2020 was a good year - said no one ever.
This time I'll try to focus on the positive things that happened to me. Because everyone has a sad story to share.
Study & Languages
Study SEO. Yearly this year it came into the realisation that most of the failed content projects were relying on the SEO, assuming search engines will suddenly like my websites and bring loads of people without any effort from my side. Products don't sell themselves, obviously. After watching many coursers and reading tons of articles, I actually managed to get an impressive result. I created my guinea pig website and thoughtfully and thoroughly designed it from the SEO point of view. It paid off very well:
Basically launched the project in mid-August and with 0 traffic and finished 2020 with 6k unique visitors a day, all organic inbound traffic.
Copywriting. In hindsight I actually see some synergy in activities this year. Both freelancing for Okta and SEO experiments made me think about how I write, taught me to find and analyse keywords and write texts which answer people's questions by all means. I knew copywriting is hard, and the deeper I dig, the more it's looking appealing to me. It's a similar and foreign concept - trying to deliver the message and intent using the English language for people instead of programming code for computers.
I'm at the very beginning, and I'll keep practising it more. This blog is also a perfect playground for writing, I should be using more often!
Since October my partner and I solve math/physics/trigonometry/probability theory puzzles from the brilliant.org and keep our solved problems. It's an excellent way to keep the brain active and entertained. Most of the problems don't require specific knowledge, just general logic and commons sense. Some background information augmented with examples for the topic is provided as well.
Netflix and learn
To our surprise, we found loads of good quality edutainment movies and series on Netflix. We got a habit watching documentaries for various topics. Some of the most memorable programs are: Revolutions: The Ideas That Changed the World, Explained, Night on Earth: Shot in the Dark, Our Planet, Coronavirus, Explained and many more.
This is something I started in 2019 and was persuing almost until 2020. I have very mixed feelings about it, most certainly I made some progress, but not sure if this progress is satisfying enough considering time I spent on it.
I'm most certainly not a book worm, not even close. But this year I was trying to read a bit more than usual, and that was particularly challenging because most of the year I didn't commute anywhere. Nevertheless, there are some finished books: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland[en], Go Figure: Things you didn't know you didn't know: The Economist Explains[en], Ikigai: Giving every day meaning and joy[en], Over 30s' Jokes[en], Тайные виды на гору Фудзи[ru], Never Split the Difference[en/audiobook], The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck[en/audiobook], Stranger in a Strange Land[en/audiobook], Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race[en/audiobook]
I got through coronavirus in early March and almost recovered by the end of the year 2020. I don't remember these two weeks. I can recall it was all over the news that London is safe, and we need to get "herd immunity". The coronavirus had a long-lasting post covid effects but, hey, I'm mostly recovered now!
As I'm getting older, health becoming a more important topic. No, isn't not only because I'm falling apart. General wellbeing is something which directly related to state of mind, productivity and everyday happiness.
Coronavirus affected health in bizarre ways. As many COVID long hauliers, I had a long way to recover. The first month after it was particularly tough. After I failed sick, I lost all the strength and urged myself to exercise a lot to speed up recovery. That time back in March all gyms were closed - workouts were allowed outside only. As a result, I started to run, run a lot. Fast forward, I not only recovered my previous strength(~2km @ 5:30/km) but gradually increased my endurance. I made regular 6k at 5:00km/h a routine run and started bimonthly half-marathons(21km @ 5:30/km).
In 2020 I ran ~900km and 10 half-marathons. I found running especially good for mental health while living in lockdown. Without it, I'd go nuts and very likely end up in depression, or anxiety, at very least.
I never ran half-marathons in my life.
This year I managed to lose weight significantly.
I finished 2019 with 88kg. In March 2020 weight has reached 91kg. Thanks to my wonderful wife, who was nudging me to reduce eating and Huel, I brought down the weight to 75.5kg in late September and December. That is, I lose 91-75.5 = 15kg just in 5 months. It's the first time in the last 15 years when I got my BMI to the normal ("green") area.
Was it difficult? Not much, I promise to write an article about it with more details!
Pescetarianism is not a cult name but rather an abbreviation, it's a vegetarian + fish(pesco) diet type. It tried it before briefly and was quite comfortable with it.
In summer 2020, I actually gave up all meat. Again, COVID played a significant role in this decision. One of the post-COVID effects I experienced is a change of smell. At some point, everything started to smell like a coffee. I mean everything literally: soup, bread, fish, even fresh air. It is creepy as it sounds.
One day I open bag with boiled chicken, and my brain freaked out because it was smelling like a burned coffee. I could not eat it, it felt so weird. That's how I spent half of the year without meat* even sense of smell got back to normal.
I think this diet also had a significant impact on the lost weight.
* I actually had meat a few times, not impressed.
Work / Career
A brief remark: year started very hectic: New Year fatigue in January, IR35 reform and panic in February, COVID in March and me trying to recover from "flu" for next few months. Obviously, I did not have any income at that time. I'm always amused when people talk about how easy to be self-employed - some of them have no appreciation that in any crisis company owners are the first who take the hit.
In February 2020, I got a hot desk in the office for myself. In fact, I returned back to the TechHub, a coworking space for startups in the startup area of London. TechHub happens to be my first ever working place in London. Unfortunately, due to COVID company went into administration terminating all activities. I promised to focus on the positive events only, right? In that short month of my work there, my mindset actually got back into the startups' vibes. It's something forgotten due to work for larger companies.
In 2020 I was working with two companies:
- Okta, where become a freelance technical blogger. I write primarily for JVM(mostly for Kotlin) developers about Okta integrations in the form of tutorials. Funny, I can call myself professional blogger now :D
- eBay. I joined shipping labels team and mostly focusing on the backend, microservices and occasionally frontend. Also, I've got a chance to contribute to the Developer Experience improvement, and that's particularly interesting given the scale of the company.
This year I started a project which is generating some traction, thanks for SEO efforts. This project has grown from nothing to 6k DAU daily.
It's an exciting chart, I deeply regret that SEO was a frequently overlooked area in my projects. I mean, having 200 active users at the same time with zero budget it's pretty neat:
Practically I didn't go anywhere in 2020 and spent all the time in London. During COVID walk to the shop mile away is the most accessible and the only available form of entertainment and travel.
Nevertheless, I have visited:
- Spain: Puerte de la Cruz(Tenerife)
- UK: Brighton, Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Belfast, Giant Causeway
(new destinations are in bold)
Looking forward to see life unpaused in 2021
Really, everyone is tired, covidiots are multiplying, death toll is rising. The good news is vaccines are already around, so there is a hope to resume normal life. I doubt it's going to be the same tho.