A Look Back on 2021

A reflection on my life in 2021.

Published on  β€’ πŸ“–πŸ“– 10 min. read Edit on GitHub


Hello friend, family member, or stranger! This post is kind of like a holiday card, a place to document what I've been up to for myself, and a place to write. My life had a lot going on his year; let's take a look!

For the fifth full year, I recorded a compilation of the year with 1 Second Every Day. Reading about my year before watching might help with some context, but at the same time, a video is fun and could also provide visual aid for the rest of the post, so you do you πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™‚οΈ

I swear this makes my life look more interesting than it feels to me.

1 Second Every Day 2021

This year can really be broken up into two parts, before and after getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

Pre-COVID-19 Vaccine

I have a hard time remembering what I did during this time, other than stress about changing jobs. All of my socialization was virtual or outdoors. I went skiing with friends at Afton Alps and Wild Mountain. Those days almost felt normal; it was a huge sense of relief to "get back to something normal" and go skiing. I celebrated my 27th birthday on a FaceTime call with my parents in February. I went on many walks around Lake of the Isles, sometimes with a friend. February was freezing in Minneapolis, so I used my indoor bike trainer quite a few times and had some very chilly walks.

Post-COVID-19 Vaccine

This is where life got a lot more fun!

Exactly three weeks after my second Pfizer dose of the vaccine (and on Mother's Day, May 9th), I had my parents and grandparents over for coffee. I had lived in my apartment for 10 months, and they hadn't seen it! It was bizarre having guests in my apartment, but so wonderful to see them and give them all hugs. I took social distancing maybe a little too seriously and hadn't as much as even hugged anyone since mid-March 2020.

I've since gotten a booster shot (3x Pfizer gang 🀘)! I've taken several tests for COVID-19 this year, and thankfully have remained healthy.

Traveling

In June, I joined my parents on a road trip to see some family friends in Denver, Colorado. I hadn't left a 50 mi (ca. 80 km) radius of the Twin Cities since January 2020, so it was lovely to see different cities, landscapes, and some mountains!

Brian and mom
Dinner with my parents in Kearney, Nebraska

In August, I went on my first ever bike-packing trip! I joined and met a few friends to bike to Lake Elmo Park Reserve. We had a wonderful ride over on a Friday evening, arriving after dark! We hiked and swam on Saturday. On Sunday we biked to Stillwater, rode across the new highway bridge, then along the St. Croix River on the Wisconsin side to the old lift bridge back into Stillwater. We then had an excellent long ride along the Brown's Creek and Gateway state trails back to Minneapolis, a 50 mi (ca. 80 km) day!

I traveled to Vermont for the first time for a cousin's wedding in late September. It was fun to visit a new state and spend time with my family after not seeing them much the previous year. I was there a week or two before the magical week of fall colors, but it was still a beautiful state!

Nearly immediately after that trip, I joined my mom to travel to Denmark to see family. The timing of the trip could not be any better. Denmark saw ~400 new cases of COVID-19 a day while we were there, and they had just lifted all masking requirements. It truly felt like a COVID-free life for the week I was there. I was so happy to see some family and friends, and see the Copenhagen area again after a few years since my last visit.

In late October, I traveled with friends to Portland, Oregon, my first time in Oregon! We were very COVID-19 cautious but could still see some nice outdoor sights and get some yummy takeout! I worked remotely for the week, which was a fun way to travel without taking PTO (though definitely less relaxing).

Mount Philo, Vermont
Mount Philo State Park, Vermont
Nyhavn, Copenhagen, Denmark
Nyhavn, Copenhagen, Denmark
Rooster Rock, Oregon
Rooster Rock State Park, Oregon

Keeping it local, I tried several new (to me) restaurants here in Minneapolis! I especially liked Owamni, CafΓ© Racer Kitchen, Bebe Zito, and Eastlake Brewery. I can't mention these without also including my forever favorites, World Street Kitchen, Milkjam Creamery, and HeadFlyer Brewing.

