2019 in Review

Revisiting what worked and what didn't in the Year of Rebuild.

January 2, 2020

Well, that’s a wrap on 2019! It was a very different year from 2018, and I’m thankful for that. My theme for the year was Rebuild, which I hoped to apply across a wide variety of areas from habits and relationships to our home and my own projects. I also hoped to continue recovering from the depletion of 2018.


Here’s a quick overview of the big things from the past year:

  • We took a week-long family vacation to Chicago and a half-week vacation to Michigan.
  • My son started third grade.
  • We replaced our back deck and stairs.
  • We saw Hamilton once in Chicago and again in Richmond.
  • I rebuilt my personal site and started a web comic.

What went well

Early in the year, I decided to rebuild my personal site in public. I kept the CMS and data, but completely redesigned it and rewrote the front-end structure and styles. I was aiming to build with newer techniques like CSS Grid, SVG icons, and a modular type scale on a baseline grid. I enjoyed the process so much that I kept adding on small new pages and sections. I ended up adding a new section called TIL (Today I Learned) to share small tidbits that I’m learning over time and a page on what hardware and software I use. I also spent a good deal of time making it more accessible, which I hope to write about soon. (I wish I’d done more to document my process publicly as I worked on it.)

I read a lot more this year. According to my Books catalog, I finished 26 books in 2019. My favorites were Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (I suspect this one may become a regular re-read for inspiration), The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal, Uprooted by Naomi Novik, and The Fifth Season trilogy by N.K. Jemisin. I also read Making Comics by Scott McCloud and was so inspired by it that I started a web comic.

I spent a lot of time on our back porch and our back yard this year. We were amazed to discover that our new wooded back yard is home to tons of wildlife. In June, we watched as hundreds of fireflies sparkled throughout our trees. We’ve seen so many different types of birds that I got an Audubon pocket guide. I started a small whittling project while watching our new puppy run around the back yard (uncovering tons of bunnies).

We took wonderful trips to Chicago and Michigan. In Chicago, we saw Hamilton, visited tons of museums (including the Field museum, the Shedd Aquarium, the Museum of Science and Industry, and the Adler Planetarium), and enjoyed exploring the city’s diverse food options. In Michigan, we had fun catching up with family and showing some of my wife’s favorite places to our son.

Finally I played quite a few video games that I enjoyed this year. In the early part of the year, I played Horizon Zero Dawn and The Last of Us and I absolutely enjoyed every moment of both of those. Since August, I have enjoyed playing World of Warcraft Classic with my wife, revisiting places where we first played together 15 years ago. We’ve had a fun time exploring a new community within the game.

Less than ideal

I developed plantar fasciitis midway through the year, which made walking and standing for long periods horribly painful. It got bad enough that I sought out physical therapy, and I’m so glad I did. It’s now mostly better thanks to the amazing folks I worked with, and I’m looking forward to being more active as a result.

I also got burnt out halfway through the year, which was exacerbated by a bad cold that turned into a lingering cough. I haven’t felt the itch to write, I paused on the comic I’d started, I have taken a hiatus on my monthly design newsletter, and I haven’t spent much time creatively outside of work. To counter this, I’ve given myself more time to rest, trying to get at least eight hours a night most nights. I’m also giving myself time to play, whether that’s board games with my son, video games with my wife, or just fetch with the pup.

I started a bullet journal, which I was enjoying immensely for several months. But between that bad cold, my fountain pen running out of ink, and sleeping in more often, I didn’t keep up the habit for the last month or two. I will definitely be resuming that this year.

In summary

My hope with the Rebuild theme was to focus on rebuilding good habits and relationships. I also used it as a springboard to rebuild my website using newer techniques. And I began a pretty major overhaul of the UX Compendium for newer versions of Sketch to take advantage of new features. In addition, we had our back deck rebuilt this fall, which will be a wonderful place to hang out once the weather warms up again. Overall, I think the theme led to a fun year of rethinking and rebuilding things, and I’m excited about my new theme for next year (which I’ll write about very soon).