Austin Gilliam

2022: The Year of Side Quests

Yearly Reviews

Ahh, the bell toll of shame. At the start of 2022 I'd made a promise to myself to keep this website up to date, and that lasted exactly four months! In that last update, I'd shared that everything was smooth sailing, although a few of my hobbies were in the decline — namely writing (which I'll get to in a minute). What I didn't fully appreciate in April was that I was about to be smacked with two massive life events:

  1. My wife and I's first house, a giant move, and all the maintenance/remodeling that would follow.
  2. My acceptance into an "Expert Engineer" program at work, which would go on to claim ~10 hours/week of my time from June-December, and 3 weeks of travel.

Put a bout of COVID-19 on top of that and we've got an entire month, plus the 2-ish hours of hobby/training time I get on weekdays, entirely gone. I also drastically underestimated the amount of time I would spend working on the house this year, with my initial estimate being around 100 hours, and my current running total at ~250 hours and change — in particular a massive basement remodel.

1 / 5
A picture of the before stolen from Zillow, because I failed to grab one...
2 / 5
Post painters and basement contractors adding wall straps and a french drain.
3 / 5
Where I got my hands dirty installing a subfloor.
4 / 5
Adding a protective layer over top, also helps with noise.
5 / 5
Finally adding the flooring, the trim and decorating would come later.

However, that is not to say that the year was a wash. I love owning a home, and I learned a tremendous amount this year in my training program. With a few sacrifices to my sleep schedule, I still found time to play D&D with friends and hide away with some books and video games. I also got the opportunity to go to both Seattle and Los Angeles for some quick vacations, the former of which was the first vacation I'd been on with my best friends — and also the first time I've ever had a flight crew timeout on a red eye, forcing us to spend the night in an airport.

1 / 7
A view of downtown Seattle from the ferry.
2 / 7
Kubota Garden in Seattle — a bit of a drive from downtown but the views are amazing.
3 / 7
A lovely photo of Gas Works Park in Seattle — highly recommend!
4 / 7
Liz's Antique Hardware in Los Angeles.
5 / 7
Overlooking the Huntington Japanese Garden in LA.
6 / 7
A quick snapshot of the beautiful altar at a friend's wedding in LA.
7 / 7
A view of Manhattan from across the bay in New Jersey, when I was traveling for work.

I spent a lot of today appreciating just how much happened last year, both the good and the bad... And then I took a look at the Almighty List, had a little sigh, and started to put together my goals for 2023.

The Almighty List

Of the 12 major goals I set at the beginning of 2022, 3 of them were completed, and 3 of them were cancelled altogether. I finished 55.7% of the tasks required to complete my goals, and 33.6% of those tasks were completed late.

  • Reading
    • Finish the books in my 2022 Technology Reading List.
    • Finish the 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 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.
    • Get away from the desk, eat better, walk more.

I knew early on in the year that novel writing had to go, because I could never find long stretches of time to get in the zone. I was also surprised to find that I didn't want to? I was enjoying setting up my weekly D&D game far more than traditional writing, which has left me wondering if I want to write a novel, or if what I really want is to tell a good story...

I also struggled a lot with my health goals after the first few months of the year, particularly as the house and my training program started adding stress and travel to my day-to-day. While I don't think I got any less healthy, I am certainly no more healthy than I was in 2021, so those goals will need to see a repeat.

As for the rest, I certainly made progress on them, but not enough to comfortably call them complete. Let's get to the highlights!

The Highlights

Following the format of my last check-in, let's start with the goals that are a little more tangible. I completed all the training courses I assigned myself in January, but not the two extra I thought I'd pick up after Q1 (this is what I get for adding scope creep!). I also passed the AWS Solutions Architect Associate exam, which has been a boon both at work and in my projects at home.

The trainings and certification exams I completed in 2022.

Last time, I'd just finished Clean Architecture by Robert C. Martin... And that was all I finished from my Technical Reading List this year! Similar to my issue with novel writing, taking the time to sit down with a textbook is a commitment I didn't have the capacity for. I did get some social reading done during my flights, but nothing like what I completed last year.

What I read from my 2022 Social Reading List.

I was able to play video games this year, but not in the way I expected. I thought I would be catching up on FFXIV and other multiplayer games, but I found it very difficult to play any game I couldn't immediately pause and handle something else.

The games I finished in 2022, besides Skyrim.

This lead to Skyrim being my #1 game, because one can even save and quit mid-combat, which I had to do on several occassions throught the year. I had an amazing time working through a variety of mods I'd never played before, and was delighted when several of them began to weave together into a larger narrative. It was without question the greatest video gaming experience I've had, and all the more special because I put the major pieces together myself.

A description of my Skyrim mega-playthrough, including the story mods I integrated and completed.

Moving over to tabletop games, I've climbed up from 415k words in WorldAnvil at the end of Q1 2022 to 493k this week — a far cry from where I wanted to be, but in hindsight I think the number goal was a bit arbitrary. What I really focused on was getting articles out of draft, which was a lot more satisfying. Just before year end we completed Season 9 of The Centurion's Riddle, a game I thought would complete in 2022, but rescheduling and some narrative twists got in the way of a satisfying finish. I see that wrapping up in the first half of 2023, but I've clearly been wrong before!

The only miniatures I printed and painted in 2022.

Then comes the lowest hobbies on the totem pole for 2022... 3D printing and miniature painting. Several months after the move and I've yet to setup my printers again, and I cracked open my paint palette for the first time in 6 months just this past week. I think this is a hobby that won't truly flourish until I'm done GMing the The Centurion's Riddle, as most of my tabletop-time is going to actual prep instead of painting.

Wrapping Up

I'm struggling to sum up this year. So much happened, a plethora of which is not even mentioned here, on the full spectrum of good to bad. I think out of all of it, really two lessons stick out about the work I'm doing, and what I want for myself year-over-year:

  1. The way I currently track my goals and tasks (a big Excel sheet) isn't working. It adds up the numbers nicely, but it leads to a Waterfall-esque process where one task must be completed before another, leading to progress gridlock.
  2. How much training is too much training? While it's certainly helped me at work, it sometimes comes at a detriment to my goals at home. Finding the balance is something I'd like to start doing this year.

And that's... it. No goal promises just yet, or hours spent organizing my spreadsheet before vacation ends. I'm going to think a little bit about the what and the how before I get started, maybe try some things out in the background, and see where that takes me.

I hope all is well for you and yours, and I'll see you in the next one!