Socialization

Especially when compared to last year, I feel like I saw so many people and did so many things this year! A lot was similar to 2020: outdoor events with small groups, not eating indoors, etc. However, in the early summer, when I was vaccinated and COVID-19 rates were low, I was busy seeing people and doing indoor activities like bowling, trivia at a brewery, eating inside people's homes and restaurants, larger crowds at events, etc. A lot of that was short-lived, but it was nice for a month!

As the summer progressed, I still saw many friends and family, but more for outdoor activities. I joined several group bicycle rides, which often ended with sitting in a park and talking. I met friends/family at patios, outdoor seating, or parks to eat and spend time together.

I met a great group of urbanists this Spring and Summer. It's been fun to meet new people who live nearby and bike around the city with them! I've learned so much from them about what our cities can be (and are in progress of becoming) and the work we need to do to make them better. I got to know several candidates who ran for office in Minneapolis this fall and followed this election more closely than any before. Furthermore, I've loved getting to know and befriend some wonderful people who live nearby and share many of the same ideals and values as me. This new community definitely helped motivate me to sell my car…

I Sold My Car!

On September 13th, I sold my car and went car-free! After a year and a half of working from home since the start of the pandemic, I had only driven ~1,600 mi (ca. 2,575 km). I had multiple stretches of at least a month when I didn't so much as even touch my car. I sold it because:

  • It's cheaper to get around than by other modes
  • I want to feel more connected to my city, and anywhere I travel to
  • Driving is dangerous
  • I don't like driving
  • I want to contribute to reducing our society's dependence on single-occupancy vehicles

Being in a large, heavy box-on-wheels, I can't do that, so I prefer to walk, bike, and take public transit. Thanks to all of my friends for supporting and encouraging me to sell it!

My celebratory tweet (my most liked tweet ever)

Biking

Sorry, if you know me, I feel like all I talked about this year was biking, but it's how I get around, and I really enjoy it!

At the start of the year, I set a goal to bike 1,000 mi (ca. 1,609 km), increasing my previous record of 978 mi (ca. 1,574 km). I hit that goal somewhere in July πŸ˜†. I instead biked 1,856 mi (ca. 2,987 km)!

I only had one notable fall this year, but my scrapes were all healed up a few weeks after. Pro-tip, don't aggressively turn on 2 inches (ca. 5 cm) of gravel!

I had something like ten flat tires this year. It was awful. It started with a puncture flat in May. I replaced my pretty worn tires with new ones that turned out to be not very good at all. The following five months, I averaged a flat tire every few weeks, even two in one day (one of each wheel!). This fall I got a pair of Schwalbe Marathon tires, and am confident my issues are behind me 🀞

The first flat
The flat that started it all
A later flat
A screw in my tire
Yet another flat
Replacing a tube after a flat

This fall, my good friend Ian R Buck towed my old high school bike over from my parent's house. I got an extensive tune-up and bought studded tires to make it my winter bike. It's been so much fun and is hard to describe how freeing it is to bike in the winter. I feel so connected to the city! Without owning a car, it really makes me feel independent (and unstoppable πŸ˜†) too. It's fun to mix up the conditions, but also really makes me appreciate the summer.

Biking in the winter
Winter biking on the Martin Olav Sabo Bridge

City Exploration

I joined Wandrer and synced my Strava data. It turns out with my Fog of World exploration over the years, and some retracing and taking some new paths on my bike this summer and fall, I've explored 52% of the city of Minneapolis by bike! I plan to finish most of South Minneapolis next year, and hopefully make a dent in North and Northeast!

Exploration of Minneapolis in Wandrer
Every street in Minneapolis that I have traveled by bike, since late summer 2017

Work

In April, after nearly 4.5 years, my whole career up until that point (and an internship before that), I left my job at C.H. Robinson. It was a difficult decision, but I felt like I needed to try something new and work in a different organization. I started working as a Senior Software Engineer at Level2 (a UnitedHealthcare partner, which provides knowledge, tools, and coaching for members with type 2 diabetes to live smarter, better, and even help put type 2 into remission). It's been fun to get to know and work with a new team, and work on some new problems!

