in the universe.
We bought and moved to a new apartment!! Huge milestone and we’re incredibly happy with our new home. We used to live in a small apartment, on a 4th floor without an elevator. Fun times carrying Teo up and down those stairs 4-5 times a day.
This was the year I went back to being a full time software developer. Last April I became a Software Engineer at Google and I’m still ecstatic about it (talk about dreams coming true). I’m so happy to be focusing full time in Software Development again I can’t even describe it in words. It feels like the stars have aligned again and I’m in phase once more, complete, whole, bursting with energy to do awesome things. As much as I enjoy spending time with Teo I’m super excited about the prospect of going back to work and seeing what the future holds in this arena.
I did some introspection about my experience interviewing for big tech companies like Amazon and Google. You may find it useful if you’re planning to join any of these companies yourself and are looking for some guidance or support when preparing for the interviews.
I’ve been spending a lot of time introspecting about where I’m investing my precious time. As most of my time is devoted to Teo it turns out that there’s not much of it left. I wrote a couple of articles on how to get your time back and also about how to find time for coding when you have children. After reading Atomic Habits I’ve been complementing my system with more deliberate habit hacks (if you haven’t done it, go read that book now).
I’ve started redesigning Barbarian Meets Coding and I think it’s going very well. I love the new design. It’s a blend of fantasy-comic-meets-coding-and-pixel-art. If you haven’t visited in a while then take a look and tell me what you think.
I also wrote 15 articles in this blog. I’m having a blast coming back to writing and sharing stuff with myself and you in this beautiful garden of knowledge and sometimes wisdom.
I learned to do pixel art properly (or better). That was really, really cool. It was so refreshing and empowering to be able to create pixel art I was happy with. I really surprised myself with this one. I’ve learned a lot of things in my life but this particular one was very special. It made me feel capable of learning anything. Looking forward to doing more pixel art in the near future and keep getting better at it.
I read 28 books. Lots less reading this year than in previous years. Teo! :D Perhaps I just didn’t keep as close of a count since I use the blog for that. Probably both. Anyhow my favorite books this year were:
- In sci-fi, Anathem. That book is dense but as you read more and more you realize that it is a work of genious. Artemis was also fun and very light.
- In fantasy, The Broken Earth trilogy was very interesting and refreshing. It starts with a bang. You’ve never read anything like it.
- In non-finction, Why We Sleep was a sobering account on how important sleep is for you. And how bad the lack of it is for the health of your body and mind (great, I’ve been depriving myself of sleep for years). I also enjoyed Steal Like An Artist super inspiring and motivating like anything that Austing Kleon puts out. He has a great newsletter if you like newsletters. Ha! I just noticed that I didn’t have Atomic Habits in my list! (wonder how many other books I’m missing.). Atomic Habits by James Clear was definitely one of my favorite books this year. That is one of the books that I’ll definitely be re-reading in the future. Finally, Option B: Facing adversity, building resilience and finding joy is a tough read. Sheryl Sandberg tells you about how She faced her husband sudden passing away and shares the stories of other survivors and what you can learn from them.
Oh! I really, really, thoroughly enjoyed playing The Witcher 3 this year. Such at beautifully made game. It gave me lots of inspiration to draw, write and create. It also reminded me how fun immersing and story-driven RPGs are.
Oh! Oh! I recorded some new videos on my YouTube channel. Recording videos is a ton of fun. A completely different new creative medium that I haven’t explored that much yet. Looking forward to doing more of this. The quality of the production is so-so but I’ve told myself that I won’t buy any better equipment until I bring myself to create 50 videos.
This year I also went back to strength training and have been training every other day for the past 4 months. Go go!
Organizing a local Google IO event in Stockholm
- Doing software development mostly in my spare time while having a non full-time software development job sucks. At a lot of different levels. I don’t want to make that mistake ever again.
- I learned and forgot React 4 times. :D
- I pretty much stopped doing developer relations, meetups, conferences, and other such things. With a baby you just have to prioritize and there are things that are going to fall off. I learned to say No these past two years and not feel bad about it.
- I didn’t manage to create a routine, habit, space, time to record more videos.
- All the times I was an asshole to my wife and/or my son.
- I have 2.5 months left of parental leave, and Teo and I are planning to have a lot of quality time together: Swimming! Museums! Football! Skating! Snow! Library! Fika! And more!
- As Teo sleep becomes more stable, Malin and I are finding more quality time to spend together. Yey! We have this new routine where after Teo goes to sleep we grab a tea and talk. It’s wonderful. We haven’t been able to do that for months. Looking forward to having more of that as well this year.
- Unexpectedly, Teo has brought a much richer social life into our lives. So I’m looking forward to building stronger and lasting friendships and a small circle of friends where Teo can grow up.
- I’m looking forward to going back to work and kicking some ass. I’m going to come back with thunderous energy and infinite might.
- I don’t know how much time I’ll have left between work and Teo. He’ll be starting preschool soon and I hear that’s a tough period. Anyhow, if Teo allows I would love to focus on these things:
- I want to learn lots of things and experiment with lots of quirky and weird side projects. Some of the topics I want to focus on this year are:
- Lots of internal stuff at Google ;)
- Anything Front-end. I feel there’s a lot of things here I need and want to catch up with.
- Art: Pixel Art, Drawing, colouring, animation, music are all things I want to pursue. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the quality of the courses in Udemy. So I’m definitely going to be doing more of those.
- I’ll finish Wizards Use Vim and it’ll be awesome.
- I plan to do a lot more blogging, vlogging and newslettering. I want to continue redesigning and improving the blog itself little by little.
- Game development was a lot of fun and an interesting technical challenge. I want to dive more into game development this year and particularly in generative algorithms and such.
- One very basic thing I really want to invest in this year is sleep and gym. I normally have no problem going to the gym but sleep is another beast. More sleep, such a simple thing that can have such a big impact in your every day life. Life is better when you sleep (and gym).
- I want to learn lots of things and experiment with lots of quirky and weird side projects. Some of the topics I want to focus on this year are:
What about you? What do you want to achieve in 2019? I wish you an awesome year ahead, may you fulfill all your goals and dreams! Oh, and if you need some help getting shit done, take a look at my “system”!
Written by Jaime González García , Dad, Husband, Front-end software engineer, UX designer, amateur pixel artist, tinkerer and master of the arcane arts. You should follow him on Twitter where he shares useful stuff! (and is funny too).Follow @vintharas