2020 into 2021

Well, 2020, it's been a slice. I've been pretty AWOL lately on all things internet, and I can't decide if I have a lot to say or if I'd rather say nothing at all, but I've always made an end of the year post since I started this blog - going into 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, so I'll keep up the tradition and write something today for 2021.

It's fun for me to look over those posts - I can see a zoomed out view of what I did and what I was focused on throughout each year. I wrote hundreds of articles, recorded the occasional song, made a lot of commits, built a few open-source projects, had a break up or three, made a bit of art, traveled all over Europe, and learned a ton.

This year is different though, right? A lot of things happened that we're all aware of, but one thing that happened was that life slowed down a bit. No more commuting to work for me, no more conferences, a lot more spare time. A lot more time on the internet for everyone.

I've spent so long focusing on being productive, feeling like I have to be productive all the time. I made it a point to never make promises or obligations about my creative output, but I've always tried to put out a consistent stream of quality material - at least a good tutorial once a month for the past five years or so. I felt good and productive if I produced something for the web and learned something new and wrote about it.

But that's five years of working 8 hours every day on code during my day job, and often spending the rest of my evening working on articles for DigitalOcean, for this website, for other publications, making my own open-source projects, talking about code on Twitter, and feeling like I should accept or consider all the speaking engagements and podcast requests and anything else that comes my way, because if I start turning them all down, the momentum I'm creating will disappear. (Fortunately I've usually kept “HELL YEAH!” or “no.” by Derek Sivers in mind when responding to things.)

It started getting to the point where I was dreading code, dreading speaking engagements, and the last thing I wanted to do was scroll through the Twitter or Reddit feed and read little arguments about this or that framework intermixed with political outrage, or maintain dozens of open-source GitHub repositories for tutorials that are slowly getting out of date. Not to mention all the emails and comments that would come in, which could be anything from a nice email from a thoughtful person who would become a new friend, to people emailing me their coding questions as if I'm Google, people attempting to shut down or critique every aspect of an article, and of course plenty of "are you single?" and "you're such a good coder for a girl" type emails, or worse things I'd rather not mention.

Of course, the vast majority is positive, but it's always the negative stuff that lingers and bothers you throughout the day, and regardless of good or bad, it all requires mental energy. Even the good is odd to me, because often people will have an idea on me based what little I've put out into the world, and if you came to know me as the impatient, flawed and complex human being I am, it likely would not align and reality might possibly disappoint you. If anything, I'm more scared and hesitant of praise than critiques.

So, I've been burnt out on all code and community after several years of my life revolving around it completely. I'm far from famous, but with nearly 10,000 followers on GitHub and 15,000 on Twitter, I can't just say anything or put anything out there without lots of eyes on it, and it puts more pressure on me than if nobody was paying attention to anything I did.

Interestingly, when I opt out of all of this and only pay attention to the real world, it completely disappears. None of my friends or family really have any idea of anything I've done online. They know I do some coding stuff, but that's where it ends, and that's reality.

There are amazing people all around the world and the internet still gives us so many opportunities to connect and create and help others and do wonderful things, but there is so much I don't like about the way things are right now: being constantly bombarded by ads and distractions, infinite scroll, algorithmic manipulation, addiction, corporate interests, dopamine hits from increasing follows and shares and influence, impatience and a lack of focus, negativity, fear and paranoia from always hearing about all the worst things that are happening in the world, conspiracies and a lack of critical thinking. I just don't want to be part of this and affected by it as much as I can, I want to reject it all and go against the grain and live a slower, simpler life.

One small thing I can do is encourage a few other people to also go against the grain and read a book instead of scrolling a feed, and focus on a few deeper relationships as opposed to collecting and quantifying strangers. I'm learning to be my own best friend. I deleted all my tweets and stopped scrolling through Twitter, I removed my email from any easy-to-find spot, and I make sure not to log into anything like Reddit. Without being tailored to my interests, you'll find that most of these sites are pretty boring and it's easy to just check something out for a few minutes and move on.

I found the latest three articles on The Raptitude interesting and helpful, so I'll share them with you.

Meanwhile, I've been making the best of this weird time. I'm really glad that I still enjoy my job quite a bit and the puzzle-solving aspect of coding that makes it so fun and challenging, but I've wanted to explore things outside of coding in my spare time that makes more use of my hands. I built a PC from scratch. I learned some basic woodworking skills to make my own desk. I learned how to knit. I painted some Bob Ross paintings. I climbed one of the tallest mountains in the U.S. and slept among the stars above the tree line. I took a solo road trip along the coast from L.A. to Seattle in an oversized Jeep Wrangler. I started a new job. I've just been livin'.

Here's me on top of Mount Langley.

langley

Here's my first finished scarf, that I just made last week.

knitting

Here's the desk and PC I built.

desk

Aside from my thoughts, here are some of the stats I usually keep track of.

I finished TakeNote

TakeNote is my biggest project yet, and I wrote all about it here. It's a web-based note-taking app for developers that looks like an IDE and syncs to GitHub. It uses TypeScript, Node, Express, React, Redux, Codemirror, and several other awesome open-source projects. I ultimately decided not to ship it, but I did finish it, and I'm proud of it.

I wrote 21 articles

I did two project write-ups - TakeNote and Chip8.js, several articles on JavaScript for DigitalOcean's fundamentals series, and covered few big concepts like Redux, Docker, and webpack. Honestly, I got a lot more done than I remembered, which is one of those reasons I like to make these posts. It's easy to forget all that you've done over an entire year.

Newsletter

The newsletter is up to 11,283 subscribers. I don't post very often, but it is really the only way I'm communicating with the world since I'm not active on Twitter or Reddit. I'm glad you all are interested in what I'm creating and I still hope to create interesting things in 2021.

Learning

I didn't learn most of the things I wanted to this year. Data structures and algorithms have been on the back burner for a few years now, and I never seem to be able to focus on it. I think the best article I wrote this year is Understanding the Event Loop, Callbacks, Promises, and Async/Await in JavaScript, which is a deep dive on how JavaScript and the event loop work under the hood. This article was something I wanted to write and understand for a long time, so I'm glad I finally did. I still want to learn computer science fundamentals, so next time I decide to sit down and try to learn something coding related that's probably what I'll do.

So, thank you for reading and I hope this answers your questions if you were wondering why I haven't been around or active much. I appreciate all of your support and I'm looking forward to seeing what 2021 brings.

About the author

Hey, I'm Tania, a software engineer, writer, and open-sourceror. I publish articles and tutorials about modern JavaScript, design, and programming.

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Tania