Election Anxiety and Covid-depression

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It is that time of the year again! Where did it go? Out the window most would say... but to me, it has definitely felt much longer than a single year to. I would tend to think most of the world would have similar sentiments.

Personally, this has been a rollercoaster of a year. From starting a new job just shy of the start of 2020, to a much more scaled down holiday season, many good and not-so-good events have taken place in my life; however, I would like to keep this post a light as possible, when looking back on the year. Like most writing these type of blog posts, I hope to gain some insight with this passing of 2020.

A Brief Look Back

As a person with many interests, I had a number of things I wanted to accomplish this year; however, things don't always go according to plan...

My list of goals looked something like this:

  • Read more
  • Music more
  • Art more
  • Code more
  • Family more
  • more, more, more...

Some would say there are too many here, and I agree wholeheartedly. I started reading Atomic Habits near the end of the year. While I am still in progress, I have already learned a lot about how I should start to frame my goals.

Positive with a Side of Negative

Taking the successes along with the failures into account (as we all should), I was able to complete parts of all of the above goals. I read more than one book a month even though my goal was 20 for the year. I definitely didn't play my guitar as much as I wanted to. Though I did play it more because I put one next to my desk and picked up my kid's guitar at random times. I did some painting of minis, sketching, and coloring throughout the year, but I didn't stick to my plan to do it every Tuesday night. As a result, I have a growing backlog of miniatures to work on this upcoming year. I took, but did not edit a TON of pictures this year with my Sony DSLR and a few new lenses. I was also unable to do as much pixel art as I wanted to this year; however, I did start working on*rebuilding a game with my good friend in Godot Engine. As such, I ended up redesigning the player character a bit. Due to starting a new career with Hyatt as software developer (in test) I was able to code a ton this year. As a side effect of COVID, I was able to spend a ton of time with my kids due to remote learning. Although, it never feels like I spend enough time with them still. As far as streaming goes, I was able to get my first payout from Twitch after being an affiliate for over a year.

Even though I didn't finish my goals, looking back, I did get a lot of small things done in every category. Honestly, that feels good.

Professional Growth

Working at Hyatt this year has been an amazing privilege given the year we have all had. The people I work with are some of the best I have ever worked with. It was sad to see many leave due to the climate of the industry. I feel I have grown in a number of ways outside quality, testing, and leadership during this period.

Keep on Coding

I am super proud of myself to have completed working on a mock application service that is currently starting to show its usefulness. Things went so well, I am currently working on mocking a second service that takes advantage of a stripped down template I created using the first one. Using that, I was able to stand up a functioning service in a few days and connect our test web front end to it!

In addition to working on mocking services, automated tests, and assisting with manual testing of new features, my team has allowed me to explore avenues of programming outside of strictly test related things. My lead, director, and vice president all believe in skill development outside your job description. While I deeply understand software quality and testing, I want to know more about other aspects of software development.

As a result, I have been assigned small items for product development to work on in both our back-end code and Android app. As a result, I am learning unit testing and just more general programming knowledge.

An Unforeseen Potential

It has become apparent during my yearly review that I have some leadership potential. I tend to sell myself short, so it made sense I never saw it in myself previously. I think this is due to the many things I learned while at Sprout Social for how Agile teams work, and what doesn't work. I believe that my super power is enabling my team to all become better at what we do together. Be that through advising what hasn't worked for me in the past, and making suggestions for the betterment of the team. Maybe that is also why I like to mentor?

Overall, I continue to see why changing companies is having a positive effect on my professional growth.

Growing into My Own Skin

As the title of this post indicates, 2020 was not best for me personally. For that matter, it probably was not the best for most folks. The COVID year has started to take a toll on my being, and as a result, I don't feel like the person I should be at times.

Those who know me very well, know that I suffer from Anxiety and Depression. I take medication for it, and sadly I think we will all need meds/therapy after the year we have had. More recently, I have noticed changes in me that could be triggered by anxiety. It probably does not help that I have not exercised much because I no longer have to walk to an office downtown for work. The combination of the two are taking a toll on my body. Things including but not limited to: chest pressure/pain, digestive issues, and headaches. Some of these symptoms are the same I had 4 years ago. These are things I am definitely looking to improve in the following year as I get used to working from home more often than originally expected.