I still primarily use TypeScript and React for building frontend applications. I've continued to use and am a huge fan of react-query for fetching, caching, and updating server data in a client-side app. At my new job, I've been able to learn and work a bit with Svelte, which has been fun to use and compare with React. Starting a new application at work (when I have some years of experience) is a whole different kind of fun, and makes me think we're really using the right tools and able to move quickly and effectively.

Side Projects

I started the year off by completely overhauling and rewriting how my website (the very one you're reading now) is built. I moved from a Jekyll site built by GitHub Pages, to an Eleventy site, built in a GitHub Action. Since then, I've made several improvements including some design updates, rewriting my projects page, and generating social sharing images for each page on the site (thanks for the inspiration and review Zac!).

For the third year, I continued to help run the JavaScriptMN meetup as a board member. We had ten virtual events this year. It was great to see some fabulous presentations and stay connected with everyone!

As part of a work hackathon at C.H. Robinson, but then continued after, I helped write a GitHub Action to add GIFs to PR reviews. It has some basic sentiment analysis to choose from positive or negative words in a PR review comment, and leaves a relevant GIF based on that text. It's great for a laugh or meme in the middle of work.

Media

I watch TV, movies, and listen to a ton of music (big surprise, huh).

TV

The most notable achievement in this category is that I watched the entirety of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It took me eight months, but I did it! I've always looked up at Star Trek, and still can't quite believe I've finally watched all of TNG. I plan to start Deep Space 9 next, followed by Voyager and Enterprise. This is clearly a many-year campaign, we'll see how far I am in next year's post πŸ˜‰

If that much Star Trek wasn't enough, I watched the latest seasons from a bunch of other shows: The Expanse, Wandavision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki, What If…?, Hawkeye, Love Death & Robots, Star Trek: Lower Decks, Star Trek: Discovery, Doctor Who, Sex Education, Dave, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Saturday Night Live. Can you tell I like science-fiction? 😁

Movies

With all of that time spent watching Star Trek, I only saw maybe a dozen movies this year. But I did return to the theaters twice to see Marvel's Black Widow and Shang-Chi. I saw a few other recent movies, but also some classics that I had never seen like Hackers (finally!!) and Twelve Monkeys. As I'm writing this, I'm partway through re-watching The Matrix series before seeing The Matrix Resurrections, I forgot just how good it is!

Music

I listened to a lot of music this year, but not quite as much as in 2020. According to Last.fm, which aggregates Apple Music and Spotify together, I listened to roughly 33,758 songs, averaging 92 songs a day (down from 38,277 songs at 104/day last year).

Some artists I listened to a lot throughout the year were Killy, Juelz, Ashnikko, Desren, Lit Lords, KSHMR, Faustix, Pendulum, among thousands of others! Every year, I discover so much new music and new artists. It compounds onto what I've listened to in the past, which makes every year even better. Working from home really allows me to always be jamming out to some great tunes as I work and go through my day. Check out my post all about music if you're interested in more πŸ™‚

Other Stuff

Here's a random list of things that didn't fit into other sections. I…

  • Bought a new (used from Craigslist, but in great shape) set of dining room chairs, and I love them!
  • Upgraded to an M1 Pro 14" MacBook Pro, and it's the best computer I've ever owned πŸ₯°
  • Started super informally journaling, that's been fun
  • Bought some Lego plants because my apartment doesn't get much sunlight, they're great!

Conclusion

Thanks for taking the time to read about my year! However we know each other (or don't), I appreciate you and hope to see you more next year!

Sunset at Lake of the Isles
Lake of the Isles, November 7, 2021
Twilight at Lake of the Isles
Lake of the Isles, December 13, 2021