So this was obviously a rough year. I want to talk about what was difficult, but also appreciate all the good things that came out of all of this. Here’s a look at some of the career/life related things I went through in 2020.
At the very beginning of the year (I think January 3rd), I started renting a web server and database. I deployed the first version of this website on January 30th. For the first part of the year, it mostly existed as:
- A resume and example of my work
- Server administration and web development practice
- Some kind of replacement for what I was using social networks for
- A place to install some self hosted apps so I can stop using so many free/ad-based services
It worked very well for all of those things. Overall, I felt some negative feelings about the people I knew not being as interested in what I was doing as I hoped, but I was reaching my goals so I felt pretty good. Then around March, everything started changing.
I feel very lucky that I was able to stay physically healthy. Fortunately for me, I haven’t felt too strong of a pull to be out with groups of people or travel, and I had a stable, full-time web development job since late 2019 that I was able to work for from home, so I was able to stay indoors for a large part of the year.
But the year kept getting worse and things kept getting harder. Through the summer and early fall, I really struggled with a combination of dissatisfaction with my job (and the tech industry in general), processing the events of the year, and not being able to do any real planning for the future. Not having a group of people who were into the things I wanted to focus my attention on wasn’t helping the situation.
Sometime in July, I decided I really needed to change things if wanted any kind of acceptable level of mental health.
I haven’t been feeling all that good about the tech industry and the modern tech working environment. I’ve been doing software development for over 15 years, and I’ve never felt any draw in moving “up” (towards management) in the types of companies I’ve worked for.
During the events of this year, it started to become more clear to me what wasn’t working. And working from home on a project that didn’t keep me interested while participating in the modern webdev work environment I don’t care for while having no ability to make meaningful future plans and being effected by some of the terrible events going on in the world really wasn’t ok.
Normally, I would have just planned to start job searching again for the usual full time roles I always come across, but the feelings I were feeling about this job weren’t new, and they weren’t all that specific to this company. I realized I just didn’t want to work like this anymore. So I decided to switch to freelancing.
Freelance Web Development
The goal for me was to realign the way I work around my strengths and weaknesses. I’m a very independent person, and I’m driven to come up with my own plan to solve a problem and then to execute it well. I like to do that with other people when it makes sense, but I still want to retain the ability to solve something my own way.
So I figured I would focus on the following:
- Pushing myself to show off, put myself out there, and network (at first virtually, but eventually we’ll be randomly meeting new people at events again)
- Putting energy and effort into working on myself, my skills, and the value I can provide people/organizations
- Fighting for and advocating for myself and my worth
Freelancing made a lot of sense to me.
I made the decision to leave the company I was working for, and put a lot of the nervous energy I had into researching and preparing for the best way to actually be successful with this. And I decided to fold the work I was putting into this website into the freelancing plan too. I quit my job and created a LLC for myself around mid August.
From August until now, I’ve been spending most of my waking hours on networking, client projects, and this server (configuration, writing code, writing articles, preparing for monetization, etc). The rest of the time is spent PC gaming. So I’m celebrating the following 2020 accomplishments:
- I decided to make real changes to my life to push my career in a new direction and to address where my mental health was headed.
- I created a New York LLC, completing all the requirements (including the weird and annoying NY State Publication Requirement), and setting up all the banking, tax, and insurance related stuff.
- I succesfully provided the requested features for my first client.
- I finished a very difficult project for another client in mid December. I had to fight to get a good resolution out of the situation, but I did, and I loved the fact that I did what I had to to get it done and for everyone to walk away happy.
- I met one of my financial goals for the business.
- I configured and set up a server/website and related services from scratch.
- I built out a set of self hosted tools and services on that server to replace those things from companies I don’t like.
- I made the first steps towards monetizing the website.
- I finished a huge redesign of the website. This happened around December 2nd. I liked it, and planned to write a big post about what changed, but I actually wasn’t really that satisfied with the way certain things turned out. So in between work on a client project, (and then for a lot of my time after the project was complete) I spent the rest of the month really working to get this website’s design to where I wanted it to be. I was able to get the second big effort (at least 3 weeks worth of work) deployed on the last day of the month!
- I fixed my gaming PC when the liquid cooler broke.
I bought a new graphics card in July (RTX 2070) and installed it. Then a few weeks later the system started acting weird. I found out the CPU kept throttling itself but it took me a while to figure out why. Eventually I figured out it was the liquid cooler so I bought a giant Noctua CPU fan and tried to install it.
Everything I looked up online told me that I shouldn’t have to do too much besides taking the old cooler out, adding some thermal paste, and then attaching the fan. The way things were installed weren’t really great though, and one of the wires was running through the wrong place and I had to move the entire motherboard to get it installed.
There were so many screws. And this was mid July, so it was hot.
But I did it though.
I’m not gonna try to write a nice summary of 2020. I think we’ll all be processing this year for a long time. But for everything that happened, it’s nice to be able to look back and appreciate the good things along the way. I hope 2021 turns out to be a much better year for us all.