Electing to Feel Better

What about this year and 4 years ago are very similar? An election year. 2016 was also a rough year for me when multiple mentally and emotionally charged things piled up on me since about 2015. That year my mother passed away and I started going through a divorce which ended late 2016. Other things happened between now and then (I've written about them previously), and what ended up being the icing on the cake? Election 2016...

I highly believe that pushed me over the edge and ended up being a cause for the meds I take currently and the therapy/meditation I did at the time.

We just finished up 2020 election season, which had a somewhat similar pairing of candidates. We won't get into the politics of it all, but I think listening to the news all the time about it and covid took a physical and mental toll on me. Thankfully, it is pretty much over...

The victor was not my first choice from the onset, but he has experience from working with the President I did vote and highly respect previous to our current head of state. I have faith that his administration will do its best.

Don't Forget the Positives

Keeping in mind the positives and the negatives for this post, I have definitely been a better person at times this year: I have tried to be a better family man than I have in the past. There are definitely the occasional outbursts of anger that parents can experience, but that is to be understood. It is 2020... I have been better at keeping in contact with family and friends this year (more often via phone than through social media). Most contact has been with my siblings and my closer friends, but in general I have been more social than in the past. I try to call my Grandma once a week to check in on her and so the kids can continue getting to know their Oma. My sister likes to video call with the kids once a week as well, which is nice!

Surprisingly, the game Dungeons and Dragons has somewhat saved my social life this year. I was lucky to be part of 3 different campaigns but unlucky to experience what amounts to split personalities (haha). It is seriously hard, to keep track of who three separate people are especially when two are similar classes. I am happy that my wife decided to try it out (after many nudges by friends in the groups)!

Something I have identified with my anxiety is that I tend to let things outside of my control get to me. It is hard, but I know I must keep working at reversing that bad habit.

Pandemic Life

The year had started off just like any other, including publishing a post much like this then. We were planning a wedding, and going on with our daily routines of work/school, home, sleep. I had just started a new job in December 2019. Things looked to be trending upwards.

A Land With a Rich History

In February, I was fortunate to be able to travel to India, which was amazing! While we shopped most of the time, for wedding decor and clothing, just being there was an experience. Meeting many of my wife's extended family members and seeing some of the sights was an experience I will soon not forget. One of these days I will post more of the things I was able to take photos of.

We knew about COVID while we were there, and boy, we had no idea what we were in for in the weeks following our return. I really need to write about my experience though. Maybe part of 2021 goal for this blog?

The Semi-Postponed Marriage

The original plan was to have an Indian wedding in October. We spent multiple months dreading the decision to postpone it as COVID looked like it wasn't going away. Finally in the summer, we decided we had to push it back for the safety of our friends and family.

Instead, we decided to do a very small, intimate gathering in our parent's backyard and push the big celebration to the following year. It was a hard decision, but I personally think it worked out great. The weather was amazing in early October and only a few folks, namely grandparents, were unable to attend.

Only our very immediate family and wedding party were asked to attend. One of our closest friends took the time to get ordained, and did us the honor of officiating the event. It was odd at first that everyone wore masks, but it was the right thing to do. Besides my beautiful bride, I think the cake was my favorite thing.

Almost three months in, and its going pretty well, albeit not much has changed. She is still my best friend, and we are working hard to make it through this pandemic, amongst other things.

At the Old Manor

The pandemic has definitely changed our dynamic as a family this year. We have started to see family less often in person as the year has dragged on. My wife and I have been working from home for almost a year now. It is really funny to think back about how I considered a position with Mozilla (makers of Firefox) which would have been 100% remote, and now we both get a year long taste of it. It has been interesting, but I do believe I have been more productive (at the expense of physical activity mentioned previously)

The kids are also going on a year of remote learning this upcoming March. It is different, but there are still plenty of good things that have come of it. More on that later...

Ask my wife, I always say I don't get enough time with my kids. I am a divorced parent with 50/50 custody with my ex-wife. The pandemic has allowed me more time with my children and my new wife. It is amazing how much time is saved not having to drive to and take the train downtown. It still does not feel like enough but definitely more than it did.

