Austin Gilliam

2021: Looking Back

Yearly Reviews

It should come as no surprise to anyone that 2021 was a hard year. The pandemic is still raging on-and-off — enough said. Personally, both Danielle and I had surgeries this year (all is well!), with lengthy recovery times and some draining post-op medications. Stack this on top of the "Great Resignation" causing massive shifts in our workplaces, the tumultuous nature of recent politics, and the mundane stresses of modern life...

I find myself very tired at the end of 2021.

Some of the goals I set at the end of 2020 fell apart in the wake of these changes, as did the time and energy I had to complete them. Even when I did have the opportunity to tinker, I felt a general apathy about doing it, often opting to turn my brain off instead. In other words, I wrote very little code for fun this year (the majority of which built this website), and ended up consuming a lot of TV, movies, and video games. Not that there's anything inherently wrong with that (Auri appreciated all the lap time), but it's not what I'd set out to do.

Here we see Auri taking a nap in my lap.

All this lamenting doesn't mean that there weren't any positives in 2021 — far from it! Danielle and I celebrated our 1-year wedding anniversary this past September, and our 10-year anniversary on New Year's Day. Despite the pandemic, I found more opportunities to visit my close inner circle, and get outside. Setting perfectionist dreams aside, I doubled-down on my hobbies and personal learning this year. While I didn't get it all done, I organized and made conscious decisions about how I spent my time, and I think the year was better for it. Which I suppose brings me to the Almighty List!

The Almighty List

In 2021, I'd set 16 actionable goals for myself, which were organized in 9 major categories:

  • Writing
    • Write 50,000 words of edited content for a novel.
  • Worldbuilding
    • Put 300,000 words of content into my D&D campaign's WorldAnvil wiki.
    • Finish the ~90 short stories introduced by an in-story time skip.
  • 3D Printing
    • Setup a fully-ventilated 3D printing station in the basement.
    • Print an army of minis from one of my funded Kickstarter campaigns.
    • Print minis for my small (4-5) cast of new NPCs.
  • Miniature Painting
    • Paint 30 minis from base coat to finishing touches.
    • Paint 10 terrain pieces from base coat to finishing touches.
  • Social Reading
    • Read 26 books.
  • Video Games
    • Level a tank in FFXIV to 80.
    • Finish the main story in the new expansion of FFXIV.
  • Tabletop RPGs
    • Run D&D for my friends! A continual effort every week.
  • Educational Reading
    • Read and follow through the examples in Cloud Native Patterns.
    • Read Clean Architecture.
  • Technology
    • Take a basic front-end course, and create a personal website.
    • Obtain the AWS Solutions Architect certification.

You might be looking at this list and asking: "Wow, 9 out of 16? That's great! What are we moping about?" — and I would agree, for the most part. But it's important to remember all tasks are not created equal. I'd had my heart set on writing a novel this year, and getting back into the swing of 3D printing. While work didn't assign me the educational reading, I knew it would give me a leg up in 2022, as would the AWS certification. But time doesn't permit, and energy fades, and well... 2021.

A year that's an explanation in itself.

The Highlights

I read a lot of books. More than I've ever read in a year — 26 books, one for every other week of the year. The reading list is summarized nicely below, mostly picked from the library pile, with a few recommended ad-hoc by friends. My favorites had to be the third novel and surrounding novellas of the Skyward series by Brandon Sanderson, the Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon, and The Forever Sea by Joshua Phillip Johnson. Special shout-out to Eric May for recommending Walkable City by Jeff Speck, which changed the way I look at my neighborhood.

Everything I read in 2021.

I also did a lot of writing this year, but not as a cohesive body of publishable work. I put over 300,000 words into the WorldAnvil wiki for my Starfinder campaign (a.k.a. The Centurion's Riddle), greatly aided by the ~90 short stories I needed to write to bridge a time skip in-game (I did it to myself...). We also completed Episode 54 this year, which I prepped, ran, and wrote the reports for (which also helped out that word count).

A mysterious, swampy abode, nestled into a hill. Printed 2 years ago, painted in 2021 by yours truly.

In preparation for all that glorious DMing, I also did a lot of painting, in an effort to utilize the backlog of models I printed in 2019-2020. You can see one of my later terrain pieces above, with a sneak peek of some of the minis in the background. While tedious to setup and teardown a space for in the apartment, this was one of the few relaxing activities I had left this year, and I found myself coming back to it consistently.

Mopping up, I played some of the critically-acclaimed MMORPG FFXIV, with a big gap in the fall after Danielle's surgery. MMOs are an old love of mine, starting all the way back when I was in fifth grade, and the social grind of it has felt like coming home. I also took some HTML/CSS courses in preparation for this website (hurray!), which is increasingly becoming relevant for me in my professional life. At the very least, I'll have a few things to tweak when I get back to my work environment...

What's Next

And that's a wrap on 2021! Good riddance, you will not be missed. While I don't have any grand hopes for 2022, I do have grand ambitions — hopefully the world will calm down a little to suit. Below are the tasks I hope to complete in the upcoming year, organized into a few focus tracks.

  • Reading
    • Finish the 10 books in my 2022 Technology Reading List.
    • Finish the 26 books in my 2022 Social Reading List.
  • Writing
    • Write 50,000 words of edited content for a novel.
  • Gaming
    • Bring the word count of my WorldAnvil wiki to 750,000 words, with no TODOs.
    • Complete my Starfinder campaign, The Centurion's Riddle.
    • Finish the 6 games in my 2022 Video Game List.
  • Miniature Printing & Painting
    • Print 50 models from my criminally-underutilized Patreon/Kickstarter files.
    • Paint 100 models (slay the gray!).
  • Technology
    • Obtain the AWS Solutions Architect certification.
    • Finish a JavaScript, React, and Docker/Kubernetes course.
  • Health & Home
    • Move into a house!
    • Walk an average of 7,000 steps a day.

Anytime I find myself with a construct so neat and tidy, I grow cautious. However, I enjoy the game of setting and reaching milestones, and even with the craziness of 2021, I was able to achieve a majority of my goals. Worst case, I cancel a few in the middle of the year... But I'd rather shoot for the moon, and see what shakes out, than try for low-hanging fruit.

Happy New Year!