2021 in Review

How does one elegantly summarize what was, on net, probably one of the worst years in recent memory for the world as a whole? The world, in many ways, feels like it’s on fire and spiraling further and further into dark and unknown places. Despite the gloom of the news and rapid worsening of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 has had some bright spots in my little corner of the world. This stark contrast between the broader world and my personal experiences lead to many feelings: guilt, imposter syndrome (why do I deserve what’s happened to me?), and, most significantly, a renewed sense of purpose to make the most out of the good fortune and privilege I’ve encountered. With that out of the way, let’s get into it…

This note will chart out big events from this year, what I worked on and learned, and where I want to go in the future.


I am somewhat limited in what specifically I can talk about regarding my job, but overall some highlights of the year included:

  • Getting promoted from Apprentice Engineer (IC1) to Software Engineer (IC2)
  • Switching teams within my org to a team with a much broader charter that has worked on some major projects straddling many parts of the company
  • Gaining new mentors internally and keeping up great relationships with previous ones
  • Becoming a “code owner” within my team and gaining the responsibility to review and approve other people’s code — this has without exaggeration been probably the best professional learning experience I’ve ever had
  • Seeing colleagues in-person again after over a year apart

Work Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4/5 stars)



My health, by which I really mean my physical fitness, really took a nosedive during the pandemic as I stopped going anywhere and moving around throughout the day. I never really realized it, but even short walks around the office during the day make a massive difference in overall health, and I’ve really missed that movement throughout the day. A major goal for 2022 is to rigorously stick to daily walks, even on days when I work from home.


2021 is when I started weekly talk therapy for the first time and I benefited from it a lot. I have a much better understanding of my anxiety now. Therapy is really something everyone should try if they’re able to. While I’m between therapists currently, it is something I eagerly look forward to resuming in 2022.

Looking Ahead

I’ve built up a small arsenal of home exercise equipment in my apartment and 2022 is when I will finally put it to use and start focusing on exercise in a more systematic way. I don’t ever envision myself as an athlete, but, I think that my gently incorporating biking, lifting, stretching, and walking into my daily life more I will set myself up for future success. My cousin’s heart attack, which I describe in more detail below, was a major driver of this motivation.

Health Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ (3/5 stars)


My interpersonal relationships have always been the most treasured aspects of my life, and 2021 was overall a great year for them — even though some shifted in major ways. Most things here are too private to share publicly, but here are a few key takeaways:

  • Hosting dinner parties, when safe to do so, is extremely uplifting and something I thrive at doing. 2022 will feature a lot more cooking for my friends and loved ones
  • Gaming, specifically tabletop roll playing games like Dungeons and Dragons, was a core part of my sanity through the early stages of the pandemic. My DND group sadly disbanded in 2021 due to scheduling conflicts. In 2022, I hope to revitalize this and form an in-person group out in California.
  • Weddings are a lot of fun and my only regret from the ones I attended in 2021 was not dancing more.

Relationships Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5/5 stars)

Yearly Theme

My theme for 2021 was “The Year of Learning.” More on yearly themes can be learned at the excellent Cortex Podcast and I’ll be writing a separate blog post about them eventually.

There isn’t much to write about The Year of Learning because it largely did not happen as I envisioned it 🤷

My goal, when setting out to do it, was to take learning about programming and computer science more seriously and take a bunch of courses to fill in knowledge gaps. I sort of did this, notably starting Josh Comeau’s excellent CSS for JavaScript Developers course online and starting a “book club” at work, where we’re reading Osterhaut’s A Philosophy of Software Design.

More importantly than these career-based learnings, however, were the self discoveries I made along the way. I started weekly therapy for the first time in my life and derived immense value from it. Additionally, I learned a lot about what I want from relationships, friendships, and my career. This has all informed my thinking in major ways about my theme for next year, which I will now tease as simply The Year of Adulting — more to come next week in a new blog post.

Theme Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ (3/5 stars)

Looking Ahead

I’m coming into 2022 with perhaps more optimism than I ever have felt for a new year in my adult life. While the COVID-19 pandemic has no clear end in sight, I think society has found a way to “live with it” to some extent and I’ve largely made peace with that and accept it as a new normal. Making this mental leap was challenging, but I think ultimately healthy. I’m no longer holding out hope for the “end” of COVID because I don’t think there will be one. Instead, I’m shifting my focus towards things that are more in my control.

As mentioned above, my theme for the coming year is the Year of Adulting. In short, this will be a time to focus on taking certain aspects of my personal life more seriously than I have before, such as my health, finances, and (more abstractly) my time and attention. It’s also very much a year about building routines and systems to support future goals, which I think will be crucial as I move into my 30s in the next couple of years. 😬

2020 and 2021 were, collectively, a dumpster fire. I hope that 2022 can perhaps be a little bit brighter

Postscript: A Yearly Timeline

Note, just to preserve the privacy of my friends, I’m shortening their names to a first initial. Also, this section is probably quite boring and is mostly included for my own reflection on the year — that’s why I included it last.

Preparing the Way (January-April) 📝

2021 was, inexplicably, a year of travel. Despite the pandemic, early 2021 was marked by the availability of vaccines (finally!) and a renewed sense of safety — that taking a few tentative steps out of quarantine wouldn’t immediately lead to death and despair.