As a result, we have started a few family traditions. We play a lot of Uno and board games in general. We have been able to do things like take daily walks, and learn how to better be a family.

We were also lucky enough to have my brother stay with us for about a month. It was nice to see him as well as to have a helping hand with the kids even if it was only a short time. I think I will most remember the few times he went with us to the forest preserves. He enjoyed using an app to identify plants with the kids.

Other than our wedding (more on that later) months seem to run together much like this sad but true website illustrates. We all watch shows and movies together, or play video and board games to keep life interesting.

A Year of Video Calls

COVID as stated, has unfortunately derailed our year. As a result, we have all had to somewhat forcibly get used to getting our social interaction via apps like Zoom or HouseParty. Our children have had to get used to using Seesaw and Google Classroom to get the learning they need.

March was pretty rough for us when school went remote after the initial onset of COVID. There was much drama between parents and children; however, overtime things got better. Up until about 2 months ago, both children were doing much better with remote learning (teacher conferences confirmed this). More recently, the kids have been too smart for their own good. One has started opening games on their school iPad instead of doing the schoolwork they are supposed to be doing, or paying attention to their teacher.

We made the decision to keep them home full time even when given a choice for hybrid learning. It wasn't an easy one, but it was the best decision we could have made. We just have to keep telling ourselves that we are all doing the best we can with what we have.

I think it is hardest on my new wife than it has been on me. She has been super amazing taking on most of the learning herself even while working. I believe she is also a bit more social than I am, so it has been hard not seeing her friends. Though we have had a few fun group video calls involving trivia and adult drinks, it is just not the same. While it is hard, it is essential to make sure we are here for our families instead of sick and unable to work/provide for our kids.

Getting Twitch'y

In 2019, I celebrated attaining affiliate status on Twitch. This year, I was fortunate enough to have done enough streaming and work to obtain my first payout. It wasn't much and it is a bit disheartening it took this long. Three nights a week after work isn't easy when I want to do other things, but more on that in a next year goals post. I knew it would be hard work to get even this far, but it has had its moments.

Shout outs

  • CREX Gaming who graciously afforded me a large number of followers this year!
  • All the amazing people I have met through streamers I know and channels I have followed this year!

Favorite 2020 Memories

  • Getting married to my best friend! See above for more about that.
  • Traveling to and getting to photograph India!
  • Completing most of a programming project on my own that should be used more with time. Also putting code into our production app a few times!
  • Working on video games again!
  • Hanging out with (and somehow singing a song for on stream) SweetTails
  • Multiple trivia games in 2020
  • Finally finishing playing a game (it has been a while) - Assassin's Creed: Origins
  • Drawing and coloring things for my kids after they leave me love notes on my bedside table
  • Taking the kids to forest preserves because it was all we could do given the pandemic
  • The Mandalorian! No spoilers here!
  • Expanders, Braces, and Glasses

On to the Music

Something that I would like to continue in these posts is to identify a song that states how I felt when writing that post, or just a song I really like. It is really cool to see a band doing ska/punk again, much like Keep Flying does. It reminds me of a kind of modern Goldfinger. This song in many ways parallels how anxiety affects my life, and part of the solution to it, my partner... my wife:

Stuck in my head.

Only feel safe in my bed.

But the anxiety is killing me.

These pills don’t help with anything.

Just want to fix all this.

Just trying to do my best without sabotaging everything.

I’m sabotaging everything.

But it’s getting harder.

Turning nightmares into dreams.

Life is the monster.

It leaves me weak at the knees.

I feel like I’m blind and there’s no good to be seen

But when I see you smile it gives me a reason to breathe.

Take these pills twice a day.

Maybe then you’ll feel OK.

Or maybe you’ll lose more of yourself.

Start to feel like someone else.

20 mg doesn’t make me who I am.

It just helps me get through the day.

Helps me numb some of the pain. Shattered glass on the floor.

Substances killing me.

I need something more.

I’m stuck in routine

I need some kind of relief

A reason to breathe

I think I finally believe.