2023 in Review

A quick look back over the last year

December 31, 2023

Looking back, this year has felt like several years strung together. (And not just because I haven’t updated my journal in several years, though I’ll get to that in another post.) But yes, there were three large parts to this year: the rough start, the pretty good middle, and the crummy end.

The rough start

I didn’t really have the time or mental energy at the beginning of this year to set a theme. My mom had a stroke in December of last year, and I was helping her navigate recovery with in-patient rehab by visiting her nearly daily. When her in-patient rehab was over, she came to stay with us for a few months - which meant more in-depth caretaking as well as preparing the house for a longer-term guest. (As a stroke of pure bad luck, we also ended up with COVID for the first time just as she was about to discharge to come stay with us.)

My mom spent the first four months of the year with us, moving back to her home in early May. It felt good to be part of her active recovery and help, but with a full-time job and a family to care for, that takes a LOT of extra energy. Pretty much everything non-essential fell by the wayside.

The pretty good middle

Fortunately, we had some fun plans ahead for the summer, starting with a trip to California to meet our nephew in person for the first time since he was born. We had an amazing trip, spending a little over a week bouncing between Disneyland and the southern Los Angeles area. We loved meeting our nephew and hanging out with him and his parents at their house overlooking the LA valley. And we had a blast exploring Disneyland for the first time.

We spent the rest of the summer hanging out at the pool off and on with friends, including making some new friends that we’ve become close with. We also caught quite a few fun movies at the theater including Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 3, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, Haunted Mansion, and Barbie.

After a random discussion among my younger cousins and their partners at a family party in July, we discovered a mutual interest in playing D&D. So I took the lead and began a home-brew campaign with my wife, son, cousins, and their partners. It's been a really fun ride, with the completely expected long hiatus (one of my cousins DID have a baby, though, so 100% understandable). I'm hoping we can resume a more regularly scheduled session sometime this coming year.

And we capped off the summer with a great birthday extravaganza for one of our close family friends, including an axe-throwing adventure. Finally, in October, the wife and I had a blast seeing Trevor Noah perform live in Richmond.

The crummy end

In late November, I got the sad news that I was part of a layoff at work that affected 400 other people, including most of the design and product management folks I worked with. I’m devastated that I won’t get to see the design system we’d been working so hard on reach the next phase. It was one of the more fulfilling projects I’ve worked on in quite awhile, and to not get to see it through is upsetting to say the least.

A week after my last day at work, we also had to put our sweet girl to sleep as she had failing kidneys and a liver mass that were causing her to suffer. And to cap off the crummy end of the year, I have spent the last week of it (from Christmas past New Year’s) fighting off a cold.

Highlights

Overall, the year was a mixed bag, but there were a few big things to celebrate:

  • Seeing our nephew: It was so great to finally meet him after 5 years of waiting. His parents were pretty great, too, and we had a fun time hanging out with all of them.
  • New friends: We have really enjoyed getting to know a few new families better and spend time with them.
  • The kiddo is growing up: While it’s sad to lose our little boy, our little man is turning out pretty great. It’s been fun watching more “grown up” stuff with him like stand-up comedians, late night TV, sitcoms, and movies that aren’t animated.
  • Family D&D: I've been daydreaming of DMing a home-brew campaign for years, so when my cousins casually mentioned an interest in playing, I was happy to jump at the chance. I hope we can continue this for a long time to come.
  • Disneyland: It was incredibly enjoyable to book-end our trip to California with a few days exploring Disneyland. While I prefer Disney World just a bit more, there’s a lot to love at Disneyland and some things that are unique there.
  • Axe throwing: Not gonna lie … after our axe-throwing adventure, I definitely started thinking about ways I could set up something like that at home safely.
  • Design system work: I had a blast working on the design system at work, and I will continue to look for opportunities to build more, whether it’s for my own projects or being paid by someone else to do so.

And that’s 2023 in a rather large nutshell. Here’s hoping 2024 is less crummy and more enjoyable.