After getting the two shots of Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine in late February and early March, I began planning a move from Western, MA (where I had been staying with my parents since March 2020 due to the pandemic) back out to Silicon Valley in California, hoping to restart my aborted attempt to live there.

Due to the immense love and support of some truly fantastic friends, I was able to make it work. My friend R, who lives in the South Bay, graciously toured apartments for me on a choppy Zoom connection and ultimately helped me find a truly wonderful spot in Sunnyvale. My friend C, who has been my best friend since high school, agreed to accompany me on my drive across the U.S. to move back to California. In late May, we departed

Road Trip (May) 🚗

This is worth its own blog post at some point, but in short I will say that everyone should drive across the United States at least once in their lives. C and I drove fast - faster perhaps than we should have. Our route took us through Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and ultimately California. We stayed in the following places:

  • Night 1 - Cleveland, OH. A fun city on a beautiful lake. This was my second time there. My biggest takeaway is that apparently local high schoolers get to have their proms in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (which we learned only by stumbling upon the party while walking to the waterfront) — I am extremely jealous!
  • Night 2 - Iowa City, IA. This was a really cool place. We met up with a college friend of mine, N, and she introduced us to some great local spots and many members of her cohort at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. This was especially cool for C, who is starting his own writing journey.
  • Night 3 + Night 4 - Denver, CO. Easily my favorite city of the trip and one I will definitely go back to. The thin mountain air really does make walking around harder. I was fortunate to meet J, a longtime colleague and mentor who works remotely from there. The city being built around a small river/stream where people can wade in and play with dogs is really a cool sight to behold. Visiting the Red Rocks Amphitheater was also stunning — I hope to see a concert there eventually.
  • Night 5 — Salt Lake City, UT. I don’t have much to say about SLC. We got in quite late and saw the Mormon Temple from outside. It’s easily the cleanest downtown area I’ve ever been to, but almost too clean — something felt slightly “off” the whole time
  • Night 6 - Reno, NV. This was the perfect capstone to the trip. Reno itself is, frankly, not all that impressive. But we stayed at one of the resort casinos there and had a delightful tasting menu with cocktail pairings.

The drive itself was impressive too. A few highlights:

  • A rest stop in the middle of Nebraska featuring a delightful Indian restaurant. Truly the last place we expected to find Indian cuisine — but a cool treat amidst the monotony of driving
  • Stopping to take photos in the desert in Utah and Nevada. I’ve never seen such an alien-feeling landscape. It has a kind of indescribable beauty and I hope to return someday
  • The magic of noise-cancelling headphones. As C and I traded off driving duties, we each had to take various personal calls throughout the drive. While they’re certainly an indulgence, my Airpods Max headphones truly performed admirably. C took a call on the car’s bluetooth system as I sat in the passenger seat and I genuinely couldn’t hear a single word of it — amazing!

Above all, the drive was almost meditative. I am someone who nearly constantly is listening to something or consuming some kind of content — be it a podcast, music, or Tweets. A key takeaway of driving across the country is that inevitably these things will all become impossibly boring after day 2 or 3 of driving. A solid amount of time was spent just peacefully driving and taking in the scenery. I don’t think I could have done the drive alone, but being “alone, together” with C in the car was very relaxing and gave me plenty of time for introspection in a way few other activities or trips would.

New Apartment (June-July) 🏡

These months were spent furnishing my apartment. There isn’t much to say about this, but furnishing an apartment totally from scratch is simultaneously much more fun and much more miserable than I expected. I remain thankful to C and R who put up with my indecisiveness and helped me assemble far too many IKEA items.

Wedding Season (July-September) 🤵👰

These months were marked by a trip back to the Northeast to attend the wedding of two dear friends in Vermont. It was a delightful day on a picturesque farm, and a much-needed break from the previous year and a half of near total isolation. Shortly after this (actually, during the wedding itself), my cousin T suffered a massive heart attack that nearly killed him. Fearing the worst, I unexpectedly stayed in Massachusetts for a few weeks to help my extended family in any way I could. Thankfully, he survived and is now fully back to normal.

I was home in California for a few more weeks and then came back to the Northeast for back-to-back weddings. Another cousin, B, got married on Cape Cod and it was delightful to see family, especially after the collective trauma of T’s brush with death. After a few nights in Boston, I took the Acela (very fun!) down to Washington, DC where I saw some friends and had some great whiskey 🥃 before heading out to the suburbs for the wedding of a high school friend which was very uplifting and a convergence of some of my favorite people.

Holiday Season and Work (October-December) 🎄

These few months were, comparatively, much more stagnant. October and most of November was primarily a time of deep focus on work, as I wrapped up a major project that I am very proud of.

In November, I headed home to MA for a week for Thanksgiving 🦃 and also the Leaf Raking Rager, an annual tradition amongst my Vermont friends that is very silly, very fun, and a cherished part of my year. This was also the first time I met Sadie, my parents’ new dog they adopted a few months prior after Sandy, our longtime family dog for 15+ years, passed away of general old age.

In December, I came home once again for Christmas and New Year’s, and am still here as I write this. Having lived in California for not even a complete calendar year, I am already completely baffled as to how anyone tolerates New England winters.